Good Lives Model Research Paper

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The Good Lives Model (GLM) is a strengths-based theory of offender rehabilitation. The purpose of this essay is to (i) briefly overview the desistance literature; (ii) describe the risk management approach; (iii) highlight its limitations, including its weak fit with desistance theory and research; and (iv) provide a detailed description of the GLM. The GLM incorporates the advantages of the risk management approach at the same time as addressing its limitations. It can be argued that it provides social workers and other professionals with a more comprehensive framework to guide their work with clients in the criminal justice system.


The rehabilitation of offenders is a complex process and involves reentry, and ultimately reintegration, into social networks and the broader society. While offenders need to work hard at modifying their personal characteristics that are related to their offenses, the community also has a responsibility to support this personal work with social capital and resources. Once individuals have begun to serve their sentence, they are entitled to have a chance at redemption and reconciliation. The presumption of human beings’ equal value is a cornerstone of a decent and just society. It applies to offenders as much as to all humans. Furthermore, the rehabilitation of offenders is a normative and strength-building process, and therefore, from a practice perspective, both science and ethics are equally important. It is only legitimate to inflict significant harm (i.e., compulsory treatment) upon others when all human beings are regarded as equal in dignity and moral standing (Laws and Ward 2011).

Practitioners need rehabilitation theories to help them navigate through the various challenges and problems that materialize when working with offenders. These rehabilitation theories function as a conceptual map and facilitate effective intervention. Ideally, these maps will provide guidance on important issues such as the overall aims of intervention, what constitutes risk, what the general causes of crime are, how best to manage and work with individuals, and how to balance offender needs with the interests of the community. In recent years, strengths-based or “restorative” approaches to working with offenders have been formulated as an alternative to the very popular Risk-Need-Responsivity model of offender rehabilitation. In short, risk management approaches primary practice focus is on the detection and modification of dynamic risk factors (i.e., criminogenic needs), while strengths-based perspectives aim to create competencies in offenders and reduce risk more indirectly.

Offenders are “people like us” (Laws and Ward 2011). It is necessary to start relating to them in ways that reflect this attitude to improve correctional outcomes and reduce reoffending rates. The desistance research is clear that offenders respond well to practitioners who show an interest in them and believe in their capacity to turn their lives around (McNeill et al. 2005). Treating offenders with respect and decency rather than as sources of contamination to be quarantined (not cured) is likely to reduce the risk of practicing an ineffective confrontational therapeutic style (RNR; Andrews et al. 1990). Most information in this text is drawn on the sexual offending literature; although equally applicable to general offending, the GLM was initially developed in reference to the sexual offending literature.

Desistance From Crime

In contrast to the forensic psychology literature’s focus on individual factors implicated in offending and reoffending, the desistance literature seeks to understand the lifestyle change process associated with cessation of crime (e.g., Laws and Ward 2011; Serin and Lloyd 2009).

To suggest that a reduction in dynamic risk factors solely explains desistance seems to be unconvincing. Such an explanation is arguably somewhat simplistic and does not account for the very nature of human beings. Rather than being passively determined by external circumstances, humans actively seek outcomes that are personally meaningful and valued. The desistance literature disentangles how offenders change in regard to dynamic risk factors. Therefore it provides a richness not captured by the forensic psychology literature (Laws and Ward 2011). Available evidence indicates that there are a number of social and psychological factors that assist the desistance process (Laws and Ward 2011). These factors were named, for example, as “turning points” (Laub and Sampson 2003), “hooks for change” (Giordano et al. 2007), a “change in narrative identity” (McNeill et al. 2005), or “making good” (Maruna 2001).

