Skip to main content

Mindfulness in Forensic Mental Health: Does It Have a Role?

Abstract

Treatment and rehabilitation in forensic settings have been largely based on cognitive behavioural models and therapies. In the past decade, “third wave” approaches have developed in cognitive behavioural therapy, strongly influenced by spiritual and contemplative traditions such as Buddhism. Mindfulness is the most analysed and researched of such approaches. In this paper, we ask whether mindfulness is relevant to therapeutic work with offenders in forensic mental health and criminal justice services. We review the known criminogenic and other needs of offender groups and discuss whether the psychological processes affected by mindfulness are relevant to reducing risk, alleviating distress and facilitating coping. We conclude that they are. Finally, we address some of the problems that may arise in implementing mindfulness interventions in forensic settings.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Baer, R. A. (2007). Mindfulness, assessment and transdiagnostic processes. Psychological Inquiry, 18, 238–242.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bargh, J. A. (1997). The automaticity of everyday life. In S. R. Wyer (Ed.), The automaticity of everyday life: advances in social cognition, vol 1 (pp. 1–61). Mahwah NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bishop, S. C., Lau, M., Shapiro, S., Carlson, L., Anderson, N. D., Carmody, K., et al. (2004). Mindfulness: a proposed operational definition. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 7, 230–241.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Brazier, C. (2003). Buddhist psychology. London: Constable and Robinson.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brown, K. W., & Ryan, R. M. (2003). The benefits of being present: mindfulness and its role in psychological well-being. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 822–848.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Brown, K. W., Ryan, R. M., & Cresswell, J. D. (2007a). Mindfulness: Theoretical foundations and evidence for its salutary effects. Psychological Inquiry, 18, 211–237.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brown, K. W., Ryan, R. M., & Cresswell, J. D. (2007b). Addressing fundamental questions about mindfulness. Psychological Inquiry, 18, 272–281.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cavell, T. A., & Malcolm, K. T. (Eds.). (2007). Anger, aggression and interventions for interpersonal violence. Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Conklin, C. Z., Bradley, R., & Westen, D. (2006). Affect regulation in Borderline Personality Disorder. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 194, 69–77.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Dalai Lama, & Goleman, D. (2003). Destructive emotions. NY: Bantam.

    Google Scholar 

  • Davidson, R. J., Kabat-Zinn, J., Schumacher, J., Rosenkranz, M., Muller, D., Santorelli, S. F., et al. (2003). Alterations in brain and immune function produced by mindfulness meditation. Psychosomatic Medicine, 65, 564–570.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Day, A. (2009). Offender emotion and self-regulation: implications for offender rehabilitation programming. Psychology, Crime and Law, 15, 119–130.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Day, A., & Casey, S. (2009). Values in forensic and correctional psychology. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 4, 232–238.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Day, A., Bryan, J., Davey, L., & Casey, S. (2006). Processes of change in offender rehabilitation. Psychology, Crime and Law, 12, 473–489.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Day, A., Nakata, M., & Howells, K. (Eds.). (2008). Anger and indigenous men. Sydney: Federation.

    Google Scholar 

  • Duggan, C., & Howard, R. C. (2009). The ‘functional link’ between personality disorder and violence: A critical appraisal. In M. McMurran & R. C. Howard (Eds.), Personality, personality disorder and violence (pp. 19–38). Chichester: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Farrington, C. J. (2000). Individual differences and offending. In M. Tonry (Ed.), The handbook of crime and punishment (pp. 241–268). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Fazel, S., & Danesh, J. (2002). Serious mental disorder in 23, 000 prisoners: a systematic review of 62 surveys. The Lancet, 359, 545–550.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fehrer, F. C. (2002). The awareness response: A transpersonal approach to reducing maladaptive emotional reactivity. Unpublished doctoral dissertation. Institute of Transpersonal Psychology. Palo Alto: California.

