WORKING ALLIANCE AND ITS RELATIONSHIP WITH ABORIGINAL ANCESTRY, PSYCHOPATHY, TREATMENT COMPLETION, AND RECIDIVISM IN A SAMPLE OF FEDERAL SEX OFFENDERS
The relationship that develops between a client and therapist is arguably one of the most important factors toward achieving positive outcomes from therapy. Although the therapeutic alliance has been well studied, there is a paucity of research related to the impact of this relationship when the client is an offender, of Aboriginal ancestry, or psychopathic. The present study employed an archival design in which a sample of 427 treated sexual offenders were examined with regard to their experience of therapeutic alliance with their primary therapists. Offenders who were admitted to the Clearwater Sex Offender Program at the Regional Psychiatric Centre Hospital in Saskatoon (RPC Prairies) between 1998 and 2005 completed a measure that rated the strength of their relationship with their primary therapists using the Working Alliance Inventory (WAI) roughly three months after program admission. Approximately 46% of the sample was of Aboriginal ancestry, while the majority of the balance (approximately 52%) was Caucasian. A sub-sample of 111 offenders was also scored on the PCL-R. Analysis of WAI scores among Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal offenders demonstrated a significant difference on the Bond scale of the WAI, suggesting that although the bonds between Aboriginal offenders and their primary therapists were not as strong as they were between non-Aboriginal offenders and therapists, Aboriginal offenders were still able to identify and agree on the goals and the tasks of the treatment (weaker bonds notwithstanding). Aboriginal offenders also spent slightly less time in treatment overall than their non-Aboriginal counterparts. The present research also found that as the scores on the WAI increased, rates of treatment noncompletion decreased, the implications of which would seem to highlight the need to foster and maintain strong therapeutic relationships. In terms of outcome, perhaps unexpectedly, results of the present research found that WAI was not a significant predictor of any recidivism criteria. Aboriginal Ancestry was related to non-sexual violent reconvictions and general reconvictions, but not sexual recidivism. Moreover, offenders who were both Aboriginal and reported low WAI scores were the most likely to recidivate in a non-sexual violent manner and in general, but not sexually. An examination of the relationship of working alliance to psychopathy found that WAI and PCL-R scores were not significantly correlated overall; however, a negative inverse relationship between the Lifestyle and Emotional facets with total WAI score was noted, suggesting that callous-unemotional traits and lifestyle were associated with weaker alliance. Interestingly, these correlations were not evident in the Aboriginal sample suggesting that other factors, aside from levels of psychopathy, were associated with working alliance in this ancestral group. In addition, results of the present analysis revealed WAI and PCL-R together, were better able to predict sexual recidivism for non-Aboriginal offenders than for Aboriginal offenders; however, the WAI and PCL-R jointly predicted nonsexual violent recidivism, but only for non-Aboriginal offenders, and jointly predicted general recidivism for both ancestral groups. Together, the results of this study attempt to further advance our understanding of the therapeutic alliance and its link to treatment outcome, Aboriginal ancestry, and psychopathy.
DegreeDoctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
SupervisorWormith, Steve; Olver, Mark E.
CommitteeFarthing, Gerry; Stockdale, Keira; Woods, Phil
Copyright DateApril 2013
sex offenders, working alliance, psychopathy, recidivism, treatment outcome