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Cognitive Self Change: How Offenders Experience the World and What We Can Do About It

ISBN: 978-0-470-97482-7
202 pages
May 2016, Wiley-Blackwell
Cognitive Self Change: How Offenders Experience the World and What We Can Do About It (0470974826) cover image


This book draws on the latest literature to highlight a fundamental challenge in offender rehabilitation; it questions the ability of contemporary approaches to address this challenge, and proposes an alternative strategy of criminal justice that integrates control, opportunity, and autonomy.

• Provides an up to date review of the links between cognition and criminal behavior, as well as treatment and rehabilitation

• Engages directly with the antisocial underpinnings of criminal behavior, a major impediment to treatment and rehabilitation

• Outlines a clear strategy for communicating with offenders which is firmly rooted in the “What Works” literature, is evidence-based, and provides a way of engaging even the most antisocial of offenders by presenting them with meaningful opportunities to change

• Offers hands-on instructions based upon the real-life tactics and presentation of the high-risk offender

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Table of Contents

Preface ix

Acknowledgements xi

Introduction 1

Understanding Offending Behavior 1

Hard -Core 5

Cognitive Self Change 9

A Human Connection 12

Phenomenology and Self ]reports: Some Preliminary Comments about Method 14

Summary of Chapters 16

1 The Idea of Criminal Thinking 25

Ellis, Beck, and Antisocial Schemas 33

Psychopathology or Irresponsibility 39

An Alternative Point of View 44

2 Offenders Speak their Minds 48

Seven Male Offenders 49

Three Young Women 58

Three Violent Mental Health Patients 62

Two Problematic Groups 64

Three British Gang Members 72

Conclusions and Interpretations 75

3 Cognitive–Emotional–Motivational Structure 78

The Idea of Conscious Agency: a Likely Story 79

Will and Volition, Self and Self ]interest 82

The Model 85

Basic Outlaw Logic: Learning the Rewards of Criminal Thinking 89

Variations of Criminal Thinking 92

Conclusions and Implications 94

4 Supportive Authority and the Strategy of Choices 97

The Problem of Engagement 97

Conditions of Communication and Engagement 99

Supportive Authority 102

Rethinking Correctional Treatment 109

The Strategy of Choices 109

Final Comments 115

5 Cognitive Self Change 118

Four Basic Steps 121

Collaboration and the Strategy of Choices 139

Brief Notes on Program Delivery: Group Size, Duration and Intensity, Facilitator Qualifications and Training 141

6 Extended Applications of Supportive Authority 145

Why Offenders Need Help 145

Not Either/Or: Some Promising Examples 146

The System as the Intervention: Some Recent Examples 152

Supportive Authority, Revisited 157

An Idealistic Proposal (with modest expectations) 159

7 How We Know: Some Observations about Evidence 162

Introduction 162

Cognitive Self Change 164

The Significance of Subjectivity 165

Science and Subjectivity 169

Bibliography 175

Index 183

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Author Information

Jack Bush has developed and delivered treatment programs for offenders since 1973. His primary focus has been on the processes and strategies of Cognitive Self Change, which he has adapted to high-risk offenders, violent offenders, substance abusers, female offenders, and domestic abusers. He is co-author of the program, Thinking For A Change, published by The National Institute of Corrections (Washington D.C.).


Daryl M. Harris is a Chartered and Registered Clinical Psychologist working with the Gwent Forensic Rehabilitation Service. He is also director of Positive Approaches to Crime and Exclusion (PACE) Ltd. This organisation has supported the implementation of Cognitive Self Change in several jurisdictions, written and supported the implementation of accredited interventions, and undertaken research into instrumental and gang violence. He has also worked with probation staff in Wales to develop an award winning approach to working with difficult to engage offenders.


Richard Parker is the Program Manager for designing and implementing sex offender, violent offender and general offender programs in Juvenile Justice NSW. Prior to this he was the Principal Psychologist, Offender Intervention Programs in ACT Corrective Services. He is currently investigating the role of moral emotions in the onset and maintenance of child sexual offending.

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