Therapeutic Engagement in a Prison-Based Drug Treatment Therapeutic Community: Identifying the Effects of Individual and Programmatic Characteristics

Patrick McGrain, Temple University

Prison-based drug treatment has shown promise as an effective way to reduce the rate of drug use and recidivism. Research has shown that there are several factors that lead to an individual becoming motivated, ready, and engaged in treatment. Factors such as familial obligations, legal sanctions, and psychosocial characteristics (anxiety, depression, and self-esteem) have been shown to impede an individual's successful rehabilitation.

Through previous literature attempts to elucidate the personal factors that can contribute to an individual's success in a prison-based drug treatment program, one gap in the literature is the failure to qualitatively examine the effect that inmate and programmatic characteristics can have on an individual's engagement in the treatment program. These characteristics include an inmate's self esteem, depresion, anxiety and self efficacy levels, external pressures on the inmate to participate in the program, program structure, counselor rapport, counselor competence, and peer rapport.

The goal of this paper is to qualitatively examine the causes and correlates that enhance or impede therapeutic engagement (the involvement in and commitment to drug treatment) of inmates in a prison-based drug treatment program. Specifically, therapeutic engagement may be a product of external coercion, including familial and legal factors; internal coercion, including motivation and treatment readiness; psychosocial factors, including anxiety, depression, and self esteem; and program factors, including meetings, activities, work assignments, authority structure, and counselor/inmate rapport. It is this qualitative analysis of therapeutic engagement that differenties this research from others int he drug treatment literature.

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Updated 05/20/2006