Perhaps the most significant contributions to the desistance literature in recent years are those of Laub and Sampson (2003) and Maruna (2001). Laub and Sampson conducted an extended and comprehensive follow-up of men from Sheldon and Eleanor Glueck’s landmark research (Glueck and Glueck 1950). They were interested in factors that differentiated serious and persistent delinquent boys from a matched group of nondelinquent boys. Laub and Sampson found that conventional adult social bonds such as marriage and employment explained variations in crime. Other variables, like childhood adversity, did not predict these. Specifically, they found that strong social bonds, for example, strong marital attachment and job stability, could facilitate the lifestyle change required for criminal desistance. Their findings have been replicated throughout the desistance literature (e.g., Maruna 2001; see below), and similar findings have been reported in the forensic psychology literature (e.g., Hanson and Harris 2000). Laub and Sampson also replicated the long-standing finding in criminology that frequency of offending decreases with age. They furthermore acknowledged the role of human agency, noting that men who desisted played an active role in their desistance process through making explicit choices to disengage from crime. Maruna (2001) replicated Laub and Sampson’s findings regarding the significance of social bonds but also found that human agency or cognitive transformation (i.e., creation of a new, conventional, more adaptive narrative identity) was a key element in desistance. In sum, both external factors (e.g., social support, access to employment opportunities) and internal factors (e.g., making a conscious decision to want a different life) are required to facilitate the lifestyle change process associated with desistance. Desistance is the central aim of offender rehabilitation. In the following paragraphs, the risk management approach and its failure to account for the desistance literature will be contrasted with a recent strengths-based rehabilitation model, the Good Lives Model of Offender Rehabilitation.

The Risk Management Approach To Offender Rehabilitation

The risk management approach to offender rehabilitation emerged from Andrews and Bonta’s influential book, The Psychology of Criminal Conduct (PCC; Andrews and Bonta 2010). The PCC sought to explain criminal behavior through empirically derived predictors of recidivism using what Andrews and Bonta termed a general personality and social psychology perspective. The PCC provides three empirically based principles aimed at reducing offenders’ risk of recidivism: risk, need, and responsivity (Andrews and Bonta 2010). Hence, an underlying assumption of the risk management approach is that offenders are primarily containers of risk for recidivism, and the sole aim of offender rehabilitation is to reduce this recidivism risk through adherence to the RNR principles. The risk principle states that the dosage or intensity of interventions should match an offender’s risk level. Therefore, low-risk offenders should receive less intense or no intervention, whereas high-risk offenders should be subjected to very intensive treatment. The needs principle incorporates that interventions should target criminogenic needs, also known as dynamic risk factors. Those factors are causally related to offending and are changeable. Dynamic risk factors include antisocial attitudes and antisocial associates (Andrews and Bonta 2010) and in the case of sexual offending, deviant sexual interests and self-regulation difficulties (Laws and Ward 2011). The aim of treatment is to reduce dynamic risk factors and, according to the need principle, directing intervention efforts at non-criminogenic needs will prove ineffective. For example, noncriminogenic needs such as low self-esteem and a history of victimization should not be targeted in treatment, given they have not been linked with recidivism (Andrews and Bonta 2010). Finally, the responsivity principle informs the actual delivery of interventions in order to maximize their efficacy. The responsivity principle involves matching the style and mode of intervention to the offender’s learning style and abilities (Andrews and Bonta 2010). General responsivity advocates structured cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) interventions, given their general acceptance as the best treatment currently available for sex offenders (e.g., Hanson et al. 2002). Enhancing specific responsivity requires considering cognitive ability, learning style, personality profile, culture, and other characteristics of individual offenders and delivering treatment accordingly. The RNR has been hugely influential in offender rehabilitation initiatives internationally, forming the basis of correctional treatment since its inception in the early 1990s.

Although meta-analyses have found support for the efficacy of RNR-based treatment programs in reducing recidivism among general and sexual offenders (e.g., Hanson et al. 2009, 2002; Lo¨ sel and Schmucker 2005), some researchers argue that the available evidence is insufficient to conclude current treatment programs are in fact efficacious (e.g., Marques et al. 2005). Research suggests that a considerable amount of treated sexual offenders recidivates (e.g., Hanson et al. 2002). Thus, substantial scope remains for improving sex-offender rehabilitation and reintegration initiatives. In this research paper it is argued that the Good Lives Model (GLM) offers exciting promise for further enhancing the effectiveness of current efforts by addressing limitations of the risk management approach, which are expanded on in the following entry.

