How CBT reduces crime rates

The increasing growth of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy marks a revolution in care designed to help people battling depression, anxiety, addiction, compulsive obsessive disorders and phobias. Now, there’s another benefit to add to the list – the positive effect CBT has on reducing reoffending rates amongst criminals.

Dr Heather Strang, a research director at Cambridge University’s Institute of Criminology has been pioneering a programme that uses CBT to help with anger management. By directing low-level offenders into behavioural-therapy workshops, she reported a 40% reduction in repeat incidents. One survivor of domestic abuse reported: “I don’t know what you’ve done with my husband, but he’s a changed man.”

In the UK, a recent evidence review by the Ministry of Justice suggested that CBT can reduce reoffending by 8-10% and by between 6-8% in custody settings. CBT interventions were found to be particularly effective in reducing reoffending in young people.

Recently, a report by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) analysed the effectiveness of violence reduction programmes on ‘community’ violence – that which is between individuals or small groups and which stems from personal disputes or common crime. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy stood out as one of the strategies that had the most significant impact. The report revealed that effective CBT interventions created a 52% reduction in both juvenile and adult reoffenders.