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The community-based supervision of offenders from a positive

psychology perspective
Yilma Woldgabreal
, Andrew Day
, Tony Ward
School of Psychology, Deakin University, Australia
Centre for Mental Health and Wellbeing, Deakin University, Australia
Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand
a b s t r a c t a r t i c l e i n f o
Article history:
Received 4 June 2013
Received in revised form 1 November 2013
Accepted 2 December 2013
Available online 12 December 2013
Offender supervision
Psychological exibility
In this paper we outline a new model of supervision practices for offenders who are supervised in community
settings. Much of the previous work in this area utilized decits based approaches that primarily seek to reduce
risk or remove offence-related behaviors or thinking. We suggest that the concept of well-being or human
ourishing that is articulated in the positive psychology literature has important implications for how offender
supervision services could be delivered. We propose that the effectiveness of supervision can be further
improved if supervising ofcers are able to integrate practices which promote psychological protective factors
in addition to managing risk of further offending. We further suggest that positive psychological practices can
be used to develop a more comprehensive and effective model of supervisory practices. In particular, case super-
vision designed to increase psychological exibility, self-efcacy, optimism, and hope are hypothesized to be
especially effective in ensuring compliance and promoting the adoption of pro social lifestyles.
2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
1. Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
2. A brief history of offender supervision . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
3. The riskneedresponsivity (RNR) model . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 33
4. The role of positive psychology in offender supervision . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
4.1. Psychological exibility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 35
4.2. Self-efcacy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
4.3. Optimism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
4.4. Hope . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
5. Practice implications . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
5.1. Promoting psychological exibility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
5.2. Promoting self-efcacy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
5.2.1. Skills mastery . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
5.2.2. Modeling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
5.2.3. Verbal persuasion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
5.2.4. Physiological and emotional states . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
5.3. Promoting optimism . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
5.4. Promoting hope . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
5.4.1. Stage 1: instilling hope . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
5.4.2. Stage 2: increasing hope . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
6. Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 39
References . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40
Aggression and Violent Behavior 19 (2014) 3241
Corresponding author at: School of Psychology, Deakin University, Locked Bag 2000, Geelong, Victoria 3220, Australia. Tel.: +61 883980263.
E-mail address: (A. Day).
1359-1789/$ see front matter 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Aggression and Violent Behavior
1. Introduction
The supervision of offenders in the community is, in most western so-
cieties, the most widely utilized criminal justice sanction (Barton-Bellessa
& Hanser, 2012). It provides non-custodial sentencing options for large
numbers of offenders who commit less serious crimes, while at the
same time enabling prisoners to be released back into the community
to serve part of their prison term under supervision. The rationale for
this criminal justice sanction is well-established. First, it prevents a large
number of offenders from experiencing the detrimental effects of incar-
ceration while holding them accountable for their crimes (Andrews &
Bonta, 2010; Bonta & Wormwith, 2013). This in turn enables offenders
to maintain contact with their families and potentially allows them to
continue to be productive members of society. Second, offenders in the
community have been shown to fare better than those in prison in
terms of recidivism, with programs or services provided in the communi-
ty accounting up to a 35% reduction in recidivism, compared to only 17%
for those that are delivered in prison settings (Andrews & Bonta, 2006).
Third, there is evidence that the alternative sanction, imprisonment,
leads to increases in the likelihood of recidivism among many offenders,
and consequently compromises the public safety agenda (Teague,
2011). Fourth, community based offender supervision is by far the most
cost efcient way of administering justice. The average cost of a prisoner
in the US, for example, is over $29,000 per year compared to only $2000
for a year of supervision on probation or parole (Moore, 2009). This
equates to about one sixth of the costs of imprisonment (Bales et al.,
In this article, we provided anoverviewof the history of the offender
supervisionpractices, and the riskneedresponsivity (RNR) model that
has characterized probation and parole service delivery over the past
three decades. We reviewed what is already known about the effective-
ness of approaches that draw on this conceptual orientation. We then
highlighted the conceptual and empirical basis of positive psychology,
and suggested that the effectiveness of supervision can be further
improved if supervising ofcers integrate practices which promote
psychologically protective factors. We further suggested that positive
psychological practices can be used to develop a more comprehensive
and effective model of supervisory practices. In particular, case supervi-
sion designed to increase psychological exibility, self-efcacy, opti-
mism, and hope are hypothesized to be especially effective.
2. A brief history of offender supervision
While community based offender supervision represents a safe and
inexpensive way of delivering punishments, there has been a long
standing tension between its overarching goals of public protection
and those of offender rehabilitation (Skeem & Manchak, 2008). The
1950s and 1960s sawa signicant growth in psychotherapeutic models
of offender supervision that emphasized the importance of casework
being underpinned by humanitarian principles. The focus on offender
rehabilitation was accepted as a legitimate means of protecting the
public and gained enormous popularity across the western world
(Paparozzi & Gendreau, 2005). Reecting this mandate, Community
Correctional Ofcers (CCOs) viewed their role as agents of change and
strived to assist offenders to lead productive lives in the community.
They assumed counseling roles and facilitated activities which were
aimed at addressing offenders' needs across a wide range of areas, such
as education, employment, housing, and mental health (Cromwell &
Killinger, 1994).
In the early 1970s, there was a major shift in penal and probation
policy. The growth in the prison population and emerging evidence of
higher recidivism rates for offenders under community based supervi-
sion led to a move away from the casework approach to a brokerage
model of service provision. Advocates of this policy change argued
that the casework based rehabilitation failed to deliver on the promise
of reduced recidivism and that many offender services (e.g., education,
employment, housing, and mental health) could be more readily and
effectively provided by external agencies (Cromwell & Killinger,
1994). In line with this policy realignment, CCOs ceased to act as the
primary agents of change; instead, their role was to determine needs,
locate services, and refer offenders to appropriate agencies in the
The emergence of the brokerage model of offender supervision coin-
cided with claims made by some researchers that nothing works in
offender rehabilitation (Lipton, Martinson, & Wilks, 1975; Martinson,
1974). This pessimistic conclusion soon began to shape the offender
supervision agenda and eventually gave rise to the ascendency of the
justice modela way of working which emphasized the importance
of retributive (just desert) ethical principles (Steen & Bandy, 2007).
