Transform Your Practice By Using Guidelines Informed by Research, Staff and Justice-Involved Individuals

Communication to strengthen the officer-client relationship

In-Patient & Out-Patient Treatment

  • Officers should openly discuss the results of substance use evaluations with their clients.
  • Officers should openly discuss the potential treatment options available to the client.
  • Officers should make room for the client to express their feelings, both positive and negative, about the different treatment options and their prior experience in treatment.
  • Officers should be open to modifying treatment plans based on the client’s changing needs.
  • Officers should reach a mutual agreement with the client regarding their chosen treatment option.
  • If treatment is mandated by the court or as a condition of supervision, officers should be transparent about the potential consequences if the client does not complete or relapses during treatment.
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Mental Health Screening and Evaluation

  • Discuss with the client why the screening and evaluation is occurring and ensure they understand how the information can be used to benefit them.
  • Inform the client that the screening is a standard procedure done with all clients on supervision.
  • Clients may disagree with the results of the screening/evaluation. When this occurs, clients are more open to officers who present themselves as helpers and who use their experience on the job to push back on clients’ ideas.
  • Tell clients how noncompliance with treatment will be treated.
  • Client and officer should agree on what the client should do in the case they feel treatment is not working for them.
  • Discuss with the client any concerns they might have surrounding mental illness. Potential topics can include stigma, side effects of medication, and time/resources necessary to seek treatment.
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Substance Use Screening and Evaluation

  • Officers should explain why the screening/evaluation is being used and how they benefit the client.
  • If screening is a standard procedure, officers should explain this to clients.
  • Officers should present themselves as helpers and use their experience on the job to counter clients’ ideas when dealing with conflict surrounding screening/evaluations.
  • Officer should explain precisely how they will respond to noncompliance.
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Alcohol and Drug Use Education

  • Officers should discuss the results of substance use assessments or evaluations (see substance use evaluation statement for more information) openly with their clients.
  • Officers should reinforce abstinence from substance use during interactions with their client.
  • Officers should offer treatment services that include ADE as a response to difficulty a client is having living alcohol and drug free.
  • Officers should discuss and use the concepts and skills taught in ADE with their client.
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Cognitive Behavioral Techniques

  • Officers should be transparent and honest with the client throughout the process. This involves making sure the client understands
    • CB interventions are evidence-based practices that can lead to positive life outcomes, including behavior change and increased life satisfaction
    • which outcomes the court/officer wants to achieve through CB techniques
    • participating in CB techniques does not imply the client is “sick,” “weak,” or different than other people
  • Noncompliance with CB techniques should not necessarily be viewed as “bucking the system” or an inability to follow the rules. Clients may have genuine concerns about engaging with CB techniques that the officer should talk through with the client. These concerns may include
    • taking time off from work, family responsibilities, or other conditions of supervision to engage with CB techniques during office visits
    • finding transportation to and from office visits
    • being seen as “sick”
    • discussing difficult and/or sensitive topics with the officer
    • having engaged with and tried to use CB techniques without seeing any results
  • In the event the client is resistant to CB techniques, the officer should take time to hear and address their concerns.
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  • Clearly lay out the ground rules of the incentive, including:
    • under what conditions the client will receive an incentive (same is true for sanctions)
    • under what conditions the client will not receive an incentive
    • the process by which a client can begin to receive the incentive again if they fail to meet the conditions to receive it
    • what the incentive is and how the client can redeem it (if applicable)
  • Ensure that the client understands that the incentive is being given in response to positive behavior on their part.
    • Connect the client’s receipt of the incentive to something they are actively doing (or not doing).
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Prosocial Modeling

  • Officers should offer encouragement to their clients when they see them exhibiting prosocial behavior.
  • Officers should explain to their clients how they will be rewarded for their prosocial behavior.
  • Officers should avoid overly harsh criticism or confrontation when negatively reinforcing the harmful behaviors of their clients.
  • Officers should use positive communication and rapport-building techniques when collaborating with their clients to work through difficult moments.
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  • If sanctions are used, it is important that the officer explain that they are being used to encourage the client to change their behavior, not to continuously punish them.
    • But, in general, coercive relationships undermine any attempts by the officer to portray themself as a change agent.
    • Officers should explain at the beginning of supervision and throughout what is considered compliant and noncompliant behavior. Recognizing that the person is in compliance throughout supervision can be an effective tool in managing individuals.
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Environmental Restructuring

  • Officers should explain that environmental restructuring can create circumstances that support the client in changing their behavior and leading a better life.
  • Officers should ask the client for feedback regarding what types of restructuring are feasible to undertake.
    • It may be unrealistic to expect a client to completely change who they associate with and where they live.
      • Clients may be unable to make these environmental changes due to cost, longstanding relationships/connections, etc.
  • Officers should be aware that the places a client frequents and the people they associate with are rarely either positive or negative. They can be both, and part of an officer’s  effort is to help others see the positive and negative aspects of the client’s environment.
    • Some friends may continue to use drugs themselves but actively encourage the client to stop and support other aspects of behavior change.
    • Some places may be violence-prone but still offer valuable friend groups and prosocial activities for the client.
  • Discuss the pros and cons of changing their environment with the client to help them determine whether they should do so.
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Transportation Resources

  • Officers should ask clients which locations pose transportation challenges.
    • Officers should work with clients to identify what kinds of transportation resources would be most helpful in reaching these locations.
  • In addition to their practical benefits to the client, officers should use transportation resources to build the officer-client relationship.
    • Officers should take the opportunity to establish themselves as helpers when providing transportation resources.
    • Officers should be clear that they want the client to succeed on supervision and point out that providing transportation resources is one way the officer can help with this.
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