Limitations Of The Risk Management Model

The most heavily cited criticism of the RNR model revolves around its failure to motivate and engage offenders in the rehabilitation process (e.g., Mann 2000). Attrition from sex-offender treatment programs is particularly high with reported rates as high as 30–50 % (e.g., Ware and Bright 2008), which have been attributed to poor treatment engagement (e.g., Beyko and Wong 2005). Consistent evidence shows that men who drop out of treatment are more likely to reoffend compared to treatment completers (e.g., Hanson et al. 2002; Marques et al. 2005) as well as untreated comparison groups (Hanson et al. 2002). Without addressing the problem of treatment attrition, current treatment programs fail to deliver to groups of sex offenders most requiring treatment (Beyko and Wong 2005) and therefore fail to adhere to the RNR risk principle. Thus, although empirically derived, in reality the risk principle is difficult to adhere to.

What is behind the failure of the risk management approach to engage clients in rehabilitation? At the outset, the risk management approach differs substantially from therapeutic models used with other client populations (e.g., in the treatment of mental health problems) in the orientation of treatment goals, limited collaboration between client and therapist, and limited attention to problems not causally related to the problem behavior (i.e., in the case of offending – non-criminogenic needs such as self-esteem or personal distress). Addressing the first issue, risk management interventions rely profoundly on avoidant goals. These treatments try to encourage hypervigilance to threats of relapse and the reduction of dynamic risk factors (Mann 2000). By contrast, approach goals provide an individual with direction toward his or her goal. It has been suggested that individuals focused on approach goals concentrate on positive outcomes and thus persevere longer than people motivated by avoidance goals, who tend to focus on threats (Ward et al. 2007). Reframing the overarching goal of treatment (i.e., reducing risk of reoffending) as an approach goal might be “to become someone who lives a satisfying life that is always respectful of others” (Mann 2000, p. 194). This approach goal remains consistent with avoiding relapse. The final goal of avoidance of reoffending can be separated into personally meaningful subgoals that provide offender clients with direction in life, for example, increasing confidence in socializing with adult partners. Thus, by using approach goals, treatment can help offenders live a better, more satisfying life, not just a less harmful one, in ways that are personally meaningful and socially acceptable – and risk reducing (Mann 2000). In fact, it is likely that the combination of approach and avoidance goals is implicated in successful desistance. A balance between something that is hoped for – a better life – and what is feared for, i.e., recidivism, is thought to be more effective in reaching one’s ultimate goal (Paternoster and Bushway 2009). The resulting motivation can be seen as additive, because it incorporates avoidance and approach goals. Indeed, Mann et al. (2004) showed that an approach-goal-focused intervention with sex offenders was associated with increased treatment engagement compared to a traditional avoidant-goal-focused intervention.

Secondly, treatment goals in the risk management approach are enforced upon offenders rather than mutually agreed upon in therapy (Mann 2000). This can compromise the therapeutic relationship. Marshall and his colleagues (e.g., Marshall et al. 2003) demonstrated that confrontational therapeutic styles had a negative impact on attitude and behavior changes. Displays of empathy, warmth, encouragement, and some degree of directiveness facilitated treatment change. This suggests that careful attention to the therapeutic relationship might increase treatment engagement. The didactic, strictly formalized nature of the risk management approach, however, allows limited scope for enhancing the therapeutic relationship.

Third, some researchers have convincingly argued that a sole focus on criminogenic needs obstructs treatment engagement. Sometimes attention to non-criminogenic needs is necessary to establish enhanced well-being and quality of life. This in turn is likely to enhance treatment engagement (Laws and Ward 2011). More specifically, targeting non-criminogenic needs might be a necessary precursor for targeting criminogenic needs through enhancing the therapeutic alliance (Ward and Stewart 2003). For example, attempting to tackle criminogenic needs in the context of personal distress or financial crisis (both non-criminogenic needs) will likely prove fruitless if the more acute issues are not sufficiently addressed.

Another general limitation of the risk management approach is its minimal consideration of reentry and reintegration issues (beside identifying and then actively avoiding high-risk situations). The desistance literature emphasizes the decisive role of environmental systems such as close, supportive relationships and employment in ceasing offending (e.g., Laub and Sampson 2003). Thus, building and strengthening environmental opportunities, resources, and supports should be as central to offender rehabilitation and reintegration endeavors as it is to psychological treatment. Moreover, in the case of treated offenders, environmental factors can facilitate or impede the continuation of treatment-related change to dynamic risk factors. Treatment effects can only be generalized to parole if the environment supports and reinforces newly learned concepts, such as the restructuring of offense-supportive beliefs. If an offender, for instance, is embedded in a criminal subculture, which endorses offense-supportive beliefs, it is unlikely that the effects of cognitive restructuring will last long.