Proponents of the just desert principle argued for an increased system
of sanctions and repudiated the idea that community based supervision
was an appropriate response to crime. Thus, there was a conceptual
shift from a concern with rehabilitation to a normative stance where
the intent was to punish the crime. Fromthis perspective, the aimof su-
pervision was to signal the wrongness of the offense to the offender and
the community by instituting sanctions that attempt to balance the
moral ledger (Ward & Salmon, 2009). The intent was to simply impose
a proportionate punitive sanction that corresponded to the social harm
resulting from the offense and the offender's culpability (von Hirsch,
1990). With this retreat from rehabilitative ideals to retribution princi-
ples came political opportunism as conservative governments across
the western nations increasingly turned to crime policy as a way of
maximizing their political gains (Garlad, 2001; Steen & Bandy, 2007).
Politicians soon embarked upon passing new legislation to reect
their get tough on crime stance and, at the same time, embraced the
belief that offenders had to be held strictly accountable for their crimes,
and that rehabilitation ideals only served to weaken their personal
responsibility (Cromwell & Killinger, 1994). In the absence of data that
rehabilitation was actually effective in reducing reoffending, the sole
aim of supervision became that of communicating the wrongness of
offenders' actionsrather than to assist them to live better lives.
3. The riskneedresponsivity (RNR) model
Despite the uctuation across the rehabilitation and punishment
continuum over the years, the past three decades saw incremental
advancements in the way in whichoffenders are supervised in the com-
munity. In particular, the adoption of the RNR model, also known as the
What Works literature, is arguably responsible for much of the im-
provement that has occurred in evidence-based offender supervision
practices in most Anglophone jurisdictions. The RNR initially evolved
from meta-analytic studies by Canadian researchers (e.g., Andrews,
Bonta, & Hoge, 1990; Dowden & Andrews, 2004). According to this
model, the risk principle is concerned with matching the intensity and
level of services with an offender's assessed risk of recidivism. It stipu-
lates that the majority of scarce correctional resources should be allocat-
ed to moderate-high risk offenders in order to ensure public safety.
According to the risk principle, services for low risk offenders should
be kept to a minimum. In addition, this principle emphasizes that low
risk offenders should be separated from medium-high risk offenders
in order to prevent them from learning more criminal behaviors and
becoming serious offenders. The need principle, on the other hand, stip-
ulates that services should target criminogenic (i.e., dynamic risk fac-
tors) needs predominately, with particular emphasis on what
Andrews and Bonta (2010) call the central eight anti-social personal-
ity, pro-criminal attitudes, pro-criminal associates, substance abuse, re-
lationship problems, low levels of education/unemployment, and
criminal history. Finally, the responsivity principle broadly falls into
two categories general and specic. General responsivity is concerned
with utilizing empirically supported social learning and cognitive
behavioral techniques when dealing with offenders in areas of their
criminogenic needs, whereas specic responsivity seeks to tailor the
33 Y. Woldgabreal et al. / Aggression and Violent Behavior 19 (2014) 3241
delivery of services according to the motivation, learning styles, abilities,
personality, and demographic characteristics of offenders. While
adherence to the RNR principles in general is said to be the hallmark
of effective offender supervision practices, Bonta and Andrews also
acknowledged the importance of professional discretion, and how it
may be entirely appropriate to deviate from these principles in certain
Moreover, Bonta and Andrews (2010) emphasized the importance
of several other dimensions of effective offender supervision. One of
these is the need to employ empirically validated risk assessment
tools in determining risk of recidivism, informing sentencing options,
guiding offender supervision practices, and prioritization of correctional
resources. Another dimension relates to CCOs' style of supervision.
Scholars argued that CCOs who utilize the social learning theory of
offending behavior can evoke behavioral change in offenders through
pro-social modeling, positive reinforcement, and problem solving
(Bonta, Rugge, Scott, Bourgon, & Yessine, 2008; Dowden & Andrews,
2004). Andrews and Bonta (2010) further noted the central role of orga-
nizational commitment in offender supervision practices, arguing that
the way in which criminal justice systems shape their policies and
invest resources has a signicant impact on recidivism rates. Most
importantly, they emphasized the need for criminal justice agencies to
build systems that encourage interagency collaboration, and promote
staff training and development as part of the crime reduction effort.
The empirical evidence for the effectiveness of the RNR based
offender supervision practices has been accumulating over the past
three decades. An early study by Trotter (1996) in the state of Victoria
in Australia examined the relationship between CCOs' skills (i.e., role
clarication, pro-social modeling and reinforcement, collaborative prob-
lem solving, and empathy), and supervision outcomes (i.e., reoffending
rates). Trotter hypothesized that CCOs who make use of these skills
during one-on-one supervision contact with offenders were more likely
to have better supervision outcomes than CCOs who did not make use
of these skills. The results were consistent with this hypothesis and
Trotter found that offenders supervised by CCOs who modeled and re-
inforced pro-social comments and actions, and engaged in collaborative
problem solving were less likely to reoffend than those who were su-
pervised by CCOs who did not utilize those skills. Similarly, Dowden
and Andrews (2004) in their meta-analytic review of core correctional
practice concludedthat training incore skills (i.e., appropriate modeling
and reinforcement, problem solving, effective use of community
resources, and quality of interpersonal relationships) was associated
with a signicant reduction in the rates of reoffending.
Researchers in the UK also found that supervision programs which
combined cognitive and problem solving skills led to reduced reconvic-
tion rates among ex-prisoners (Lewis, Maguire, Raynor, Vanstone, &
Vennard, 2007). Another program in the UK, the Diamond Initiative,
was designed to reintegrate offenders through collaborative interagency
approaches involving probation services, police, and other stakeholders
(Dawson & Stanko, 2010). This initiative, in addition to intensive super-
vision, focusedonhelping offenders to access services for a range of iden-
tied needs such as substance abuse counseling, housing, and education.
Evaluation of this initiative revealed that the reconviction rate for
offenders supervised under the project (n = 405) was 28%, compared
to 43% for the control group (n = 861) over the six month follow up
Similar evidence comes from the Maryland Proactive Community
Supervision (PCS) project in the US (Sachwald, Eley, & Taxman, 2006).
The PCS model was designed on the premise that face-to-face contact
between CCOs and offenders can become an intervention through the
processes of engagement (i.e., assessment, development of case plan,
clarication of expectations, supervision contacts, treatment services,
etc.), and building pro-social networks. Staff using the PCS received
training inthe use of effective communicationstrategies andapplication
of the RNR principles (discussed above). They also received booster ses-
sions throughout the program, as well as being required to read journal
articles and discuss recent research ndings and consider how to apply
themto their practice. The outcome of the PCS was assessed in terms of
its impact on recidivism, particularly its effect on the rate of rearrests
and technical violations. The results revealed that offenders in the PCS
group were less likely to be rearrested (30%) compared to their non-
PCS counterparts (42%). With respect to technical violations, the analy-
sis showed that 34.7% of the PCS group committed technical violations
compared to 40.1% of the non-PCS group.
