CT Group Tip: Thinking Error Deterrents

thinking error deterrentsDeterrents 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 homework or in-class assignment.


CT Group Tip: Dealing with Resistance

dealing-with-resistanceResistance 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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CT Group Tip: Memorization for Change

memorization and thinking changeCreating 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 each line of the reflection and the group repeats each line in return.

“Crime”
“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.

  1. Stop and think of who gets hurt
  2. Stop and think of the immediate consequences
  3. Plan ahead, think ahead, make another choice
  4. Exam-ination of conscience
  5. Do not dwell on it

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CT Group Tip: Pick a Picture and Present

criminalthinkinggroup_pickapictureIn some treatment modalities such as long-term support groups, open-ended relapse prevention sessions, long-term treatment and prison-based programs there is often a need for new group session ideas based on criminal thinking and thinking error deterrents. Here is a creative idea for using the free Criminal Thinking Pinterest images available on the criminalthinking.net website

  • As a facilitator, print out the same number of inspirational graphics as there are group members. If possible, print on card stock paper so that the image doesn’t show through the other side.
  • Ask group members to pick a card without looking at the image.
  • Begin with one person and ask them to show their card and read it out loud to the group.
  • Ask the person to explain which ‘criminal thinking error‘ they believe the card represents best and have them give an example of the error in their life.

Note: The more recent the life example the better. Criminal thinkers like to view themselves as good people and will want to explain that the error is something in the past.

  • Then, ask the person to provide an example of a deterrent they could have used to change the thought.
  • Finally, ask them to describe how the card and corresponding error is a pattern in their life that continually leads them to harmful results.
  • When the person finishes their presentation move to the next person.
  • When the group is done, ask them how this type of exercise can help change criminal thinking patterns.

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What do you think of this group idea? What ideas have you used for thinking-change type groups?

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CT Group Tip: Facilitator Preparation

Group Facilitation PreparationCriminal Thinking group facilitators who conduct ongoing and open-ended groups may become lax in their pre-group preparation process. Presenting material that we are very familiar with over time can lead to unconscious habits of behavior and biases that may work against a more deliberate and focused approach to the group thinking change process.

Working with offenders in a group therapy setting requires presenters to be armed and ready to prevent an intellectual boxing match. I have found that working through a group readiness ritual provides me and a potential co-facilitator a clear understanding of the ultimate outcomes that we hope to achieve. It also allows us to agree on methods of handling conflict, criminal thinking tactics and other potential diversions that will eventually surface during the group process.

These steps help to make the group process conscious and deliberate:

  1. Before the group begins:
    1. Discuss the general or specific purpose of group.
    2. Describe the goals, methods and materials that will be used to to accomplish the purpose.
    3. Discuss group activities (who will present what, when and how)
    4. Determine the role of the co-facilitator:
      1. Observer – takes notes, evaluates, learns “student-role”
      2. Participant – asks questions as a group member, is involved in process “encourager-role”
      3. Facilitator – guides group process equally with other facilitator “Guiding role” – determine the level and type of confrontation which will be used by both facilitators-determine how tangent subjects or diversions by staff or clients will be directed-discuss how you will both stay consistent with each other

To be effective facilitators, group leaders must have knowledge of the group’s content and purpose and understand the method and means in facilitating the group process.

What pre-group steps do you take to facilitate conversation and change in criminal-thinking or other types of groups? Visit the CriminalThinking.net resource pages for ideas and free worksheet assignments related to all the major thinking errors.


CT Group Tip: How vs. Why

CT TipsAs a general rule in criminal thinking group settings, I stay away from asking “why” questions. “Why” questions usually lead to excuses and additional criminal thinking errors. Asking, “how” or “what” questions is a good rule of thumb.

  1. How is the thinking error we just read harmful?
  2. How have you used the thinking error in the last 24 hours?
  3. What part of the article made sense to you?
  4. How can you use this information to change?
  5. What are some good ways you can deter this thinking error?
  6. How has this thinking error been harmful in your life?
  7. What has the ripple effect of this thinking error been in your life?

Be ready for someone to say they can’t relate to the thinking error. Or they may say it doesn’t make sense or they don’t have this problem. Instead of trying to convince them that they have the error or getting into a power struggle, I would say,

“Wow, this is exactly why this group is important. Everyone has these thinking errors at one or another time in their life so if you can’t see it you are in the right place!”  

I would then ask,“Would you like to know how you have used this error in thinking?” If they say, “no,” I would point the type of error in that thinking, closed channel thinking, and use it as an example of why the group is important to the change process. On the other hand, if they say “yes, I would like to know how I have used it,” I would ask other group members to give an example of how this group member has used the error, and/or give them the assignment to figure it out for themselves by the next group session.

What have you done to help facilitate conversation in criminal-thinking type groups? Visit our website resource pages for ideas and free worksheet assignments related to all the major thinking errors: http://criminalthinking.net/CT/materials.ashx


"An approach to the treatment of offenders which emphasizes the role of altering thinking patterns in bringing about change in an offender's life."