The failure of the risk management approach to engage offender clients in the rehabilitation process is derived from its theoretical underpinnings, or mainly a lack thereof (for a detailed discussion, see Laws and Ward 2011), which ignore the nature of human beings as valueladen, goal-directed beings. The risk management approach seems to be too mechanistic and reductionist – that is, there is an implicit assumption that through fixing a malfunction offenders are (hopefully) restored to their optimal functioning state. Humans, on the other hand, are arguably not simply clusters of mechanisms but also persons with an array of values. Therefore, it is not simply enough to correct personal deficits, or reduce criminogenic needs, and expect individuals who have committed crimes to be rehabilitated. It is important to acknowledge that these crimes were often committed in a misguided pursuit of subjectively valued outcomes. In other words, the theoretical grounding in managing risk, rather than improving the lives of offenders, compromises client engagement and their capacity for change.

In summary, critics argue that the RNR approach commonly current in offender rehabilitation and reintegration endeavors constitutes a necessary, but not sufficient foundation for effective interventions (Ward and Stewart 2003). It is essential subjecting offenders to interventions that are empirically supported; however, there is still much to be done in the arena of correctional practice and that desistance theory and research can offer those working with offenders numerous good ideas and practices. It has been convincingly argued that offender rehabilitation endeavors require a dual focus: reducing risk but also promoting human needs and values through approach goals, thereby engaging offenders in the treatment process. The GLM was developed as an alternative, more comprehensive approach to rehabilitation which is able to accomplish a dual focus. In other words the very nature of the GLM addresses limitations of the risk management approach, by including motivating offenders to engage in treatment, by addressing desistance issues, and by considering offenders’ environmental contexts (Ward et al. 2007; Ward and Stewart 2003). Although developed independently on a theoretical level, the GLM is a natural ally of desistance theory on a practical level. This is because of the overlapping nature of both perspectives’ theoretical assumptions and their common stress on the importance of both offender agency and social resources (for a more detailed discussion of this point see Go¨ bbels et al. (2012)).

The Good Lives Model

The Good Lives Model (GLM), first proposed by Ward and Stewart (2003) and further developed by Ward and colleagues (e.g., Ward and Gannon 2006), is a strengths-based approach to offender rehabilitation. It is a strengths-based rehabilitation theory, because it is responsive to offenders’ particular interests, abilities, and aspirations. It also directs practitioners to explicitly construct intervention plans that help offenders to acquire the capabilities to achieve the things that are personally meaningful to them, however in a socially appropriate manner. It assumes that all individuals have similar aspirations and needs and that one of the primary responsibilities of parents, teachers, and the broader community is to help each individual to acquire the tools required to make our own way in the world. Ideally, this is achieved through socialization in childhood and adolescence. Criminal behavior results when individuals lack the internal and external resources necessary to satisfy their values using pro-social means. In other words, criminal behavior represents a maladaptive attempt to meet life values (Ward and Stewart 2003). Rehabilitation endeavors should therefore equip offenders with the knowledge, skills, opportunities, and resources necessary to satisfy their life values in ways that do not harm others. Inherent in its focus on an offender’s life values, the GLM places a strong weight on offender agency. That is, offenders, like all human beings, actively seek to satisfy their life values through whatever means available to them. The GLM’s dual attention to an offender’s internal values and life priorities and external factors such as resources and opportunities give it practical utility in desistance-oriented interventions. In addition, the GLM as a theory has the conceptual resources to incorporate desistance ideas because it also stresses agency, interdependency, and development. In other words, there is natural resonance between desistance theory and the GLM because of their overlapping theoretical ideas and broad way of conceptualizing the relationship between human beings and their social world.

The GLM is a theory of offender rehabilitation that contains three hierarchical sets of assumptions: general assumptions concerning the aims of rehabilitation, etiological assumptions that account for the onset and maintenance of offending, and practical implications arising from the first and second sets of assumptions. Each set of assumptions will be detailed, followed by a summary of empirical research investigating the utility of the GLM.

