Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a short-term program that can be delivered to groups of juveniles in both institutional and community settings to reduce recidivism, help victims deal with the aftermath of crimes, and address substance abuse, depression, violence and other problematic behavior. The program emphasizes individual accountability and teaches offenders that cognitive deficits, distortions, and flawed thinking processes can cause criminal behavior.
The program is often applied in group settings, typically ranging from 20 to 30 sessions. It is carried out by trained professionals and training for non-therapist group facilitators often involves 40 hours or more of specialized lessons and skill building.
The CBT program can be divided into four phases:
1. Identify troubling situations or conditions
2. Become aware of your thoughts, emotions and beliefs about these problems
3. Identify negative or inaccurate thinking
4. Reshape negative or inaccurate thinking
We modeled the impact of the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy program for 10-16 year olds who, in the past 12 months, were released to parole, put on probation, or given supervisory caution after encountering the juvenile justice system.
A similar program, known as Functional Family Therapy, relies more on family involvement and participation to rehabilitate this population.
The program is often applied in group settings, typically ranging from 20 to 30 sessions. It is carried out by trained professionals and training for non-therapist group facilitators often involves 40 hours or more of specialized lessons and skill building. The ages of participants are 10 - 16 years old.
To estimate the impact of a program or policy, we use systematic literature reviews to determine causal pathways and effect sizes. Well-researched interventions that have robust, high-quality evaluations allow us to model the impact of an intervention with greater certainty. However, sometimes interventions have limited evidence and not all of the outcomes that are likely to be associated with the intervention have been studied. In those cases, we can only model what is available in the evidence base. We urge future research to take the following gaps into consideration.
Mortality and Morbidity - Although we suspect reducing the number of arrests in the juvenile population will lead to reductions in mortality and morbidity, both in the present and as the cohort transitions into adulthood, we were not able to find evidence in the literature quantifying the impact of CBT specifically. We did find some evidence suggesting an increase in mortality rates for the recently released incarcerated population. However, when we ran the effect through our model, the outcome was fairly small so we chose not to include it in this analysis.
Sexual Abuse - We do model a linkage between reducing future incarceration leading to reduced likelihood of sexual abuse that would otherwise occur during the incarceration period.
Teen Pregnancy - We did not find evidence for CBT leading to reduced instances of teen pregnancy among the eligible population.
Mental Health - We did not find evidence linking CBT with improved mental health outcomes among the eligible population. However, it's very likely that the program would affect this outcome, particularly among the individuals of the eligible population who would otherwise end up incarcerated either as a juvenile or an adult.