Cognitive–Behavioral Treatments for Criminogenic Thinking: Barriers and Facilitators to Implementation Within the Veterans Health Administration

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Cognitive–behavioral treatments for criminogenic thinking (i.e., antisocial cognitions, attitudes, and traits) are regarded as best practices for reducing criminal recidivism among justice-involved adults. However, the barriers and facilitators to implementation of these treatments within large health care systems such as the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) are largely unknown. To address this gap, we conducted qualitative interviews with 22 Specialists from the VHA’s Veterans Justice Programs who had been trained in a cognitive–behavioral treatment for criminogenic thinking (i.e., Moral Reconation Therapy [MRT], Thinking for a Change [T4C]). The time-intensiveness of these treatments emerged as a barrier to implementation. Potential solutions identified were patient incentives for treatment engagement, streamlining the curriculum, and implementing the treatments within long-term/residential programs. At the program level, providers’ stigma/bias toward patients with antisocial tendencies was seen as a barrier to implementation, as were time/resource constraints on providers. To address the latter, use of peer providers to deliver the treatments and partnerships between justice programs and behavioral health services were suggested. At the system level, lack of recognition of criminogenic treatments as evidence based, and uncertainty of sustained funds to support ongoing costs of these treatments emerged as implementation barriers. To address the latter, a train-the-trainers model was suggested. Our findings serve as a guide for implementation of criminogenic treatments for providers and policymakers in VHA and other large health care systems, which are increasingly called upon to provide care to justice-involved adults in the community.

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