  • Gannon, T. A., Ward, T., Beech, A. R., & Fisher, D. (Eds.). (2007). Aggressive offenders’ cognition: theory, research and practice. Chichester: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gibbs, J. C., Potter, G. B., & Goldstein, A. P. (1995). The EQUIP program: Teaching youth to think and act responsibly through a peer-helping approach. Champaign, IL: Research Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Goleman, D. (1995). Emotional intelligence. New York: Bantam.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gross, J. (2002). Emotion regulation: affective, cognitive and social consequences. Psychophysiology, 39, 281–291.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Grossman, P., Niemann, L., Schmidt, S., & Walach, H. (2004). Mindfulness-based stress reduction and health benefits: a meta-analysis. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 57, 35–43.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hanson, R. K., & Harris, A. J. R. (2000). Where should we intervene? Dynamic predictors of sexual assault recidivism. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 27, 6–35.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hayes, S. C. (2004). Acceptance and commitment therapy and the new behavior therapies: Mindfulness, acceptance and relationship. In S. C. Hayes, V. M. Follette, & M. M. Linehan (Eds.), Mindfulness and acceptance: expanding the cognitive–behavioral tradition (pp. 1–29). New York: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hayes, S. C., Strosahl, K. D., & Wilson, K. G. (1999). Acceptance and commitment therapy: An experiential approach to behavior change. New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Heppner, W. L., Kernis, M. H., Lakey, C. E., Campbell, W. K., Goldman, B. M., Davis, P. J., et al. (2008). Mindfulness as a means of reducing aggressive behaviour: dispositional and situational evidence. Aggressive Behavior, 34, 486–496.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Hogue, T. E., Jones, L., Talkes, K., & Tennant, A. (2007). The Peaks: a clinical service for those with dangerous and severe personality disorders. Psychology, Crime and Law, 13, 57–68.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hollin, C. R., & Palmer, E. J. (Eds.). (2006). Offending behaviour programmes: development, application and controversies. Chichester: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hollin, C. R., & Bloxham, C. A. J. (2007). Treatments for angry aggression. In T. A. Gannon, T. Ward, A. R. Beech, & D. Fisher (Eds.), Aggressive offenders’ cognition: theory, research and practice (pp. 215–229). Chichester: Wiley.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Howard, R. C. (2009). The neurobiology of affective dyscontrol: implications for understanding ‘dangerous and severe personality disorder’. In M. McMurran & R. C. Howard (Eds.), Personality, personality disorder and risk of violence (pp. 157–174). Chichester: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Howard, R. C. & Duggan, C. (2010). Mentally disordered offenders: personality disorders. In G. Towl, & D. Crighton (Eds.), Forensic psychology. Oxford: Blackwell, in press

  • Howard, R. C., Huband, N., Mannion, A., & Duggan, C. (2008). Exploring the link between personality disorder and criminality in a community sample. Journal of Personality Disorders, 22, 589–603.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Howells, K. (2008). The treatment of anger in offenders. In A. Day, M. Nakata, & K. Howells (Eds.), Anger and indigenous men. Annandale NSW: Federation.

    Google Scholar 

  • Howells, K. (2009). Angry affect, aggression and personality disorder. In M. McMurran & R. Howard (Eds.), Personality, personality disorder and risk of violence (pp. 191–212). Chichester: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Howells, K., & Day, A. (2006). Affective determinants of treatment engagement in violent offenders. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 50, 174–186.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Howells, K., & Day, A. (2007). Readiness for treatment in high risk offenders with personality disorders. Psychology, Crime and Law, 13, 47–56.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Howells, K., Day, A., & Wright, S. (2004). Affect, emotions and sex offending. Psychology, Crime and Law, 10, 179–195.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Howells, K., Day, A., Williamson, P., Bubner, S., Jauncey, S., Parker, A., et al. (2005). Brief anger management programs with offenders: outcomes and predictors of change. Journal of Forensic Psychiatry and Psychology, 16, 296–311.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Howells, K., Krishnan, G., & Daffern, M. (2007). Challenges in the treatment of dangerous and severe personality disorder. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment., 13, 325–332.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Howells, K., Daffern, M., & Day, A. (2008). Aggression and violence. In K. Soothill, M. Dolan, & P. Rogers (Eds.), Handbook on forensic mental health (pp. 351–374). Cullompton, Devon: Willan.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kabat-Zinn, J. (1990). Full catastrophe living: using the wisdom of your body and mind in everyday life. NY: Delacorte.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kraus, E., Mendelson, T., & Lynch, T. (2003). Childhood emotional validation and adult psychological distress: the mediating role of emotional inhibition. Child Abuse and Neglect, 27, 199–213.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kuyken, W., Byford, S., Taylor, R. S., Watkins, E., Holden, E., White, K., et al. (2008). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy to prevent relapse in recurrent depression. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76, 966–978.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Linehan, M. M. (1993). Cognitive-behavioral treatment of borderline personality disorder. New York: Guilford.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mann, R. E., & Fernandez, Y. M. (2006). Sex offender programmes: Concept, theory and practice. In C. R. Hollin & E. J. Palmer (Eds.), Offending behaviour programmes: development, application and controversies (pp. 155–178). Chichester: Wiley.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Masicampo, E. J., & Baumeister, R. F. (2007). Relating mindfulness and self-regulatory processes. Psychological Inquiry, 18, 255–258.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marshall, W. L., Fernandez, Y. M., Marshall, L. E., & Serran, G. A. (Eds.). (2006). Sexual offender treatment: controversial issues. Chichester: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • McGuire, J. (Ed.). (1995). What works: reducing offending. Chichester: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • McGuire, J. (2006). General offending behaviour programmes: Concept, theory and practice. In C. R. Hollin & E. J. Palmer (Eds.), Offending behaviour programmes: development, application and controversies (pp. 69–112). Chichester: Wiley.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • McMurran, M., & McGuire, J. (Eds.). (2005). Social problem solving and offending: evidence, evaluation and evolution. Chichester: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nee, C., & Farman, S. (2005). Female prisoners with borderline personality disorder: some promising treatment developments. Criminal Behaviour and Mental Health, 15, 2–16.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Novaco, R. W. (2007). Anger dysregulation. In T. A. Cavell & K. T. Malcolm (Eds.), Anger, aggression and interventions for interpersonal violence (pp. 3–54). Mahwah, NJ: Erlbaum.

