Programs Associated With Behavior Modification Psychology Essay

This papers intent is not to address all of the programs associated with behavior modification, But simply to establish the some of the types of behavior modification programs available to probation and parole authorities. This report covers the basics of behavior modification, the theory behind it, as well as cognitive behavior modification. It touches on the use of evidence-based practices, motivational interviewing, as well as some of the types of programs available. Such as Boot Camps, Community Correction Centers, Day Reporting Centers, substance abuse programs, and lastly it talks about the very successful HOPE program in the state of Hawaii.

Understanding behavior modification begins with the understanding of what is called Learning Theory. Learning Theory generally focuses on Ivan Pavlov’s classical conditioning and B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning. Both theories relay on the common belief that either through a stimulus or a strategic reinforcement, learned behavior could be altered.

Under the belief of classical or reflex conditioning, the desired learning outcome is achieved through the creation of a conditioned response. Pavlov was able to create a conditioned response in dogs by associating the ringing of a bell with salivation. Every time the dogs were fed, a bell was rung. Soon the dogs were conditioned to expect food when the bell rang regardless of any food being present. You have to understand that Pavlov was actually studying the digestion of dogs, when he discovered that his dogs salivated when anyone walked in with a lab coat on. What he discovered was that whenever they fed the dogs, the person was wearing a lab. Pavlov followed up with the idea of ringing a bell whenever they were going to feed the dogs, the dogs soon learned to associate the bell ringing to them getting food. Hence, “reflex” conditioning.

Although loosely related, operant conditioning is different from classical conditioning, in that a stimulus is not given for a conditioned response. Instead, operant conditioning applies a reward or a punishment after certain behaviors are observed. B.F. Skinner believed that behaviors in an individual were the result of contact with rewards and punishments within an environment. Operand conditioning happens when an animal learns to perform particular behaviors in order to obtain a fundamentally rewarding stimulus. B.F. Skinner’s work was in the field of psychology. He conditioned a pigeon to raise his head above a certain point in order to receive food. To put it another way, it is when a trained dog repeatedly comes when called in order to obtain a treat or reward. The down side to this type of learning is that after a while the dog expects a treat every time he comes when called. When he no longer receives the treat, with any type of frequency, the response becomes less and less frequent this is called “operant extinction.” In general, when we engage in behavior that no longer “pays off,” we find ourselves less inclined to behave in that way again. Putting it another way, let us say we wear a wristwatch all the time, we do not notice that we look at it often. Now if you forgot that wristwatch we still look at our wrist, to see the time, after a while of not wearing the watch we look less and less at our wrist for the time. That is operant extinction.

The majority of behavior modification in parole and probation is based on the principles of operant conditioning. Therefor I will discuss operant condition more in depth. Through operant conditioning, an association is made between a behavior and a consequence for that behavior. In other words, behavior modification uses systematic reinforcement in order to encourage the learning of a desired behavior. Operant conditioning, works whether it is through reinforcement or through punishment. Anything that increases a behavior is considered reinforcement and anything that decreases behavior is considered punishment. The promise or possibility of a reward causes an increase in behavior, but operant conditioning can also be used to decrease a behavior as well. The elimination of an unwanted behavior thru the use of a punishment is often what is used in raising children, along with the reward system or the positive reinforcement. Unfortunately, most often than not the focus of attention is on the child thru negative reinforcement, and not the positive reinforcement. It is the idea or the potential for punishment, which may lead the child to a decrease any disruptive behaviors. Through operant conditioning the environment builds the basic repertoire with which we keep our balance, walk, play games, handle instruments and tools, talk, write, sail a boat, drive a car, or fly a plane. A change in the environment-a new car, a new friend, a new field of interest, a new job, a new location-may find us unprepared, but our behavior usually adjusts quickly as we acquire new responses and discard old. (Skinner, 1953)

There are four types of operant conditioning: Positive Reinforcement, Negative Reinforcement, Punishment, and Extinction. Both Positive and Negative Reinforcement strengthen behavior while both Punishment and Extinction weaken behavior. (Maricopa Center for Learning and Instruction, 1999)

In Positive Reinforcement, a particular behavior is strengthened by the consequence of experiencing a positive condition. For example, a hungry rat presses a bar in its cage and receives food. The food is a positive condition for the hungry rat. The rat presses the bar again, and again receives food. The rat’s behavior of pressing the bar is strengthened by the consequence of receiving food.

