What Makes Treatment Effective: A Qualitative Analysis of Drug Treatment in a Prison-Based Setting

Patrick McGrain, Temple University

In his analysis of treatment outcomes, Simpson (1997) argued that there is a need for research that establishes key components in the effectiveness of correctional-based drug treatment. While studies have focused mainly on the charateristics of the patient, the attributes of both the counselor and the institutional setting have been mostly ignored. Additionally, the large majority of the research that has been completed thus far has focused on quantitative measures to determine the patient-treatment relationship. The purpose of this paper is to provide a qualitative examination of the relationship between the patient, the staff, and the institution at which the drug treatment occurs. This is accomplished through the analysis of 48 inmate interviews completed at five state correctional institutions throughout Pennsylvania. By studying inmates from each of the therapeutic communities, it is evident that the will of the offender is not the only motivating factor in therapeutic engagement. More specifically, the results suggest that the effectiveness of drug treatment constitutes more than the relationship between the patient and the treatment progfram, but a combination of both individual inmate factors as well as program characteristics as evaluated by the inmate, which include peer support, program structure, counselor rapport and counselor competence.

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Updated 05/20/2006