More recently, Bonta et al. (2010) developed the Strategic Training
Initiative in Community Supervision (STICS) in Canada. This project
involved the random assignment of ofcers to one of two groups
training or no training. Ofcers in the training group received three
days training on how to utilize the RNR-based intervention techniques
during one-on-one supervision sessions with offenders. They also re-
ceived regular refresher courses, individual feedback, and attended
monthly meetings to reect on their progress. Analysis of the contents
of audio recorded information showed that STICS trained ofcers signif-
icantly improved their use of the RNR based intervention techniques
and skills with offenders compared to the randomly assigned control
group. The recidivism rate for offenders under the supervision of
STICS trained ofcers was lower (25.3%) compared to those supervised
by ofcers assigned to the control group (40.5%).
Although these approaches may seempromising, critics pointed out
that pilot studies such as the Diamond Initiative, PCS, and STICS have
limited generalizability (e.g., Shapland et al., 2012), and on the whole
produce poorer outcomes when they are fully rolled out (Raynor &
Robinson, 2009). It also remains to be established whether programs
that work in the UK, the US, and Canadian contexts are able to readily
be translated to other jurisdictions. However, the results from these
pilot programs are promising and provide evidence to support the effec-
tiveness of offender supervision practices delivered in accordance with
the RNR principles (Andrews & Bonta, 2010).
4. The role of positive psychology in offender supervision
The RNR focused offender supervision practices attempt to address
the factors that causally contribute to initial criminal behavior and are
associated with patterns of recidivism. For example, criminogenic risk
factors such as pro-criminal associates, anti-social attitudes, substance
abuse, limited work opportunities, and dysfunctional relationships
have all been associated with reoffending and are the most frequently
targeted risk factors in the eld of offender supervision (e.g., Andrews
& Bonta, 2010; Andrews, Bonta, & Wormith, 2006; Andrews et al.,
1990; Dowden & Andrews, 2004). While research supported the role
of criminogenic risk factors as important antecedents or predictors of
offending behavior and supervision outcomes, a substantial body of lit-
erature also indicated that the existence of individual strengths can also
serve as risk protective factors (e.g., McNeill & Weaver, 2010; Ward,
Day, & Casey, 2006; Ward & Maruna, 2007; Ward, Melser, & Yates,
2007). In particular, the emergence of the positive psychology move-
ment over the past decade and empirical studies in this area appears
to have profound implication for offender supervision practices.
Positive psychology is a branch of the mainstream psychology that
has risen to the forefront of the eld over the past decade. It is con-
cerned with understanding human strengths, well-being, and optimal
functioning, and has been dened as the scientic study of positive
experiences and positive individual traits, and the institutions that facil-
itate their development (Duckworth, Steen, & Seligman, 2005, p. 630).
Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi (2000) argued that positive psychology
does not promote the abandonment of problem focused approaches
such as offender risk management, but rather seeks to balance the cur-
rent emphasis on decits with strengths based approach. They argued
that psychological intervention should not just be concerned with
relieving suffering, sadness, worry and weakness, but should also aim
to promote and capitalize on human strengths, and the pervasive
human tendency to seek meaning and purpose in life.
34 Y. Woldgabreal et al. / Aggression and Violent Behavior 19 (2014) 3241
To date, the eld of positive psychology has seen a substantial body
of literature and research indicating that focus on people's cognitive,
behavioral and character strengths can indeed lead to improved self-
regulation and positive outcomes across a range of life domains
(Sheldon, Kashdan, & Steger, 2011). For example, studies demonstrated
a link between positive psychological states (e.g., happiness, content-
ment, and satisfaction with life), and reduced mortality, better mental
health, intimate, and social relationships (e.g., Danner, Snowdon, &
Friesen, 2001; Diener & Seligman, 2002; Emmons & Mishra, 2011).
Other research studies found relationships between psychological
resources in the workplace (i.e., self-efcacy, optimism, resilience, and
hope), and positive organizational outcomes such as job satisfaction, in-
creased performance, and reduced staff turnover (Youssef & Luthans,
2011). Similarly, Grant and Cavanagh (2011) reported the presence of
an association between strengths based coaching (through motivation
and building self-efcacy) and improved performance in sports.
There is also evidence that positive psychological states (e.g., positive
emotions) can broaden people's attention span and enhance their capac-
ity to cope in crises, and therefore, play a vital role in promoting adaptive
human functioning. Based on a number of mathematical modeling and
laboratory based observational experiments, Fredrickson and Losada
(2005) concluded that a ratio of 3 positive emotions to 1 negative emo-
tion was associated with better functioning across several life domains,
including intimate and social relationships, health, and work. This nd-
ing was consistent with the ndings that demonstrated the role of posi-
tive emotions inproducing patterns of thought that are exible and open
to new information (Gergen & Gergen, 2005).
While the above studies reected the role that positive psychological
states play in optimizing human cognitive and emotional functioning,
scientic evidence also revealed the biological pathways through
which positive psychological states contribute to physical health. For
example, research demonstrated that positive psychological states
(e.g., mood, affect, optimism) were related to superior immune func-
tioning (Marsland, Pressman, & Cohen, 2007), and buffer inammation
or pain (Brydon, Walker, Wawrzyniak, Chart, & Steptoe, 2009). Another
supportive body of evidence comes from studies that examined the
relationship between positive psychological states, and cortisol, an
endocrine hormone that breaks down molecules to produce energy and
is also known for its harmful effects when excreted above a normal
level (Low, Bower, Moskowitz, &Epel, 2011). Researchers found that pos-
itive psychological states such as positive affect and approach-oriented
coping styles were inversely related to cortisol levels (O'Donnell,
Badrick, Kumari, &Steptoe, 2008). Low(normal) level of cortisol secretion
was also correlated with both optimism and positive affect (Polk, Cohen,
Doyle, Skoner, & Kirschbaum, 2005; Steptoe, Gibson, Hamer, & Wardle,
2007). Other hormonal markers of positive psychological states involved
oxytocin and neuropeptide. Unlike cortisol, the function of these endo-
crine hormones is to stimulate protein synthesis and tissue growth
(Low et al., 2011). Research in this area also revealed the correlation
between positive psychological states, such as positive affect, active cop-
ing, and trust in social relationships, and higher levels growth hormones
(i.e., oxytocin and neuropeptide) (Gonzaga, Turner, Keltner, Campos, &
Altemus, 2006).