In Negative Reinforcement, a particular behavior is strengthened by the consequence of stopping or avoiding a negative condition. For example, another a rat is placed in a cage and immediately receives a mild electrical shock on its feet. The shock is a negative condition for the rat. The rat presses a bar and the shock stops. The rat receives another shock, presses the bar again, and again the shock stops. The rat’s behavior of pressing the bar is strengthened by the consequence of stopping the shock.

In Punishment, a particular behavior is weakened by the consequence of experiencing a negative condition. For example, yet another rat presses a bar in its cage and receives a mild electrical shock on its feet. The shock is a negative condition for the rat. The rat presses the bar again and again receives a shock. The rat’s behavior of pressing the bar is weakened by the consequence of receiving a shock.

In Extinction, a particular behavior is weakened by the consequence of not experiencing a positive condition or stopping a negative condition. For example, a rat presses a bar in its cage and nothing happens. Neither a positive nor a negative condition exists for the rat. The rat presses the bar again and again nothing happens. The rat’s behavior of pressing the bar is weakened by the consequence of not experiencing anything positive or stopping anything negative.

The mission statements of most corrections agencies emphasize two main tasks: holding offenders accountable to conditions (compliance), and encouraging positive behavior change (rehabilitation). (Walters, Clark, Gingerich, & Meltzer, 2007) Methods include increasing a person’s opportunities and capacity for positive actions (e.g., skills training, education, employment) or helping the person succeed at some new behavior (e.g., drug treatment). Many shifts in correctional philosophy have occurred over the years. During some periods, corrections professionals have emphasized deterrence strategies; during others, they have relied more on treatment and constructional strategies. No period has emphasized one strategy alone; the difference has been in the degree to which they relied on one or the other. (Walters, Clark, Gingerich, & Meltzer, 2007) Among the range of offender programs designed to reintegrate offenders into society, those that are most common, seek to address the offenders’ way of thinking, their reasoning and their associated behaviors through what is termed “cognitive behavioral” techniques. Cognitive behaviorism is an approach that applies learning theory to mental events like thoughts and feelings. Cognitive behavior programs teach people new ways of thinking, and in so doing, help them to overcome various problems that stem from dysfunctional or bad thinking. Cognitive behavior techniques are widely viewed as offering considerable advantages over more traditional forms of intervention. Because this term is so broad it is difficult to define precisely, but it involves helping offenders to face up to the consequences of their actions, to understand their motives, and to develop new ways of controlling their behavior. (Vennard, Sugg, & Hedderman, 1997)

Cognitive behaviorism is not a separate psychological theory nor is it a method, it is a term given to a range of mediations or interventions derived from the following three psychological theories, Behaviorism, Cognitive theory, and Social learning theory.

• Behaviorism, which stresses the role of external or environmental factors that shape an individual’s actions so that, for offenders, for example, encouragement from peers and/or the lack of immediate punishment from authority figures rein forces criminal behavior

• Cognitive theory is concerned with the development of a person’s thought processes. It also looks at how these thought processes influence how we understand and interact with the world.

• Social learning theory emphasizes the importance of observing and modeling the behaviors, attitudes, and emotional reactions of others. Thus, it focuses on learning by observation and modeling.

