Therapeutic alliance could help in treatment of violent offenders too, Australian research seems to show.
Victoria University's Elizabeth Ross focused on 70 violent, high-risk offenders and their therapists during an eight-month treatment programme while conducting research at the Rimutaka Violence Prevention Unit in Wellington,.
A key finding was that despite the high-risk, highly psychopathic nature of men in the programme, strong therapeutic alliances were formed.
"This goes against the grain of many researchers who argue that it's extremely difficult, if not impossible, to form a good, collaborative relationship with those types of men in treatment," says Ms Ross.
She also found that although the therapeutic alliance did not directly affect treatment progress, it ensured that men stayed in the programme for longer, actively benefited from the therapists and were able to gain more skills and knowledge to help them avoid re-offending on release.
"A third significant finding was about prisoners' motivation to change. In the past prisoners have sometimes missed out on attending rehabilitation programmes because they weren't motivated to take part. But this research found that a strong therapeutic relationship early in the programme also led the prisoners to be more motivated to change later on. This is an important finding because it means we don't have to wait until men are motivated, in order to put them into rehabilitation; we can work on motivation inside the programme itself. "
Ms Ross says her findings can be used to help inform best practice in future violent offender rehabilitation programmes.