Clearly, research in the eld of positive psychology has ourished
over the past decade. The development of the Good Lives Model
(GLM) in the area of sex offender and general offending rehabilitation
programs is strongly consistent with positive psychology and has as
its central aims the enhancement of offender well-being and the reduc-
tion of risk (Ward & Maruna, 2007; Laws & Ward, 2011). According to
Ward and his colleagues, there are two ways risk reduction can occur
during GLM, strength oriented interventions. First, the establishment
of the internal and external capacities needed to achieve offenders'
valued personal goals (or more broadly, implement a good lives plan)
in socially acceptable and personally fullling ways can directly alter
criminogenic needs. For example, learning the skills necessary to
become a carpenter could make it easier for an offender to develop
concentration and emotional regulations skills thereby reducing impul-
sivity, a criminogenic need. Second, the reduction of risk can occur
indirectly when an offender is strongly motivated to work hard in treat-
ment because of his involvement in projects that personally engage
him/her. For example, an individual might work hard at overcoming
his/her substance abuse problems because he/she is keen to attend a
mechanic training course. In actual practice, offender good lives plans
both directly and indirectly impact on dynamic risk factors.
To date, few supervision models inuenced by positive psychology
(although see Purvis, Ward, & Willis, 2011 & Purvis, Ward, & Shaw, in
press) have been developed. Gredecki and Turner (2009) in their as-
sessment of this literature discussed how efforts to enhance cognitive
resources (i.e., self-regulation) through the process of positive thinking
(such as focusing on optimism, resilience, positive emotions, and so on)
could strengthen the working alliance between correctional staff and
offenders, and thereby evoke positive behavioral change. Building on
the work in the offender treatment eld and the seminal ideas of
Gredecki and Turner (2009), we suggest that positive psychological
states can be conceptualized as protective factors that could contribute
directly to successful offender supervision and the reduction of recidi-
vism. More specically, in the sections that follow, we discussed the
potential role of psychological exibility, self-efcacy, optimism and
hope, and howthese constructs can be used to conceptualize and devel-
op the supervisory process.
4.1. Psychological exibility
The construct of psychological exibility has attracted increasing
attention from positive psychology researchers and practitioners over
the past decade. It is a component of the rational frame theory (Hayes,
Barnes-Holmes, & Roche, 2001), which assumes that human problems
are rooted in languages, and that meanings derived from everyday use
of languages exert a powerful inuence on psychological processes.
Based on this theory, Hayes, Luoma, Bond, Masuda, and Lillis (2006)
dened psychological exibility as an individual's ability to contact
the present moment fully as a conscious human being, and to change
or persist in behavior when doing so serves valued ends (p. 7). Another
useful denition of psychological exibility is provided by Kashdan and
Rottenberg (2010). They dened psychological exibility as one's ability
to adapt to uctuating situational demands, recongure mental re-
sources, shift perspective, and balance competing desires, needs, and
life domains (p. 866). Dened this way, psychological exibility refers
to dynamic cognitive processes that facilitate one's ability to interact
with others and the environment adaptively.
From the perspective of offender supervision, the construct of
psychological exibility refers the extent to whichanoffender's internal
resources (strengths) can be utilized to facilitate pro-social pursuits.
Hence, what might distinguish offenders who desist from crime from
those who persist may be their ability to exibly utilize their cognitive
repertories to pursue goals in pro-social ways. This means that individ-
uals who are psychologically exible will be less likely to maladaptively
respond to negative thoughts, feelings and behaviors, and will be more
likely to respond to such unwanted events in a way that is congruent
with their personal values (Bond et al., 2011; Hayes et al., 2006). For
example, an offender high in psychological exibility who thinks
I can never give up my drug habit would be less likely to judge this
thought as true and more inclined to remain resilient in the face of pow-
erful drug cravings, and to adhere to his/her treatment plan. This is
hypothesized to occur because he/she is more able to align his/her be-
havior with his/her perception of drug use as being detrimental. Con-
versely, an offender with low psychological exibility who has the
same thought may interpret the thought as true, and respond by choos-
ing to resume drug taking, that is, slip back to the oldaddictive habit due
to lack of inner resources.
Indeed, researchdemonstrated that psychological exibility is a core
element of healthy human functioning. For example, meta-analytic
35 Y. Woldgabreal et al. / Aggression and Violent Behavior 19 (2014) 3241
studies revealed that psychological exibility was associated with
improved outcomes in several domains including job performance,
physical and mental health, and pain management (Hayes et al.,
2006). Similarly, Bond and Bunce (2003) found in a non-clinical sample
that higher levels of psychological exibility were associated withfewer
complaints of mental health problems. Another study by Kashdan,
Barrios, Forsyth, and Steger (2006) revealed inverse relationships
between psychological exibility and a number of negative psychologi-
cal outcomes, such as stress, anxiety, and depression. Flexible coping
styles were also shown to increase people's adjustment following trau-
matic life events (Bonanno, Papa, Lalande, Westphal, & Coifman, 2004).
Given the empirical evidence fromother domains, it is reasonable to
assume that psychological exibility may well be a core process
involved in offender supervision outcomes. This means that offenders
(especially those with moderate-high risk) may possess low levels of
psychological exibility, and thereby lack the necessary cognitive re-
sources to make socially desirable choices as part of their rehabilitation
process. To the best of our knowledge, there is no empirical study that
has investigated the role of psychological exibility in offender supervi-
sion outcomes. Therefore, an opportunity exists to examine whether
psychological exibility plays a role in facilitating successful offender
supervision outcomes.
