Normative change and predictors of individual change in the working alliance over the course of sexual offender treatment



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The working alliance has proven integral to treatment outcomes even in forensic settings; however there remains little understanding related to the formation of the working alliance in sexual offender treatment specifically. The current study examined whether sexual offenders report a better or worse working alliance with their therapists over the course of participation in sexual offender treatment. Sexual offenders enrolled in 19 consecutive treatment cohorts of a prison-based sexual offender treatment program completed the Working Alliance Inventory (WAI; Horvath & Greenberg, 1989) three months into the program and again upon completion of the program. Relying on data collected from a sample of 202 adult male sexual offenders, the study examined normative change in sexual offenders’ perceptions of the working alliance over the course of treatment. To further understand changes in the working alliance, the study also examined whether selected client factors predict individual change in the working alliance over the course of treatment. Therapist demographics were also considered. Findings reveal an overall improvement in the working alliance during the course of sexual offender treatment. Furthermore, several factors were found to impact changes, but these vary among offender risk-level and WAI dimensions. Findings from the study pose specific implications for approaches to the treatment of sexual offenders as well as present important implications for criminal justice outcomes more broadly.



Sex offender, Sexual offender treatment, Working alliance, Working Alliance Inventory, Prison, Offender rehabilitation