General Assumptions Of The GLM

The GLM is grounded in the ethical concept of human dignity (see Ward and Syversen 2009) and universal human rights. The GLM perceives human beings as agents, rather than passive recipients who are determined by external circumstances only. That is, the GLM is concerned with individuals’ ability to formulate and select goals, construct plans, and to act freely in the implementation of these plans. A closely related assumption is the basic idea that offenders, like all humans, aspire to certain states of mind, personal characteristics, and experiences. These are defined in the GLM as primary goods. Following an extensive review of psychological, social, biological, and anthropological research, Ward and colleagues first proposed ten classes of primary goods. In more recent work (e.g., Ward and Gannon 2006; Ward et al. 2007), they separated the goods of friendship and community to produce 11 classes of primary goods: (1) life (including healthy living and functioning), (2) knowledge, (3) excellence in play, (4) excellence in work (including mastery experiences), (5) excellence in agency (i.e., autonomy and self-directedness), (6) inner peace (i.e., freedom from emotional turmoil and stress), (7) friendship (including intimate, romantic, and family relationships), (8) community, (9) spirituality (in the broad sense of finding meaning and purpose in life), (10) happiness, and (11) creativity (Ward and Gannon 2006, p. 79). While it is assumed that all humans seek out all the primary goods to some degree, the weightings or priorities given to specific primary goods reflect an offender’s values and life priorities. Moreover, the existence of a number of practical identities, based on, for example, family roles (e.g., parent), work (e.g., nurse), and leisure (e.g., rugby player), means that an individual might draw on different value sources in different contexts, depending on the normative values behind each practical identity.

Instrumental goods, or secondary goods, provide concrete means of securing primary goods and take the form of approach goals. For example, completing an apprenticeship or university degree might satisfy the primary goods of knowledge and excellence in work, whereas joining an adult sports team or cultural club might satisfy the primary good of friendship. If offenders engage in certain personally valued activities, it is likely that dynamic risk factors are reduced in an indirect manner. Thus, the GLM targets approach goals directly and avoidance goals indirectly.

Etiological Assumptions Of The GLM

According to the GLM there are two primary routes that lead to the onset of offending: direct and indirect (Ward and Gannon 2006). The direct pathway is implicated when an offender actively attempts (often implicitly) to satisfy primary goods through his or her offending behavior. For example, an individual lacking skill to relate to potential partners may try to acquire the good of intimacy by committing date rape. The indirect pathway is implicated when primary human goods are frustrated over and over again. This can lead to a ripple or cascading effect that culminates in a criminal offense. For example, conflict between the goods of intimacy and excellence in work might lead to the breakup of a relationship and subsequent feelings of loneliness and distress. Maladaptive coping strategies such as the use of alcohol to alleviate distress might, in specific circumstances, lead to a loss of control and culminate in sexual offending (Ward et al. 2007).

Four types of difficulties in offenders’ attempts to secure primary goods have been proposed. First, and most common in the direct route to offending, is the use of inappropriate strategies (secondary goods) to achieve primary goods. For instance, a preferential child sexual offender might not be able to achieve the good of intimacy with an adult partner and consequently tries to secure the good by molesting a child. Second, an individual’s implicit good lives plan might suffer from a lack of scope, meaning that a number of goods are neglected in his or her life plan. For example, an offender might neglect the good of excellence in work and may feel incompetent because of his lack of achievement. These feelings might accumulate to a high degree of life dissatisfaction and can cumulate to sex offending. Third, conflict in the pursuit of goods might result in acute psychological stress and unhappiness. Fourth, an individual might lack internal and external capabilities to satisfy primary goods in the environment he or she lives in. Internal capabilities include relevant knowledge and skill sets, while external capabilities include environmental opportunities, resources, and supports.

Empirically identified criminogenic needs are conceptualized in the GLM as internal or external obstacles that interfere with the acquisition of primary goods. Indeed, as outlined by Laws and Ward (2011), each of the primary goods can be linked with one or more criminogenic needs. Taking the primary good of agency as an example, impulsivity might obstruct good fulfillment. Similarly poor emotional regulation might block attainment of inner peace.