4.2. Self-efcacy
Bandura (1986) dened self-efcacy as a judgment that one has the
required abilities to organize and execute specic tasks. In his social
cognitive theory, Bandura (1989) further emphasized that irrespective
of knowledge and skills, self-efcacy is likely to inuence people's feel-
ings, thoughts, motivation, and behavior toward the attainment of
desired life goals. According to Bandura, self-efcacy can arise from
four sourcesmastery of experiences, vicarious experiences, social or
verbal persuasion, and physical and emotional states. The rst source,
performance mastery of experiences, assumes that people generally
engage in tasks that they feel competent to accomplish, and are more
likely to opt out of activities that seem hard to complete. Bandura also
hypothesized that a perception of mastery can arise from individuals'
past experiences of success or failure in a given task. Bandura's second
source of self-efcacy, vicarious experiences, stipulates that individuals'
beliefs about their abilities to pursue desired life goals can be inuenced
by the experiences, and observations of, signicant others (e.g., family,
peers). When individuals observe the success of signicant others in
executing a specic task, their belief that they will be able to succeed
on accomplishing similar tasks is enhanced, and vice versa. Bandura's
third source of self-efcacy, social persuasion, assumes that individuals'
beliefs in their ability to succeed or fail in a given task is strongly inu-
enced by the positive or negative verbal reinforcement they receive
from others. The last source of self-efcacy relates to the physical and
emotional states whichpeople use to judge their own abilities, strengths,
and vulnerabilities. According to Bandura, while some degree of physi-
ological arousal and emotional stress can become a source of motivation
for success, excessive reactions can have detrimental effects on individ-
uals' level of self-efcacy.
To date, the idea of establishing strong self-efcacy beliefs in
offenders remains an important aspect of the engagement process in
the correctional environment. For example, the most commonly utilized
motivational interviewing technique (Rollnick & Miller, 1995), and
other cognitive skills treatment programs (e.g., McMurran & McGuire,
2005) involve enhancement of offenders' sense of self-efcacy to elicit
behavioral change. More recently, community based offender supervi-
sion approaches such the Strategic Training Initiative in Community
Supervision (STICS; Bonta et al., 2010), the Maryland Proactive Commu-
nity Supervision (PCS; Sachwald et al., 2006), and a proposed Good
Lives Model (GLM) Case Management Approach (Purvis et al., 2011)
all draw upon techniques that aim to promote offender self-efcacy.
Empirical evidence informing these approaches also exists. Hiller,
Knight, and Simpson (1999), and Sheldon, Howells, and Patel (2010)
both found that offenders with lower ratings of self-efcacy had higher
treatment dropout rates. Similarly, Hall (1989) reported that offender's
sense of self-efcacy was pivotal during treatment and mediated the
process of avoiding relapse.
A qualitative study by Bahr, Harris, Fisher, and Armstrong (2010)
further revealed that unsuccessful parolees reported a lower sense of
self-efcacy. These authors detailed how most parolees in their study
made little effort in adhering to their parole conditions, particularly
when faced with obstacles (i.e. peer pressure, substance abuse, and
relationship issues). This observation is important, because most
offenders come from disadvantaged segments of the society and are
likely to have to contend with exposure to high pressure situations
and extremely stressful environments. According to Bandura (1989),
appropriate vicarious experiences and social persuasion are vital to
the strengthening of individuals' sense of self-efcacy and can inuence
the choices they make, their goals, and the degree of their perseverance
in difcult circumstances. We, therefore, suggested that in the light of
these arguments practitioners who work with offenders utilize the con-
cept of self-efcacy as part of their quest to help offenders become law
abiding citizens. While the protective role of self-efcacy is evident in
current offender supervision practices, little is known about its relative
contribution compared to other positive psychology constructs
(i.e., psychological exibility, optimism, and hope). It may be the case
that self-efcacy when considered in conjunction with these constructs
will characterize offenders who have the psychological protective
resources to effectively buffer themselves against risk factors.
4.3. Optimism
Optimism is another positive psychology construct that has been
found to facilitate adaptive human functioning (Peterson, 2006).
Conceptualization of optimism generally falls under two categories
expectancy and explanatory styles. Scheier and Carver (1985) dened
optimism as people's generalized expectation that desired goals are
likely to be achieved in the future across important life domains.
According to Scheier and Carver, optimism is an inherent and stable
human characteristic, which helps people cope with difculties, and
creates the expectation that desired life goals can be achieved. This con-
ceptualization, developed from self-regulation theory, assumes that
most human behaviors are motivated by goals and the expectancy-
values of such goals. This means that people are more likely to persist
in the pursuit of goals when the values they place on them are greater
and they expect success in their attainment.
From the explanatory style perspective, Buchanan and Seligman
(1995) dened optimism in terms of the attributions that people
make to explain events in their lives. That is, people who attribute the
occurrence of adverse events in their lives to external, unstable and spe-
cic causes are said to be optimistic, whereas those who attribute such
events to internal, stable and global causes are viewed as pessimistic. A
fundamental assumption behind both Scheier and Carver (1985), and
Buchanan and Seligman (1995) work is that optimism enhances an
individual's coping ability and moves him or her away from a passive
state toward the active striving for valued goals. The relevance of this
conceptualization for offender supervision practices is evident. As advo-
cates of the labeling theory (e.g., Braithwaite, 1989; Lemert, 1951) ar-
gued, offenders are too often stigmatized, segregated, excluded from
mainstream opportunities, and consequently have learnt to attribute
these problems to psychological aws. Optimism may play a role in en-
couraging offenders not to respond to the challenging and difcult cir-
cumstances that will inevitably confront them in their journey toward
desistance in self depreciating and overly pessimistic ways. Rather, a
more adaptive response is to resist the urges to generalize such experi-
ences, and to cultivate the expectation that desired personal goals can
indeed be achieved.
36 Y. Woldgabreal et al. / Aggression and Violent Behavior 19 (2014) 3241
Scholars also recognized the importance of approaching optimismin
an even-handed way, given that a mere wishful thinking can distract
people from making concrete plans about how to attain goals
(Peterson, 2000, p. 23). There are objective limits to what one can aspire
to achieve. This is more so for most offenders who frequently lack ade-
quate personal and environmental resources; and therefore, it is impor-
tant to acknowledge the dark side of optimism and its limits. Despite
this caution, there is empirical evidence indicating that optimismcan be
self-fullling, and as such, adopting an optimistic attitude toward one's
life and the future can in itself increase the likelihood that valued per-
sonal goals will be achieved (Peterson, 2000). Researchers demonstrat-
ed that cognitive behavioral interventions based on teaching optimism
reduced future episodes of depression (Gillham, Reivich, Jaycox, &
Seligman, 1995). Others reported positive relationships between opti-
mism and a range of positive outcomes including better physical health
(Rasmussen, Scheier, & Greenhouse, 2009), illness prevention habits
(Aspinwall & Brunhart, 1996; Radcliffe & Klein, 2002), adaptive coping
strategies in the face of difculties (Solberg Nes & Segerstrom, 2006),
and educational and occupational success (Heinonen et al., 2006;
Segerstrom, 2007). In our view, these ndings indicate that there is
value in expanding similar empirical investigation to the correctional
eld. It is anticipated that such research will be able to potentially
guide practice inrevealing optimismcanbe established, andmaintained
among offenders and correspondingly, howpessimismcan be effective-
ly contained or reversed.