Cognitive behavioral modification assumes that offenders are shaped by their environment and they have failed to acquire certain cognitive skills or have learned inappropriate ways of behaving. The therapy assumes that most people can become conscious of their own thoughts and behaviors and then make positive changes to them. A person’s thoughts are often the result of experience, and behavior is often influenced and prompted by these thoughts. (Clark, 2010) The Cognitive behavioral approach does not attribute the causes of criminal behavior solely to individual or psychological factors. It also takes into account the social conditions, which affect individual development, and is not in conflict with sociological explanations of criminal activity, such as those, which view such behavior as acquired from influential delinquent peer groups. (Vennard, Sugg, & Hedderman, 1997) Since it is considered that such these behaviors are learned rather than inherited, offender programs that are cognitive based are intended to teach offenders to face up to what they have done, to understand their motives and to develop new coping strategies and ways of controlling their behavior. Cognitive behavioral therapy has been found effective with juvenile and adult offenders; substance abusing and violent offenders; and probationers, prisoners and parolees. In most cognitive behavioral therapy programs, offenders improve skills, means-ends problem solving, critical reasoning, moral reasoning, cognitive style, self-control, impulse management and self-efficacy. (Clark, 2010)

Evidence-based practice (EBP) highlights the important role that agents have in offender outcome. For a treatment or program to be called evidence based, its effectiveness must be substantiated by a measurable outcome (e.g., decreased recidivism, increased public safety). In the past, rehabilitation was primarily the domain of mental health professionals, but EBP emphasizes that frontline staff, such as probation and parole officers, also have the opportunity to influence the change process. (Walters, Clark, Gingerich, & Meltzer, 2007) Chronic behaviors are not resolved with some fixed amount or duration of treatment. As with substance abuse and mental health treatment, for example, an interim goal is to engage and retain the offender in treatment at an appropriate level of care and monitoring until the offender can successfully manage his or her own care and behavior. For many chronic offenders continuing care spans the period of at least six to nine months of intensive treatment followed by a period of often longer aftercare. (Warren, 2007)

The six principles of an effective EBP are:

1. The Risk Principle- The risk principle of effective intervention refers to the risk or probability that an offender will reoffend. It also identifies the risk level of those offenders who are the most appropriate targets of recidivism. Risk in this context does not refer to the seriousness of the crime or the likelihood that an offender will incur technical violations, but to the likelihood that the offender will commit another crime.

2. The Need Principle- Offenders typically have many needs, only some of which are associated with the risk of criminal behavior. The need principle of EBP identifies the most appropriate needs of offenders to target. Effective programs must target their “criminogenic needs”, i.e., those values, attitudes, or behaviors of the offender that are most closely associated with the likelihood of committing crime. The criminogenic needs most predictive of the likelihood of criminal behavior are:

Low self-control, i.e., impulsive behavior

Anti-social personality, i.e., callousness, lack of empathy

Anti-social values, i.e., disassociation from the law-abiding community

Criminal peers

Substance abuse

Dysfunctional family

3. Use of Risk/Needs Assessment Instruments-Determination of the degree of risk of reoffending that an offender presents, and of the offender’s criminogenic needs, requires a careful assessment of relevant information about each offender. Often, determinations of risk are based solely on the nature of the offense committed and prior criminal history. Although both of these factors are legitimate risk factors, especially prior criminal history, they are not a sufficient basis for an accurate assessment. Offender characteristics are usually more predictive of whether an individual is likely to commit a future crime than offense characteristics.

4. The Treatment and Responsivity Principles- The treatment principle of EBP combines the research findings that cognitive-behavioral programs rooted in social-learning theory are the most effective in reducing recidivism. A clear set of consequences, both positive and negative, is helpful to people in developing their sense of self-control, of responsibility for their own behaviors. Related research on human behavior indicates that people respond better, and maintain learned behaviors longer, when approached with “carrots” rather than “sticks,” rewards rather than punishments.

5. Motivation and Trust- Motivation to change on the part of the offender is an important starting place for behavioral change. Behavior change will only take place if the offender chooses to do so. Effective treatment professionals and probation officers are therefore often trained in ―motivational interviewingâ€- (MI), a set of interpersonally sensitive communications techniques that effectively enhance intrinsic motivation for behavioral change by helping clients explore and resolve their ambivalence in a positive way.

