Treatment Gain in Violent Offenders: The Relationship Between Proximal Outcomes, Risk Reduction and Violent Recidivism

Kate O'Brien, Michael Daffern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


This study examines whether change in dynamic risk factors and other treatment targets over the course of violent offender treatment is associated with a reduction in violent recidivism. Data from 82 adult male violent offenders who attended a prison-based violence treatment programme were collected via retrospective file review. Therapeutic change was assessed by comparing pre- and post-treatment Violence Risk Scale (VRS) scores, ratings of denial and minimisation of violence, level of victim awareness, and motivation to change. Completion of offender treatment is found to be associated with significant change on all proximal outcome measures (i.e. reduction in dynamic risk and minimisation of violence, and increased victim empathy). However, these changes do not translate into reductions in reoffending; only one measure of within-treatment change–enhancement of victim awareness–is (negatively) associated with recidivism. These results suggest that caution is required when considering the impact of change in a restricted range of treatment targets on violent recidivism. Future research should focus on identifying reliable indicators of within-treatment change to aid idiographic assessments of violence risk and to elucidate mechanism of change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)244-258
Number of pages15
JournalPsychiatry, Psychology & Law
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2017


  • recidivism
  • therapeutic change
  • treatment
  • violence

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