Concept of the Month -- February 2005

The Concept of "Confrontation" in Helping Offenders Change

Confrontation entails helping a person look in the mirror and, in doing so, making him keenly aware of his flaws. For any of us to change anything about ourselves in an enduring manner, we have to recognize shortcomings, see them truly as flaws, and become fed up with them.

In working with criminals, there is a tendency to equate confrontation with harshness and dehumanizing procedures. Change agents have put demeaning signs on criminals, called them names, yelled and even sworn at them, required them to say and do things that are humiliating -- all with the avowed purpose of helping them change. Such an approach really utilizes the criminal's own tactics and is a flagrant misuse of power and control in a therapeutic/counseling environment.

An agent of change (therapist/counselor/etc.) can effectively confront an offender without using such an approach. In fact, harshness and anger have no place in such work. One can confront an individual without being provocative or putting down the person. (Criminals are extremely susceptible to putdowns and react with anger.)

It is essential in a calm, respectful manner to talk with an offender about himself or herself. The offender is far more inclined to be receptive with such an approach. And the agent of change will be more likely to establish a climate conducive to dialogue and reduce any personal threat to himself.

Stanton E. Samenow

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