Treatment for sexual and domestic violence offenders does work

A first-of-its-kind study has found that specialised psychological programmes for sexual and domestic violence offenders have led to major reductions in reoffending but best results are achieved with consistent input from a qualified psychologist.

For the study, which was led by Professor Theresa Gannon from the School of Psychology, a team of psychologists from the UK and Canada reviewed 70 previous studies and 55,000 individual offenders from five countries (UK, Canada, USA, Australia, New Zealand) to examine whether specialised psychological offence treatments were associated with reductions in recidivism.

The study showed that, across all programmes, offence specific reoffending was 13.4% for treated individuals and 19.4% for untreated comparisons over an average follow up of 66 months. Relative reductions in offence specific reoffending were 32.6% for sexual offence programmes36% for domestic violence programmes, and 24.3% for general violence programmes. All programmes were also associated with significant reductions in non-offence specific reoffending.

However, overall, treatment effectiveness appeared improved when programmes received consistent hands-on input from a qualified registered psychologist and facilitating staff were provided with clinical supervision.

Professor Gannon, a chartered forensic psychologist and Director of Kent’s Centre of Research and Education in Forensic Psychology, said: ‘The results of this study are good news. They suggest that treatment can be effective; particularly if care and attention is paid to who delivers the treatment as well as how treatment is implemented.’

The full press release is available via the Kent News Centre. The study, entitled ‘Does specialized psychological treatment for offending reduce recidivism? A meta-analysis examining staff and program variables as predictors of treatment effectiveness’ (Theresa A. Gannon, University of Kent; Mark E. Olver, University of Saskatchewan; Jaimee S. Mallion, Kent; Mark James, Kent), is published in Clinical Psychology Review.