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The therapeutic alliance in offending behavior change programs: therapist perspectives and practises

Christina Julie Kozar (Melbourne, Australia)
Andrew Day (Department of Psychology, Deakin University, Burwood, Australia) (James Cook University, Townsville, Australia)

Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research

ISSN: 1759-6599

Article publication date: 10 July 2017




Offending behavior change programs play an important role in the prevention of criminal behavior, particularly when offered to violent offenders. There is, however, little consensus about how content should be delivered, despite agreement that the development of a strong therapeutic alliance (TA) is an important determinant of outcome. The purpose of this paper is to explore how the TA is formed within correctional programs.


In total, 27 therapists who delivered correctional group treatment explored issues relating to the role of the alliance in offending behavior programs. A grounded theory methodology was employed to develop a conceptual understanding of therapist perspectives and practises.


Three different modes of practice were identified: “educative” to enforce boundaries of group behavior; “engagement” to promote a collaborative approach; and “therapeutic” to enhance client insight.

Practical implications

Greater awareness of the skills and supports required to successfully develop strong TAs in correctional populations may assist better retention and treatment outcomes in offending behavior programs. The ability to work flexibly between different modes of practise may prove important to rehabilitation efforts.


A model of the TA based on therapists’ accounts of their practise in correctional programs is presented. It is anticipated that, particularly for novice correctional therapists, exploration of the ways in which the alliance can be established and ruptures responded to will enhance treatment efficacy, particularly in treating violent offenders who can be challenging to engage.



Kozar, C.J. and Day, A. (2017), "The therapeutic alliance in offending behavior change programs: therapist perspectives and practises", Journal of Aggression, Conflict and Peace Research, Vol. 9 No. 3, pp. 210-219.



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Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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