Cognitive behavioral therapy for offenders

Program basics

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy is a technique that helps clients understand and change the thought patterns that lead to negative behavior
  • Seeks to advance behavior change and understanding of criminal activity among incarcerated individuals and those on probation through development of healthier thought processes
  • May include programming focused on interpersonal skills, anger management, and related topics
  • Can be offered to juveniles and adults in institutional or community settings

Strength of evidence

Evidence level: Strong (second-highest tier)

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Strong (second-highest tier)

Ranked as having the highest level of evidence by County Health Rankings and Roadmaps; the second-highest level of evidence by the National Institute of Justice


Target population

Formerly incarcerated individuals

Program cost

$419 per participant in Washington State

Implementation locations

  • Nationwide

Dates active

Not available

Outcomes and impact

  • Reduces recidivism in adults and juveniles
  • Has particularly strong impact on high-risk offenders and violent or chronically offending juvenile men
  • Participants increase their social skills, problem solving abilities, critical and moral reasoning, self-control, and impulse management and self-efficacy

Keys to successful implementation

  • Note: This section is under review
  • Successful programs often focus treatment on personal accountability, anger management, and interpersonal skills
  • Program should be delivered by well-trained providers and staff, and monitored closely
  • When planning the programming, intensive thought into logistics of service provision, quality assurance, and evaluation of effectiveness is imperative
  • For juvenile offenders, effective programs often include a parent education and treatment component

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