4.4. Hope
Developmental psychologists in the 1950s theorized that the
psychological state of hope develops froma very early age and becomes
the cornerstone for all manifestations of faith or trust later in life
(Erikson, 1950 as cited in Peterson, 2004). Stotland (1969), and
Averill, Caitlin, and Chon (1990) conceptualized hope as goal oriented
expectancy that the individual desires to attain. Drawing upon these
early work, Snyder and colleagues dened hope theory as a cognitive
set that is based on a reciprocally derived sense of successful agency
(goal directed determination) and pathways (planning of ways to
meet goals) (Snyder et al., 1991, p. 571). The agency component of
the hope theory concerns an individual's capacity to embark upon a
planned pathway toward a desired goal. According to Snyder and
colleagues, agency refers to the motivational component of the hope
which is often manifested in the form of afrmative self-talk such as I
knowI can achieve this and I will get through this. The pathway com-
ponent, on the other hand, refers to an individual's perceived ability to
formulate different courses of actions toward the achievement of a
desired goal. This means that when the individual's perceived route
toward a desired goal is blocked, he/she must be able to envision alter-
native pathways.
With mentally conceptualized goals being the anchors of their hope
theory, Snyder et al. (1991) further emphasized that such goals must be
substantial in value, attainable, and involve some degree of uncertainty
to motivate behavioral change. This is because that individuals are less
likely to be sufciently motivated to pursue mundane goals, and more
likely to be demoralized by unattainable ones. Conversely, when indi-
viduals believe that the attainments of their goals are highly likely,
their motivation is likely to be low. Therefore, for Snyder and colleagues,
goals addressed by hope theory must be at least of moderate impor-
tance and contain some degree of uncertainty of attainment.
While hope is related to both self-efcacy and optimism, researchers
demonstrated its unique conceptual independence. For example,
Magaletta and Oliver (1999) compared hope and self-efcacy and
found that hope uniquely predicted general well-being over and above
the variance accounted for by self-efcacy. Similarly, Scheier and
Carver (1985) found that hope accounted for signicant unique variance
in well-being compared to optimism. These researchers concluded that
while hope incorporates the core concepts of both self-efcacy and
optimism, it diverges conceptually from these constructs. That is, hope
focuses on internal cognitive set (the self) and attainment of specic
personal goals, whereas optimismrefers outcome expectancies to exter-
nal events broadly. Similarly, self-efcacy only explains the agency com-
ponent of the hope construct, but not the pathway component of the
hope construct.
Hope theory also resonates with recently emerged strengths-based
offender rehabilitation approaches. One of such approaches is the Good
Lives Model (GLM), which like the hope theory focuses on the notion
of agency (Ward & Gannon, 2006). It posits that individuals aspire and
actively seek to obtain their life goals through whatever means available
to them (Purvis et al., 2011). This could involve committing offenses
when the routes or pathways toward desired life goals become frustrat-
ed in the absence of basic human necessities. Researchers recently began
to explore the role of hope within the desistance paradigm(e.g., Burnett,
2004; Maruna, 2001; McNeill, 2006). Similar to the theory of hope and
the GLM, the concept of personal agency is at the center of the desistance
approach. Maruna (2001), in particular, argued that desistance is an
active, offender-led process, where the desisting individual is deter-
mined to follow choices of action by weighing up the pros and cons of
continued offending. He also contended that it is an offender's sense of
ownership of the change process and realization of his/her own abilities
to exercise self-regulation (i.e., agency) that leads to crime desistance.
For desistance to be sustained, according to Maruna, the narrative iden-
tity of the individual needs to change. He found that persistent offenders
held what he termed condemnation scripts, in that they sawtheir life in a
negative light and believed they were at the mercy of circumstances out-
side their control. This conclusion is consistent with current conceptual-
izations of optimism (e.g. Buchanan & Seligman, 1995; Scheier & Carver,
1985) described earlier.
Maruna further noted that self-narratives of the desisting ex-
offenders did not only make offending behavior no longer necessary,
but also helped them develop a positive attitude towards their future,
which he termed a redemption script. Again, this conclusion seems
to support both optimismand hope focused approaches in positive psy-
chology. Burnett and Maruna (2004) conducted another relevant study
in which they used questions that tapped into prisoners' desired life
goals to measure their level of hope. Their results indicated that those
with reported high levels of hope were able to cope better after release
fromprison. This nding is encouraging and warrants anin depth inves-
tigation of the role of hope in offender supervision outcomes.
5. Practice implications
As highlighted so far, augmenting risk or decit focused offender su-
pervision practice with strengths based approach is supported by a num-
ber of studies and theoretical orientations. In particular, we emphasized
the potential role of psychological exibility, self-efcacy, optimism, and
hope. Yet the questionremains as tohowCCOs canincorporate these con-
cepts in practice? In the sections that follow, we suggested that supervi-
sion outcomes can be improved when CCOs promote these positive
psychological states more consistently in routine supervision practices.
We further suggested that these positive psychological states can be cul-
tivated or developed through motivation and raising awareness.
5.1. Promoting psychological exibility
According to Hayes and colleagues (Hayes, Strosahl, & Wilson,
1999), promotion of psychological exibility involves six fundamental
processes: (1) focus on the present moment instead of drifting into
the past, future or the abstract, (2) self-as-context or perspective taking,
(3) articulation of self-chosen values or desirable ways of behaving,
(4) commitment to take actions in the service of self-chosen values,
(5) acceptance and willingness to experience uncomfortable thoughts,
feelings, sensations, and urges without engaging in avoidant behavior
to rid of these experiences, and (6) defusion of uncomfortable thoughts,
37 Y. Woldgabreal et al. / Aggression and Violent Behavior 19 (2014) 3241
feelings, sensations, and urges without believing them or following
their direction rigidly.
Because this approach attempts to address such issues as attention,
openness and commitment, it lends itself well to offender supervision
practices. It is common knowledge that a signicant number of of-
fenders under community based supervision pass through the revolv-
ing door of the criminal justice system. Our direct experience in the
eld further suggested that most offenders struggle to engage in super-
vision and tend to maintain dysfunctional habitual behavioral and
thought patterns even though doing so has not helped them avoid the
revolving door of probation and parole sanctions. Thus, the suggestion
for an offender supervision practice that promotes psychological exi-
bility seems plausible. For example, the idea of acceptance rests on the
assumption that avoidance or attempt to control challenging cognitive
events is likely to require more attentional resources than simply
accepting those uncomfortable cognitive experiences (Bond et al.,
2011). Depleted cognitive resources or self-regulatory mechanisms
would mean reduced capacity to resist maladaptive thoughts, feelings,
and urges such as substance abuse, violence, withdrawal, and dysfunc-
tional relationships. Thus, by educating offenders about the importance
of accepting unwanted thoughts through mindfulness exercises
(e.g., allowing inner experiences to come and go without judging them
as bad or good), CCOs can promote adaptive coping mechanisms and
inuence supervision outcomes.
