East Carolina University
March 8, 2015
Introduction Addiction is a debilitating disease that affects many people and their family members. Treating individuals with a substance use disorder is more difficult when they are involved with the criminal justice system. According to McMurran (2007) there is a high correlation between criminal activity/behavior and substance use/addiction and cognitive behavioral therapy is the preferred method of choice when treating substance use disorders. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is a short-term focused, therapeutic approach used in treating substance abusing individuals to help them become abstinent by challenging irrational thoughts and behaviors (McMurran, 2007).
In an effort to evaluate the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy when used with probationers, I had the awesome opportunity to observe a cognitive behavioral group being facilitated. This was a unique experience for me as I already work in the substance abuse field with offenders and it’s always good to see how other substance abuse groups are ran or structured. The facility I was able to visit is called Changing Seasons. The facility is actually located in Rocky Mount, NC. The facility provides Intensive Outpatient Substance Abuse treatment for individuals who are on probation, parole, or post release that are testing positive for any type of substance with their probation officer. The facility is able to provide these treatment approaches through the TECS program. In speaking with the counselor who was facilitating the group prior to the meeting, she explained more about the mission of Changing Seasons and their approach to counseling. Changing Seasons Treatment Services, Inc. believes that addiction is primarily a learned behavior, with secondary biological and neurological components. The company believes that some individuals may have a biological predisposition to addiction and have developed neurological changes because of their addiction, but that it takes environmental exposures (i.e., the substance itself, as well as the setting it is used in,) and the teaching influences of one's associations (i.e., friends and family) to develop a substance abuse or dependence problem. This being the case, Changing Seasons Treatment Services, Inc. primarily takes a cognitive-behavioral theoretical approach to addiction. The cognitive-behavioral interventions used help the individual learn new, non-using, positive behaviors to address certain conduct that have resulted in the undesired, negative consequences in the past (McMurran, 2007). By focusing on the things a person can control, such as his/her thoughts, feelings, beliefs, and actions, the cognitive behavioral approach empowers the individual to take control of their own recovery and gives him/her the tools necessary to make other, pro-social changes to his/her life (McMurran, 2007). They enhance the cognitive behavioral methodology by utilizing a brief, solution-focused approach to address the individual’s immediate issues/needs, such as unemployment, housing, and transportation. They also utilize a motivational enhancement therapeutic approach to help shift the individual from a passive, resistant-participant role to someone that is motivated and invested in his/her own treatment.
I found that this approach to treatment did fit the continuum of care for individuals involved with the criminal justice system (McMurran, 2007). The treatment approach actually empowers individuals to actively participate in their own recovery and change their distorted thinking process. The program also provides