Practical Implications Of The GLM

To reiterate, the aim of correctional intervention according to the GLM is the promotion of primary goods, or human needs that, once met, enhance psychological well-being and functioning. In applying the GLM, assessment begins with mapping out an offender’s good lives conceptualization by identifying the priorities given to the various primary goods. This is achieved through (i) asking increasingly detailed questions about an offender’s core commitments in life and his or her valued day-to-day activities and experiences and (ii) identifying the goals and underlying values that were evident in an offender’s offense-related actions. Once an offender’s good life conceptualization is understood, futureoriented secondary goods aimed at satisfying an offender’s primary goods in socially acceptable ways are formulated collaboratively with the offender and translated into a good lives treatment plan. Treatment does not have a one-sizefits-all approach but is individually tailored to assist an offender implement his or her good lives intervention plan and simultaneously address criminogenic needs that might be blocking goods fulfillment. Accordingly, intervention might include building internal capacity and skills and maximizing external resources and social supports to satisfy primary human goods in socially acceptable ways.

Ward et al. (2007) outlined a group-based application of the GLM based on seven modules typical of current best-practice sex-offender treatment programs: establishing therapy norms, understanding offending and cognitive restructuring, dealing with deviant arousal, victim impact and empathy training, affect regulation, social skills training, and relapse prevention (RP). They highlighted that most modules were associated with an overarching primary good, consistent with the notion that dynamic risk factors can be considered maladaptive means of securing primary goods. For example, an overarching good in the understanding offending and cognitive restructuring module is that of knowledge, attained through providing offenders with an understanding of how their thoughts, feelings, and actions led them to offend. The social skills training module is associated with the overarching goods of friendship, community, and agency. Offenders’ individual good lives plans should inform the nature of interventions provided in this module. Some offenders, for example, may value other primary goods such as excellence in play and work over the good of friendship; thus, basic social skills training will likely suffice. Other offenders, however, may highly value intimate relationships; thus, intensive therapeutic work on intimacy and relationships might be required. This illustrates that the GLM promotes tailoring or treatment to individual offenders.

Willis et al. (in press) give specific recommendations on how to integrate the GLM successfully into cognitive-behavioral and risk management treatments. The basic assumption of humans as active agents implies that intervention planning should be collaborative. In addition, clients should be informed about their risk assessment results and should be explained to them. The GLM promotes individualization of treatment. In treatment, appropriate secondary goods should be acknowledged, reinforced, and incorporated together with future-oriented approach goals. For instance, an offender may be particularly ambitious and hardworking and thereby be very successful in his or her profession. In contrast, he or she might not be able to meet the good of relatedness with appropriate secondary goods. The offender might express the desire to reconnect with his or her family, make more friends, and find an intimate partner, and so on. Due to the holistic orientation of the GLM, also these non-criminogenic needs are addressed. The GLM has a dual focus. It capitalizes offender well-being and reduction of recidivism risk. Therefore, the offender does not introduce himself with only with offenses, sentencing information, and criminal history. The offender as a person is acknowledged by the therapist and other group members, rather than being reduced to his criminal offense. Offenders are treated as “people like us” (Laws and Ward 2011). As a consequence, offenders are also informed about the GLM and links between treatment modules and the acquisition of a good life. In contrast, hostility, negative labeling of the client, and the use of confrontation are all inconsistent with the GLM approach. In addition, the therapist should not be seen as a teacher or as superior to the clients. Clients are fellow human beings, who are active participants in the therapeutic process. Another crucial aspect is the GLM’s emphasis of the client’s environment. The offenders learn to attain valued goods with appropriate secondary goods to assure an offense-free life. This involves the work of a multidisciplinary team (correctional workers, nurses, healthcare workers, therapists, etc).