    Google Scholar 

  • Patrick, C. J. (2008). Psychophysiological correlates of aggression and violence: an integrative review. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society., 363(1503), 2543–2555.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Polaschek, D. L. L. (2006). Violent offender programmes: Concept, theory and practice. In C. R. Hollin & E. J. Palmer (Eds.), Offending behaviour programmes: development, application and controversies (pp. 113–154). Chichester: Wiley.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Rosch, E. (2007). More than mindfulness: when you have a tiger by the tail, let it eat you. Psychological Inquiry, 18, 258–264.

    Google Scholar 

  • Samuelson, M., Carmody, J., Kabat-Zinn, J., & Bratt, M. A. (2007). Mindfulness-based stress reduction in Massachusetts correctional facilities. The Prison Journal, 87, 254–268.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Segal, Z. V., Williams, J. M. G., & Teasdale, J. D. (2002). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy for depression: a new approach to preventing relapse. New York: Guilford Press.

    Google Scholar 

  • Serran, G. A., & Marshall, W. L. (2006). Coping and mood in sexual offenders. In W. L. Marshall, Y. M. Fernandez, L. E. Marshall, & G. A. Serran (Eds.), Sexual offender treatment: controversial issues (pp. 109–124). Chichester: Wiley.

    Google Scholar 

  • Singh, N. N., Wahler, R. G., Adkins, A. D., & Myers, R. E. (2003). Soles of the feet: a mindfulness-based self-control intervention for aggression by an individual with mild mental retardation and mental illness. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 24, 158–169.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Winton, A. S. W., Curtis, W. J., Wahler, R. G., Sabaawi, M., et al. (2006). Mindful staff increase learning and reduce aggression in adults with developmental disabilities. Research in Developmental Disabilities, 27, 545–558.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Winton, A. S. W., Winton, A. S. W., Adkins, A. D., Wahler, R. G., et al. (2007). Individuals with mental illness can control their aggressive behaviour through mindfulness training. Behavior Modification, 31, 313–328.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Joy, S. D. S., Winton, A. S. W., Sabaawi, M., Wahler, R. G., et al. (2007). Adolescents with conduct disorders can be mindful of their aggressive behaviour. Emotional and Behavioral Disorders, 15, 56–63.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Winton, A. S. W., Adkins, A. D., Singh, J., & Singh, A. N. (2007). Mindfulness training assists individuals with moderate mental retardation to maintain their community placements. Behavior Modification, 31, 800–814.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Winton, A. S. W., Singh, A. N., Adkins, A. D., & Singh, J. (2008). Clinical and benefit-cost outcomes of teaching a mindfulness-based procedure to adult offenders with intellectual disabilities. Behavior Modification, 32, 622–637.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Singh, N. N., Lancioni, G. E., Wahler, R. G., Winton, A. S. W., & Singh, J. (2008). Mindfulness approaches in cognitive behaviour therapy. Behavioural and Cognitive Psychotherapy, 36, 1–8.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Teasdale, J. D., Segal, Z. V., & Williams, J. M. G. (2000). Reducing risk of recurrence of major depression using Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 68, 615–623.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Teasdale, J. D., Segal, Z. V., & Williams, J. M. G. (2006). Mindfulness training and problem formulation. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 10, 157–160.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ward, T., & Maruna, S. (2007). Rehabilitation: beyond the risk principle. London: Taylor & Francis.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weisner, M., Kim, H. K., & Capaldi, D. M. (2005). Developing trajectories of offending: validation and prediction to young adult alcohol use, drug use, and depressive symptoms. Development and Psychopathology, 17, 251–270.

    Google Scholar 

  • Williams, J. M. G., & Swales, M. (2004). The use of mindfulness-based approaches for suicidal patients. Archives of Suicide Research, 8, 315–329.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Williams, J. M., Russell, I., & Russell, D. (2008). Mindfulness-based cognitive therapy: further issues in current evidence and future research. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 76, 524–529.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Wright, S., Day, A., & Howells, K. (2009). Mindfulness and the treatment of anger problems. Aggression and Violent Behavior, 14, 396–401.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wupperman, P., Neumann, C. S., & Axelrod, S. R. (2008). Do deficits in mindfulness underlie borderline personality features and core difficulties? Journal of Personality Disorders, 22, 466–482.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  • Zamble, E., & Quinsey, V. L. (2001). The criminal recidivism process. London: Cambridge University Press.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kevin Howells.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Howells, K., Tennant, A., Day, A. et al. Mindfulness in Forensic Mental Health: Does It Have a Role?. Mindfulness 1, 4–9 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-009-0001-x

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12671-009-0001-x

Keywords

  • Mindfulness
  • Forensic
  • Offenders
  • Treatment