UCCI values agency partners and relies on their input to collective identify and respond to gaps in the field. As such, UCCI has developed several structured cognitive behavioral GROUP INTERVENTIONS. Our curricula have been piloted by correctional practitioners in a variety of settings. 

Research has demonstrated that a collaborative relationship model utilizing social learning theory and cognitive-behavioral approaches afford agency staff ways to provide INDIVIDUAL INTERVENTION opportunities. In one-on-one sessions or situations, staff have the ability to shape behavior in ways that lead to long-term change. 

Theoretical Influences

UCCI interventions utilize a cognitive-behavioral approach to change behavior through means of social learning and motivational engagement. More specifically, we place heavy emphasis on skill building activities to assist with cognitive, social, emotional, and coping skill development. 

CBI rely on strategies designed to change the cognitions that influence maladaptive behavior and to improve functioning. There are four major themes that describe these types of interventions have been identified (Spiegler and Guevremont, 2010). First, the approach is scientific, meaning it relies on empirical support for its therapeutic strategies. Second, CBI is action-oriented. People have to engage in many activities, such as role play, as part of the therapeutic process. This stands in contrast with many of the non-directive talk therapy or more confrontational approaches. Third, a CBI approach is focused on the present; therapeutic strategies are aimed at changing the current risk factors that impact a person’s high risk behavior. Fourth, there is also a focus on learning with a CBI approach. UCCI encourages persons spend a significant amount of time learning and practicing new methods of handling risky situations. In addition, CBI should include brief, individualized sessions that incorporate multiple steps the person must demonstrate to complete the program.

CBI use strategies gleaned from social learning theory, cognitive theory, and behaviorism. Social learning theory, developed by Albert Bandura, posits that people learn new behavior by watching others’ behavior and imitating it. Children learn their native language by listening to and copying the people around them. The same may be true for people who struggle with identifying and managing risk factors. Next, cognitive theory asserts that our thoughts, attitudes, values, and beliefs drive our behavior. Behavioral theory recognizes the importance of reinforcement in predicting behavior. When criminal thinking or related behavior leads to a pleasurable effect, the behavior is reinforced. Pleasurable effects include feeling powerful, energetic, euphoric, relaxed, or stimulated. UCCI interventions provide opportunities for persons to identify the particular reinforcers that contribute to risky behaviors, as well as ample opportunities to explore the negative consequences of those behaviors. It is these negative consequences (e.g., lack of financial stability, evictions, or loss of possessions, legal repercussions) that often fuel their desire to change their behavior.

Actions and thoughts that are repeated are likely to become habits. In CBI, we work to learn new thoughts and behaviors that will lead to new habits. Those new habits can then lead to increased success and goal achievement. To illustrate how thoughts influence behavior, we use an iceberg metaphor. The exposed portion of the iceberg represents behavior that can be observed by others. Underneath the exposed portion of the iceberg is a much larger, submerged portion of ice. This portion is analogous to our thoughts, feelings, and attitudes, and beliefs. All areas support and drive a person’s behavior. With this in mind, if we want to change a person’s behavior, we first must explore what is under the surface and identify how it drives behavior. Once identified, the goal is to replace the risky thoughts, feelings, and beliefs with new ones that are consistent with the goals of this intervention. Cognitive restructuring uses a guided approach that includes linking thoughts and behaviors, teaching people to identify risky thoughts, and implementing new thinking.

CBI also employs skills training. Many people do not recognize that they have already proven capable of developing the complex set of skills needed to succeed. In other words, the skills people have used to avoid conflicts at home can be applied to successfully manage challenges at work or in social settings. Helping people recognize their abilities to learn skills can support self-efficacy, which will help them live healthier lifestyles. The skills within the CBI framework are designed to help a person develop ways to respond to high risk situations. CBI teaches skills and strategies that people can use long after the intervention. For example, the skills involved in using self-control (recognizing and avoiding cues, modifying behavior through self-control techniques, and so on) can be used to deal with a variety of strong emotional states that could lead to antisocial behavior.

One of the most important skills for successfully navigating the world is problem solving. It relies on one’s capacity to think about the problem objectively, often identifying a variety of complex factors. Problem solving is least effective when a person is emotionally reacting to a situation. When the person is calm, the ability to analyze the possible choices involved and link them to a desired outcome is greatly enhanced. The behavioral aspect comes into play when the chosen approach to handling the problem is put into action. Each of these actions should be reviewed and evaluated so that further learning can occur. In this curriculum, people will learn and practice steps to effective problem solving. In this way, the problem solving process is directed by the person and can be applied to any type of problem the person may face.

Problem solving is considered an advanced and introduced once people incorporate previously learned skills to develop solutions to their problems. Cognitive restructuring, emotion regulation and interpersonal skills converge to equip people to solve more complex problems in productive ways.

Programming for justice involved individuals requires a good deal of engagement since they are often compelled (rather than volunteering) to seek treatment. The spirit of motivational interviewing (see Miller & Rollnick, 2002) is woven throughout UCCI interventions to decrease resistance and increase motivation for change. This is accomplished by helping individuals identify their basic values and using those values to build ambivalence toward their high risk behaviors. Additionally, motivation engagement techniques such as the use of open-ended questions, reflections, affirmations, and summaries are built into all UCCI interventions.