The Next Steps Forward in Determining ‘What Works’
Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice Vol. 26 Iss. 2 (2019) p. e12285
Posted: 9 Jun 2020 Last revised: 1 Jul 2020
Date Written: June 1, 2019
In this issue, Papalia, Spivak, Daffern, and Ogloff (2019) report on their meta‐analysis that examined whether psychological treatments with adult violent offenders in correctional and forensic mental health settings are effective in preventing community recidivism and institutional misconduct. The meta‐analysis was methodologically rigorous, involving 27 independent studies, over 7,000 offenders, and adherence to the PRISMA guidelines. They found that although treatment significantly reduced violent and general/nonviolent community recidivism, the average effect for violent and general/nonviolent institutional misconduct was not statistically significant. Further, a series of moderator analyses revealed some statistical trends, but most of the effects were not statistically significant after an alpha‐level correction. Taken together, they concluded that psychological treatments, particularly if multi‐modal, have a small but positive effect on community recidivism.
Recidivism and institutional misconduct have attracted attention from researchers for many years, yet meta‐analytic evidence regarding the effects of psychological treatment in reducing these outcomes has been lacking. Despite high numbers of justice‐involved individuals and near‐universal recognition of the importance of reducing recidivism and institutional misconduct, our understanding of “what works” is incomplete. Although the extant research base is limited by very few well‐controlled outcome studies and variable reporting of results, Papalia et al.’s (2019) meta‐analysis fills an important empirical gap. Based on their meta‐analysis, this commentary highlights several points that may be of interest to researchers and practitioners.
Keywords: Adult violent offendors, Psychological treatment, Recidivism
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