Promoting psychological exibility also involves helping offenders
move toward personally valued life directions. The supervision process
should focus on exploring what offenders really want in life, the sort of
person they want to become, the kind of relationships they want to
establish, and whether such values are workable or consistent within
the context of their offending behavior. Offenders' values may be ham-
pered because of the nature of their self-conception or identity (e.g., No
one likes me or I am not good at this). In this situation, the supervi-
sion process should defuse the narrowing of repertoires and encourage
offenders to focus on value-consistent actions and not to adopt self-
limiting beliefs rigidly or follow their directions.
5.2. Promoting self-efcacy
Self-efcacy is probably the most commonly taught concept in the
eld of corrections, and yet has been underutilized in offender supervi-
sion practices. In our view, this may be linked partly to increasing
demands placed on CCOs to focus on risk management, and partly to a
lack of systematic assessment tool that identies and targets self-
efcacy issues as part the supervisory process. Given self-efcacy is con-
sidered a fundamental psychological state that motivates behavioral
changes (Bandura, 1989), we suggested that CCOs should utilize this
concept more routinely rather than in ad hoc ways. In particular,
Bandura's (1989) notions of skills mastery, modeling, verbal persuasion,
and reducing aversive physiological or emotional states should provide
CCOs with useful conceptual guides in this process.
5.2.1. Skills mastery
In the context of supervision, skills mastery could begin with the
collaborative identication of realistic and attainable goals aimed at ad-
dressing both criminogenic and non-criminogenic needs. To sustain mo-
tivation and increase offenders' condence of success, identied goals
can further be broken into smaller or manageable components (e.g., at-
tending substance abuse programs before pursing vocational courses).
Offenders' sense of self-efcacy is likely to increase when CCOs maintain
interest, monitor performance and provide positive feedback.
5.2.2. Modeling
Social learning theory advocates that people learn by observing or
imitating the behavior of others around them (Bandura, 1989). As
such, pro-social modeling is anapproachthat has increasingly beenpro-
moted in the eld of offender supervision (Trotter, 1996, 2009). Apart
from demonstrating pro-social skills (e.g., empathy, care, respect,
warmth, honest, and etc.), CCOs can facilitate vicarious learning by
encouraging offenders to participate in group programs and other com-
munity events, which provide them with opportunities to observe and
learn success stories from similar others. Knowing that similar others
have overcome certain life challenges (e.g., addition) could provide of-
fenders' with some level of condence to engage in similar behavioral
change efforts.
5.2.3. Verbal persuasion
This technique can be used to inuence offenders' perceived capabil-
ities. Persuasive supervisionmay be particularly useful whenworking re-
lationship (alliance) between offenders and CCOs is strong, and the task
at hand is seen realistic and attainable. This in turn is likely to enhance
offenders' sense personal competence.
5.2.4. Physiological and emotional states
The potential for conict ridden relationships between offenders
and CCOs is always present due to the involuntary nature of the super-
vision process. In particular, too much emphasis on the compliance as-
pect of their supervisionand inadequate attentionto their rehabilitation
needs can negatively impact on offenders' affective and physiological
states. As a consequence, offenders may doubt their ability to succeed
in supervision and develop low self-efcacy beliefs. It is, therefore,
important for CCOs to be rm as well as fair in order not to diminish
offenders' perception of self-efcacy.
5.3. Promoting optimism
As Peterson (2000) commented, there is enough evidence to pro-
pose that optimism can facilitate people's motivation to pursue goal-
oriented behaviors. Studies revealed that optimistic people face life
challenges by using approach-oriented self-regulatory mechanisms
such as problem solving, acceptance, humor, and positive reframing.
Conversely, pessimistic individuals tended to engage in avoidance-
oriented coping strategies such as denial, withdrawal, anger, shame,
and substance abuse (O'Connor & Cassidy, 2007).
Clearly, the benet of promoting optimism in offender supervision
practices is evident. The extent to which offenders are optimistic about
desired goal pursuits can be assessed using available measures that are
brief, practical and empirically valid (e.g., Scheier, Carver, & Bridges,
1994). For offenders withgreater propensity for optimistic beliefs, super-
vision processes should capitalize on such positive outlooks and help
offenders to further specify realistic goals, remain persistent and exible.
Where pessimistic beliefs emerge through the assessment process, CCOs
can assist those offenders to reframe goal pursuits and nurture a mindset
that is conducive to approach-oriented coping styles. The idea that
optimism can be learned and cultivated is already well-established. We
know from Martin Seligman and colleagues' (e.g., Buchanan & Seligman,
1995; Gillham et al., 1995) extensive work that optimism is inuenced
by people's explanatory styles or attributions they make to underlying
causes of their life events. Thus, optimism can be acquired by modeling
andassisting offenders to renewor reframe their goals insocially andper-
sonally desirable directions.
In our view, the mechanical implementation of optimismpromoting
practices in supervision is not enough. Optimistic belief should be a
two-way street. If CCOs believe in offenders' ability to change and
offenders believe that CCOs can help them, we should expect much im-
proved offender supervision outcomes. Indeed, this assertion is not new
in correctional practice. There is a great deal of evidence indicating that
pessimism is an underlying factor when it comes to establishing work-
ing relationship with offenders (Appleton, 2010). As Marshall et al.
(2005, p. 1097) commented:
Our general concerns about current treatment approaches can be
summarized as follows: (a) there is an excessive emphasis on
38 Y. Woldgabreal et al. / Aggression and Violent Behavior 19 (2014) 3241
negative issues in both the targets of treatment and the language
used by treatment providers, (b) there is a failure to explicitly
encourage optimismin clients and encourage their belief in their ca-
pacity to change, (c) there is a general absence of an explicit attempt
to work collaboratively with clients, (d) the role and inuence of the
therapist has been all but neglected, and (e) there have been few
attempts to provide clients with goals that will result in them lead-
ing a more fullling and pro-social life.