6. Integration of Treatment and Community-Based Sanctions- Effectively utilize rehabilitation and treatment programs to reduce offender recidivism and promote public safety. Research clearly demonstrates that in the absence of treatment, neither punishment, nor incarceration, nor any other criminal sanction reduces recidivism, beyond the period of confinement, restraint, or surveillance. In fact, punishment and sanctions increase the likelihood of recidivism slightly, even when controlling for respective offender risk levels. Community-corrections programs based on EBP are not an “alternative” to appropriate punishment; they can often be combined with appropriate punishment. (Warren, 2007)

Motivational interviewing grew out of the substance abuse and addiction treatment fields in the 1980s. At that time, research began to show that the widely accepted confrontational approaches to dealing with addicts simply were not successful. (Walters, Clark, Gingerich, & Meltzer, 2007) Instead of confrontation, MI is a collaboration or partnership that is formed between the therapist and the person with the addiction, based on the addict’s point of view and their experiences. This view of MI differences with earlier views on interventions. Previously, the idea was to confront the person with the addiction, and impose society’s point of view about the person’s addictive behavior. Today, this collaboration or partnership has the effect of building a rapport between the counselor and the person with the addiction, and allows the person with the addiction to develop trust towards the counselor, which was difficult in a confrontational atmosphere of the past. This does not mean that the counselor automatically agrees with the person with the addiction. Although the person with the addiction and their counselor may see things differently, the therapeutic process is focused on mutual understanding, not the counselor being right and the person with the addiction being wrong. A person is more likely to follow through with behavior he believes he has freely chosen and believes he can accomplish.

MI is a person-centered method of fostering change by helping a person explore and resolve ambivalence. Rather than using external pressure, MI looks for ways to access internal motivation for change. It borrows from client-centered counseling in its emphasis on empathy, optimism, and respect for client choice. MI also draws from self-perception theory, which says that a person becomes more or less committed to an action based on the verbal stance he or she takes. Thus, an offender who talks about the benefits of change is more likely to make that change, whereas an offender who argues and defends the status quo is more likely to continue his present behavior. (Walters, Clark, Gingerich, & Meltzer, 2007)

Although MI suggests some tangible strategies, it is better thought of as a style of interaction that follows these basic principles:

Express empathy. Empathy is about good rapport and a positive working environment. It is an attempt to understand the offender’s mindset, even though the agent may not agree with the offender’s point of view. Empathy also involves an effort to draw out concerns and reasons for change from the offender, instead of relying on the agent’s (or court’s/board’s) agenda as the sole persuasion strategy.

Roll with resistance. Rolling with resistance means finding other ways to respond when the offender challenges the need for change. It is normal to have mixed feelings when thinking about change. Therefore, the agent does not argue with the offender.

Develop discrepancy. Discrepancy is the feeling that one’s current behavior is out of line with one’s goals or values. Rather than telling the offender why he should change, the agent asks questions and makes statements to help the offender identify his own reasons for change.

Support self-efficacy. A person is more likely to follow through with behavior that they believe they have freely chosen and believes they can accomplish. Therefore, the agent remains optimistic, reminds the offender of personal strengths and past successes, and affirms all efforts toward change. (Walters, Clark, Gingerich, & Meltzer, 2007)

The success of motivational interviewing is based on the belief that an offender that who talks about the benefits of change is more likely to make that change, whereas an offender who argues and defends the status quo is more likely to continue his present behavior.

Shock Incarceration programs, popularly known as “boot camps,” are one of the most publicized intermediate sanction programs. Since the 1980’s society has looked for ways to reduce the cost of housing offenders. The office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) thought they had the answer for teen offenders with juvenile boot camps. By 1996, 48 camps were in operation in several states. Congress had authorized $24.5 million for the states to open boot camps. By 1995, 52 juvenile boot camps were in operation housing an estimated 4,500 juveniles. (Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention)

These boot camps have five main purposes:





Cost control.