Empirical Research Supporting The Utility Of The GLM

The most commonly cited criticism of the GLM is its lack of empirical support (Andrews and Bonta 2010). However, the GLM is not a treatment theory, but is rather a rehabilitation framework that is intended to supply practitioners with an overview of the aims and values underpinning practice. It functions as a broad map which needs to be supplemented by specific theories smaller in scope concerning concrete interventions such as cognitive-behavioral treatment techniques (Laws and Ward 2011). Thus, the criticism that the GLM (itself) has not been empirically supported misses the point. Rather, it is intended to provide a more comprehensive framework for offender practice than currently exists. However, programs can be – and are – constructed that reflect GLM assumptions and these can (and should) be evaluated. But in this case they are best construed as GLM consistent programs and are not the GLM itself (Laws and Ward 2011). To reiterate, the GLM provides an overarching rehabilitation framework, but does not prescribe specific intervention content (Willis et al. in press). Importantly, treatments that are developed within the framework of the GLM have to adhere to its basic and etiological assumptions. If there is a lack in fidelity with the GLM, the treatment might not work or might be, in the worst case, not beneficial. Due to its individual, flexible, and holistic focus, the GLM does not provide clinicians with rigidly structured treatment manuals. However, structure is needed to assure that central treatment targets are addressed and risk of reoffending will be reduced.

Keeping these general points in mind, recent programs have incorporated principles of the GLM with RP-based treatment, with positive results. For example, Ware and Bright (2008) recently reported preliminary results following the incorporation of GLM principles into their sex-offender treatment program, concurrently with the introduction of open treatment groups, meaning offenders work through treatment modules at their own pace (in contrast to closed treatment groups whereby group members start and finish together). Since the implementation of these changes, the treatment attrition rate has reduced, and staff have reported feeling more effective and positive in their work, likely benefiting their therapeutic relationship with clients. In another study, Lindsay et al. (2007) demonstrated the incorporation of GLM and RP principles with sex offenders using two case examples. They reported the dual focus on improving quality of life and managing risk-enhanced treatment engagement and provided offenders with a pro-social and personally meaningful life focus. Both offenders remained offense-free 5 years following their referrals for treatment. Consistent with reports of the GLM’s effectiveness with sex offenders, the GLM has also been successfully applied with a high-risk violent offender (Whitehead et al. 2007) reported that the implementation of GLM principles facilitated treatment readiness and promoted long-term reintegration goals.

Other studies have empirically examined the underlying assumptions of the GLM. Willis and Grace (2008) retrospectively coded child molesters’ release planning and found that the presence of secondary goods (i.e., socially acceptable approach goals relating to one or more primary goods) was a protective factor against any type of recidivism (i.e., sexual, violent, or general recidivism), again implicating the importance of goods fulfillment in the desistance process.

Barnett and Wood (2008) investigated how imprisoned sex offenders had operationalized the primary goods of agency, relatedness, and inner peace at the time of their offending. A lack of scope in good lives conceptualizations (e.g., through neglecting inner peace) and problems and/or conflict in the means used to pursue each good were evident. This supports the notion that difficulties fulfilling primary goods are implicated in offending. More recently, the GLM was applied to a sample of released child molesters and showed that the majority of primary goods were endorsed with high importance, supporting the premise that the GLM primary goods represent a set of universally sought after human values (Willis et al. 2010). In addition, it was found that positive reentry experiences at 1 and 3 months post-release (in terms of accommodation, social support, and employment) were associated with increased primary goods attainment 6 months post-release, suggesting that positive reentry experiences provided external capabilities for the implementation of good lives plans and eventual realization of life values.

In sum, the GLM has demonstrated preliminary effectiveness in addressing key limitations of the risk management approach to offender rehabilitation. This was done by enhancing treatment engagement, fostering desistance, and paying increased attention to environmental contexts. Moreover, a growing body of research supports the GLM’s underlying assumptions.


Individuals with a history of criminal offending are more than bearers of risk, and as such, rehabilitation and reintegration endeavors require more than managing risk. The risk management approach has been hugely influential, and the primary RNR principles should not be rejected. Rather, the principles of risk, need, and responsivity should be integrated within a broader, strengths-based rehabilitation theory, the GLM. Through acknowledging that offenders are people like all human beings, the GLM engages offenders in the process of desistance, thereby bettering their lives and the lives of people they come into contact with. A problem with risk management practice models is that they tend to be overly focused on individual offenders and lack sufficient theoretical and ethical resources to enlarge their vision to the broader social and cultural vista. In other words, if the ultimate aim is to help individuals to cease offending and stay on the straight road, it is necessary to have a just, caring, and mutually accountable society.


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