CBT is a form of psychological treatment traditionally practised by clinical psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, mental health practitioners and counsellors. However the benefits of CBT are being increasingly recognised by other sectors; its success, particularly in dealing with offenders, has seen social workers and officers within the police, probation and prison services adopting CBT techniques.
The application of cognitive behavioural methods to reduce offending begins with the premise that an individual is not a victim of psychological distress but a product of an environment that has failed to equip them with the necessary cognitive skills to lead law-abiding lives. As a result they lean towards impulsivity and egocentrism, behave inappropriately and have attitudes, values and beliefs that may support this behaviour.
CBT combines cognitive and behavioural techniques and is based on the theory that a person’s current difficulties are exacerbated and maintained by faulty patterns of thinking and behaving. Behaviourism, a psychological theory developed in the 1940's emphasises environmental influences on behaviour, whilst the cognitive approach focuses on factors such as language, thought, memory and beliefs. The emphasis being on inner, rather than the outer, influences. The cognitive behavioural approach developed in the 1970’s combines these two theories; it accepts the importance of environmental factors in influencing behaviour but considers as equally important the role of cognitions (thought processes). Therefore the approach will involve the development of a persons thinking skills with the aim of improving skills such as problem solving, consequential thinking, alternative thinking, decision making and creative thinking. It aims to reduce automatic negative thoughts and to reduce impulsivity, which is a major factor in why young people especially offend.