Programs vary in size, duration, location, control of entry, the level of post-program supervision and in the level of training, education, or treatment programming provided. All are relatively brief (most are three to four months) and are designed for offenders who have not yet served time in a state prison. The programs draw on the model of a military style of boot camp. They stress strict discipline, obedience, regimentation, drill and ceremony, and physical conditioning, sometimes including manual labor. Shock programs participants are expected to learn self-discipline, teamwork and develop improved self-respect. Program participants are housed separately from the general prison population, although in some programs they are within sight and earshot of general population inmates. Often times these programs also incorporate drug and alcohol counseling, GED requirements, and anger management programs, social skill building, etc.

Community corrections center are non-prison sanctions that are imposed on convicted adults or adjudicated juveniles by a court instead of a prison sentence or by a parole board following release from prison. Community corrections programs are usually operated by probation and parole agencies and the programs can include general community supervision as well as day reporting centers, halfway houses and other residential facilities, work release, and other community programs. The centers ease the transition for parolees and inmates who are nearing release. The centers provide a structured environment and a variety of supportive services, including counseling, employment assistance and drug and alcohol treatment. Community-based residential settings offering structure, supervision, surveillance, drug/alcohol treatment, educational and vocational programs, employment counseling, socialization and life skills programs, and community work transition, and/or forms of treatment and programs. Housing stability has long been related to success for persons who are on probation and parole. Experts have debated whether homelessness contributes to arrests and vice versa, but most agree that procuring offenders housing decreases recidivism and increases offender compliance. Housing stability has been related to preventing relapse for persons with a substance abuse history. Reentry projects that have helped create housing options for offenders are finding that obtaining housing is related to employment, sobriety and other individual assets. The ability of individuals to obtain housing, sobriety and employment builds personal resiliency and community assets. (Shilton & Vail, 2005)

Common reentry services include:



•Employment assistance

•Peer mentoring or case management

•Physical and mental health services

•Family reunification

Over the last two decades, states have turned to community corrections programs to manage more offenders in the community in an effort to reduce prison and jail populations, reduce recidivism, and reduce costs within the criminal justice system. One type of community corrections program known as a day reporting center (DRC) has gained popularity as an alternative to incarceration as evidenced by the rapid increase in the number of programs operating nationwide. DRC’s bring groups of parolees together from throughout a municipality or larger geographic area for supervision, services, and programming, and requires them to spend significant amounts of time together on a daily basis. (Boyle, Ragusa, Lanterman, & Marcus, 2011) DRCs are non-residential facilities that offer offenders rehabilitative programming and daily supervision. Offenders assigned to DRCs generally report to the facility during daytime hours and return home at night when programming is complete. Typical DRC’s can save agencies on average of about $1,000 per offender, compared to the cost of incarceration. (Jones & Lacey, 1999)

To aid in reentry and reintegration, treatment programming available to offenders can include educational and/or vocational training, job placement services, drug abuse education and treatment, and life-skills training, among others.

DRC programs offer an array of services designed to increase the success of the parolees’ reintegration into the community and parole adjustment. The services include, but are not limited to:

•Transitional/sober living environments (housing shall not exceed 6 months and is provided to ten-percent of the parolees served)

•Individual and group counseling

•Random breathalyzer and urinalysis testing

•Substance abuse education

•Anger management

•Domestic violence prevention and awareness

•Educational/GED preparation

•Job readiness and job search assistance

•Cognitive and life skills development

•Budgeting and money management


Commonly as a condition of probation or parole, offenders are required to participate in community-based substance abuse treatment programs. The most common substances of abuse reported by probation or parole admissions were alcohol, marijuana, and methamphetamines; more than one half reported more than one substance of abuse at admission. (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration , 2011) According to recent reports, 60 to 80 percent of prison and jail inmates, parolees, probationers, and arrestees were under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the commission of their offense, committed the offense to support a drug addiction, were charged with a drug- or alcohol-related crime, or are regular substance users. (Marlowe, 2003)

Residential or In-Patient Programs usually require a commitment of at least 30 days and typically include room and board. Through intensive counseling and group interactions, addicts/alcoholics learn how to regain control of their lives using key recovery tools. Often, clients who have attempted outpatient treatment programs but have ultimately relapsed back into drug and alcohol use, or have found outpatient programs difficult to complete, achieve success in a residential program. Clients who require detoxification services due to concerns about withdrawal also benefit from residential programs, as detox services are often included as a part of a residential treatment program.