Although the conclusion by Marshall and colleagues was made
based on observation of treatment programs designed to rehabilitate
sex offenders, our direct experience in the eld suggested that the
same concerns reverberate in today's offender supervision practices.
5.4. Promoting hope
The concept of hope has enormous potential in dealing with of-
fenders' criminogenic and non-criminogenic needs. According to Lopez,
Floyd, Ulven, and Snyder (2000), hope intervention can take place in
two stages: (1) instilling hope through strategies of hope nding and
hope bonding, and (2) increasing hope through strategies of hope
enhancing and hope reminding.
5.4.1. Stage 1: instilling hope Hope nding. Hope nding is about helping individuals uncover
hope that they already possess. Fromthe perspective of offender super-
vision, hope nding could involve assessing the extent to which of-
fenders are hopeful in terms of addressing their criminogenic needs
(e.g., abstinence from substance abuse, dealing with pro-criminal inu-
ences, andimpulsivity). Hope nding assessment by CCOs couldtypical-
ly include exploring offenders' experiences with hope and identifying
reasons that have led to their hopeful thinking, attending to the nature
and quality of their conceptualized goals and associated agency/path-
ways thoughts, and encouraging narrative accounts of hope and coping
mechanisms in times of setbacks.
According to Lopez et al. (2000, p.130), the sort of question that
CCOs may pose in hope nding exercises include: Howdid the offender
generate goals? What was the motivation? How attainable or realistic
were the goals? How were the goals perceived? What was the
offender's mood/attitude during the process? How was the movement
toward goals initiated? How was movement maintained? What were
the biggest barriers to reaching the goals? What emotions did these bar-
riers elicit? How were barriers overcome and what steps were taken to
reach the goals? Were the goals attained? How does the offender feel
about the outcome? If the offender were to attempt same goal today,
what would he/she do differently? Can the offender re-cast the experi-
ence in more hopeful terms? (i.e., by identifying lessons learned that
can facilitate future efforts.) Hope bonding. This strategy is similar to Bordin's (1979) concep-
tualization of therapeutic alliance as a building block to any successful
therapeutic intervention outcome. Indeed, a number of empirical stud-
ies in the psychotherapeutic domain have substantiated the importance
of workerclient relationship (working alliance) for improved treat-
ment outcomes (e.g., Horvath, 2005; Orlinsky, Ronnestad, & Willutzki,
2004). In particular, a therapeutic relationship characterized by empa-
thy, care, respect, and warmth has been found to predict positive out-
comes, accounting for up to 30% of the variance in treatment success
(Lambert & Barley, 2001). Recently, several researchers in correctional
settings examined the role of working alliance (e.g., Shapland et al.,
2012; Taxman & Ainsworth, 2009), and supervision styles in supervi-
sion outcomes (Gunnison & Helfgott, 2011; Kennealy, Skeem,
Manchak, & Eno Louden, 2012; Paparozzi & Gendreau, 2005). Findings
from these studies indicated that the development of a strong working
alliance between CCOs and offenders is an important part of the
supervision process and, in particular, relationships that emphasize
rm, fair, and caring approach can lead to the reduction of recidivism.
As such, Lopez et al.'s (2000) concept of hope bonding in offender
supervision practice seems in order, given that the formation of a
sound hopeful supervisory alliance is critical for promoting positive be-
havioral changes. Hope is likely to ourish when offenders develop a
strong connection with their CCOs and perceive themselves as having
a sense of control in the supervisory process. Thus, hope bonding can
be established by respectful negotiation of exible supervision goals,
encouraging offenders to seek out and associate with pro-social inu-
ences, showing empathy, trust andunderstanding, andcreating a super-
visory relationship that encourages mental energy toward identied
supervision or rehabilitation goals.
5.4.2. Stage 2: increasing hope Hope enhancing. This intervention strategy focuses on conceptu-
alization of goals, generating alternative pathways, summoning the
mental energy necessary to maintain commitment toward identied
goals, and reframing obstacles into challenges (Lopez et al., 2000).
From the perspective of offender supervision, CCOs can assist offenders
to identify their goals and learn how to apply the concept of hope in
their lives. Goals should be specic, realistic, attainable and measurable.
Such goals may focus on both criminogenic needs (I want to stop my
drug habits), and non-criminogenic needs (I will start exercising to
feel good about myself). Offenders can then be engaged to generate
pathway and agency thoughts toward the accomplishment of such
goals. As supervision sessions progress, offenders are encourage to
reect on their goal pursuits, identify obstacles and re-generate path-
way thoughts to overcome those barriers. Hope reminding. Lopez et al. (2000, p. 143) described this strate-
gy as a feedback loop process designed to encourage clients to become
their own hope therapists by engaging in effortful daily use of hopeful
cognitions. In the context of offender supervision, hope reminding
could involve revisiting positive experiences in offenders' lives, such
as association with pro-social inuences that encouraged abstinence
fromsubstance abuse or stories of successful problemsolving in conict
situations. By reminding offenders about the attitudes and behaviors
that servedthemwell inthe past, supervising ofcers canhelpoffenders
maintain hopeful cognition and encourage themto adapt similar efforts
in their current situation.
6. Conclusion
Offender supervision practices have a long history of focusing on
decits, problem behaviors, and risk. However, the growing interest in
the more positive aspects of human functioning indicates that offender
supervision practices that draw upon positive psychological states can
augment and improve on risk management based approaches. Inpartic-
ular, we suggested that positive psychological states such psychological
exibility, self-efcacy, optimism, and hope may serve as protective fac-
tors and function as buffers between the presence of empirically
established criminogenic risk factors, and the onset of criminal behav-
ior, and more generally, can contribute to successful offender supervi-
sion outcomes.
The positive psychology constructs that we reviewed support the
use of intervention strategies emphasize psychological exibility, self-
efcacy, the identication of clearly dened goals, perceived ability to
generate routes (pathway thoughts) for attaining such goals, and the
cultivations of beliefs that such goal pursuits can be achieved (agency
thoughts). Although each construct arguably makes a unique contribu-
tion to effective outcomes and higher levels of functioning, there are
also indications that they are conceptually related to higher order con-
structs such as resilience or human well-being. And it is arguably in in-
tegrated states such as these that the sources of desistance ultimately
39 Y. Woldgabreal et al. / Aggression and Violent Behavior 19 (2014) 3241
reside. It is in the process of providing the psychological and social tools
to live better, more fullling lives that risk is most effectively addressed
and the supervisory relationship may then become a platformfor genu-
ine growth rather than struggles for control.
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