Criminal thinking errors are prevalent in our society and these made the top ten list thanks to the ground-breaking work of Stanton Samenow and Yochelson in their three volumes of work titled, “The Criminal Personality”. Although these errors are considered “criminal thinking” they really are present in each of us to varying degrees. Offenders take these errors to the extreme which then develops into patterns of thinking and behavior that continually victimize and harm others.
Key Question: Which of these errors to you see in yourself and how can you change them?
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Criminal thinking errors are pervasive in our society. Everyone has them to some degree, but the extreme criminal thinker relies on this way of thinking to justify their actions which support a criminal life style.
This infographic creatively describes the errors in thinking that encompass the thought process of an extreme criminal thinker. Criminal thinking therapy, which is based on the Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) model of change, is one of the most effective ways to bring about change in an offenders thinking and life.
Deterrents to negative thinking errors are the primary and practical way a changing criminal thinker can alter their thoughts to affect their behavior. This group facilitation tip focuses on examining the five thinking deterrents in real life situations for group participants.
1. Pick a thinking error to review.
2. Read the corresponding article for the error in the CT Module.
- Have group members read one paragraph each
- Ask the reader to define any potentially confusing words or concepts and the facilitator should help clarify understanding as needed.
3. Ask each reader to give an example of how they have used the thinking error recently.
4. Review the five thinking deterrents with the group.
5. Ask the first reader which deterrent they used or could have used to change their thinking in the example they described. Repeat this step with each reader.
OPTIONAL: Assign the related thinking error worksheet as a home work or in-class assignment.
Resistance to change is a typical component of all criminal thinking (CT) groups. Learning to deal with and even embrace resistance is key to a successful and therapeutic group process. One common form of resistance that regularly shows up in CT groups is denial. When asked for examples of how thinking errors have caused harmed, some group participants will deny that they caused harm to others or they may even deny having thinking errors. Instead of arguing with the participant or trying to convince them of the opposite, engage them in dialog.
When a group participant denies having thinking errors, consider a response similar to this: “It makes total sense to me that you don’t recognize having any thinking errors. In fact, it actually helps me see why you are in this group/program/situation. That statement itself, about not having thinking errors, is actually an example of a very common thinking error. Do you know which one?” If they say “yes,” ask them to describe which error it is and how failing to recognize errors in thinking is an example of that thinking error. If they say “no,” tell them how this is a great opportunity for them to begin the process of identifying thinking errors in themselves which they didn’t even realize existed! Then, instead of telling them which thinking error they are displaying, ask them to read over the CT error definitions, perhaps as a homework assignment, and identify which error or errors are examples of failing to identify their own errors in thinking.
What are some other ways you deal with resistance in group situations?
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Creating a culture of positive change should be the focus of every Criminal Thinking group. Shaping a culture that supports change can be done intentionally with rituals that frame the group process. Many groups begin with a short reflection or recitation of group rules or code of conduct. Including a group memorization process can help cognitively embed positive principles of change, as well as victim recognition, in the minds of group participants.
The Following group reading helps support the accountability and victim awareness that most offenders lack at the beginning of the thinking change process. It also ends with a commitment to positive change for themselves and their victims.
A group participant reads the each line of the reflection and the group repeats each line in return.
“Crime Hurts People”
“I Will Not Hurt Others Or Myself Again”
The Five Deterrents are also a good source for group memorization. When participants commit these deterrents to memory they can be more easily accessed and remembered when negative thoughts and situations present themselves. A good memorization technique is to have the group recite the first word in each deterrent to help remember the content of each deterrent, i.e Stop, Stop, Plan, Exam, Do.
- Stop and think of who gets hurt
- Stop and think of the immediate consequences
- Plan ahead, think ahead, make another choice
- Exam-ination of conscience
- Do not dwell on it
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