Criminal Justice

The Importance of Creating Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Opportunities for Inmates

In the 1960s, psychiatrist Aaron T. Beck created what is known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). This form of therapy differs from other forms of therapy by setting goals in the short-term for those undergoing this form of psychotherapy. CBT normally takes between five to ten months to complete and during this time period, patients meet with a therapist once a week for a 50-minute session. During their weekly session, the patient and therapist identify problems and ways for the patient to deal with day-to-day issues, which include anger management, anxiety, depression, addiction, PTSD and multiple other disorders.

CBT is different from other psychotherapies due to the sessions having a structure to them. Patients meet with the therapist to discuss problems they are facing and they work together to set goals that the patient wants to achieve. In addition, patients are given “homework” to complete before the next week’s session. This homework is important to ensure that the therapy is working correctly and the patient remains engaged. Therapists may have patients do different kinds of homework such as keeping a journal of any events that trigger their anxiety or other problems. Therapists may also assign specific exercises that help patients cope with their problems. These exercises are designed to challenge the patient to do things they normally would not do. For instance, the therapist might challenge the inmate to stay away from negative influences that surround them while incarcerated.

While CBT should not be mandatory for inmates, it should still be promoted and professionally handled in order to offer the opportunity of rehabilitation to inmates so they can become functioning members of society. Dr. Faye Taxman conducted a survey of over 500 programs available in the U.S. including jails, prisons and probation agencies. The survey showed that only about 20% of these programs used CBT and only 5% of inmates had access to CBT. Research has shown that if a CBT program is professionally executed it can reduce recidivism by 25 to 35 percent. This reduction in recidivism not only increases public safety, but also saves taxpayers money on incarcerating individuals, which currently costs an average of over $31,000 per inmate each year. While not every inmate qualifies for CBT based on the severity of their crime and how many infractions they obtain while incarcerated, therapy should be offered to those inmates who are qualified to undergo therapy.

In Depth: Criminal Justice

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