The most effective programs regularly monitor clients’ substance use through random breathalyzer tests and urinalyses. Drug-free test results are met with rewards, such as reduced monitoring requirements, reduced criminal sanctions, or goods and services that support a productive lifestyle. Drug-positive results, on the other hand, are met with such sanctions as loss of privileges, increased counseling requirements, or a brief return to detention. Most drug and alcohol programs follow the 12 steps of Alcoholics Anonymous.

Drug Courts are a court supervised, treatment oriented program that targets non-violent participants whose major problems stem from substance abuse. The Drug Court Program is a voluntary program, which includes regular court appearances before the Drug Court Judge. Treatment includes drug testing, individual and group counseling, and regular attendance at 12-Step meetings. The probation officer and the treatment team may also assist with obtaining education and skills assessments and will provide referrals for vocational training, education, and/or job placement services. The program length, is usually determined by the participant’s progress, however should be no less than one year. Successful completion and “graduation” from the Drug Court Program may result in having probation terminated early.

Hawaii’s Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE), launched in 2004, by First Circuit Judge Steven Alm, is an experimental probation program that emphasizes the delivery of “swift and certain” punishment when a probationer violates conditions of probation. The HOPE program has seen remarkable success, and has gained the attention of several states, as a possible cost saving alternative in their states. The HOPE program has a strong theoretical basis. That swiftness and certainty outperform severity in the management of offending is a concept that dates back to 1764 to Cesar Beccaria’s, On Crimes and Punishment.

The formula H.O.P.E. follows for controlling hard-drug use in the criminally active population is simple: (Hawkin, H.O.P.E. for Reform, 2007)

Weekly randomized testing (or twice weekly scheduled testing), to eliminate any “safe window” for undetected drug use.

Fixed sanctions on a set schedule: As little as two days in jail is adequate, so long as enforcement is reliable, with sentence length increasing gradually for successive violations.

A formal warning to the probationer in open court, putting him on notice that violations have consequences.

As short a time as possible between violations and sanctions. (For offenders with paycheck jobs, the first sanction could be deferred to the following weekend.)

Quick service of bench warrants on those who abscond.

Treatment services for those who prove unable to comply on their own.

Under HOPE, probationers are given a color code at the warning hearing. Every morning, they must call a hot line to hear which color has been selected for that day. If it is their color, they must appear at the probation office before 2 p.m. for a drug test. If a HOPE probationer fails to appear for the drug test, a bench warrant is issued and served immediately. A probationer who fails the random drug test is immediately arrested and within 72 hours is brought before a judge. If the probationer is found to have violated the terms of probation, he or she is immediately sentenced to a short jail stay. Typically, the term is several days, servable on the weekend if the probationer is employed; sentences increase for successive violations. Violating terms of probation sends a consistent message to probationers about personal responsibility and accountability. (Hawkin & Kleiman, 2009)

HOPE has proven itself to be effective. While the program isn’t perfect, its offenders have had a better track record than those in regular probation. NIJ-funded researchers evaluated HOPE to determine if it worked and results were positive. (Hawkin & Kleiman, Managing Drug Involved Probationers with Swift and Certain Sanctions: Evaluating Hawaii’s HOPE, 2009) Compared to probationers in a control group, after one year the HOPE probationers were:

•Fifty-five percent less likely to be arrested for a new crime.

•Seventy-two percent less likely to use drugs.

•Sixty-one percent less likely to skip appointments with their supervisory officer.

•Fifty-three percent less likely to have their probation revoked.

In Conclusion, this report only touches on the basics of Behavior modifications in use in probation and parole today. There is much more to the concept of behavior modification than meets the eye. While the success of behavior modification is not a new concept. In

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