‘Processes of change in drug abusing offenders’
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‘Processes of change in drug abusing offenders’. Zetta-Georgia Kougiali, Adrian Needs, Dee Anand & Darren Van Laar.

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Zetta georgia kougiali adrian needs dee anand darren van laar

‘Processes of change in drug abusing offenders’

Zetta-Georgia Kougiali, Adrian Needs, Dee Anand & Darren Van Laar

Introduction: Substance misuse is a problem that concerns the majority of the imprisoned population, as most of them either have a history or are active problematic substance users (Singleton, Farrell & Meltzer, 1999). During the last decades various efforts have been made to provide drug treatment in prison settings (Pearson & Lipton, 1999; McMurran, 2006) and numerous evaluations have followed them. However, these evaluations are often methodologically flawed due to the fact that manyvariables that may influence outcomes of treatment, such as offender’s personality and characteristics, environmental and social factors before and after imprisonment, are rarely taken into account (Palmer, 1992, 1995). These methodological limitations result in a rather vague picture of prison treatment effectiveness and provide little or no information on the drug abusing offenders as individuals, making social, cultural and therapeutic processes and especially offenders’ characteristics and perceptions seem mostly absent from the literature. Offenders’ change and abstinence from drug use is attributed mainly to external factors, while internal factors, typically are not measured, as if they are absent from the whole process of change.

Schema Theory (Young & Klosko, 1994; Young, 1999; Rafaeli, Bernstein & Young, 2010) Schema Theory (schema originates from the homonymous Greek word and means shape or pattern), focuses on individual thinking patterns and the way these help form the person’s view of himself and others. ‘Early Maladaptive Schemas’ (EMS), are emotional and cognitive patterns that derive from toxic childhood experiences and keep repeating throughout life, causing emotional distress to the individual whenever they are triggered. EMS are strongly implicated in addiction, as substance misuse can act as a coping mechanism aiming to soothe the emotional distress caused from schema activation.


The current project focuses on drug and alcohol abusing offenders viewing them as individuals with particular pathways. The aim is to explore these pathways in and out of addiction and through their personal experiences, clarify the process of change from addiction to abstinence.


Active and former substance misusing offenders

Design& Methodology.

Project I

Young Schema Questionnaire (YSQ) is the primary tool for the examination of how EMS are associated with addiction. YSQ will be used along with semi-structured interviews in order to identify core themes and issues that are going to be investigated in the main research projects (II, III)

Project II

Young Schema Questionnaire (YSQ) will be used to examine any association of schemas with addiction. The target population will be active and former alcohol & drug abusing offenders. Information will be also elicited through semi-structured interviews which will be analysed with grounded theory.

Project III

Project III focuses on personal meanings and constructs. Core schemas and core themes that will emerge from Project II will be further explored with Repertory Grids in a sample of former dug & alcohol abusing offenders in order to enlighten the process of change from addiction to abstinence and examine whether modification of schemas is associated with this change.


McMurran, M. (2006). Drug and alcohol programmes: concept, theory and practice. In C. R.Hollin & E. J. Palmer (Eds.), Offending behaviour programmes. Development, application and controversies. (pp. 179-207): John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

Singleton Nicola, Farrell Michael & Meltzer, Howard (1999). Substance Misuse among Prisoners in England and Wales. London: Office for National Statistics.

Palmer, T. (1995). Programmatic and non programmatic aspects of successful intervention: New directions for research. Crime and Delinquency, 41, pp.100-131.

Pearson F. & Lipton D., (1999). A meta-analytic review of the effectiveness of corrections-based treatments for drug abuse, The Prison Journal , 79 (4), pp. 384-410.

Young, J.E., & Klosko, J.S. (1994). Reinventing your life), Penguin Books.

Young, J.E. (1999). Cognitive therapy for personality disorders: A schema-focused Approach, 3rd edn., Sarasota, FL:Professional Resource Press.

Rafaeli, E., Bernstein, D. P., & Young, J. (2010). Schema therapy. London and New York: Routledge.


The Society for the Study of Addiction. Annual Symposium 2010.