Moral Reconation Therapy
Incompatible with Council on Social Work Education Competencies?
Keywords:evidence-based practice, social work field education, ethics, EPAS, Moral Reconation Therapy
Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) is a manualized treatment commonly used in correctional settings to address perceived moral failing and associated problematic behaviors (e.g., substance use and criminal conduct). Many social work students are introduced to MRT as a treatment modality during field placements in correctional contexts. As a group modality that draws from cognitive-behavioral interventions and 12-step recovery programs, MRT has been touted as a cost-effective and evidence-based intervention. However, there are substantial reasons to question MRT’s appropriateness as an intervention taught to social work practicum students. Using several of the CSWE EPAS standards as guideposts, this paper addresses several key areas of concern with regard to the role of MRT in the training of social work students. Through our analysis of MRT’s curriculum, we identify areas of concern with regard to MRT’s ability to teach social work students how to ethically practice, engage diversity and difference in practice, or utilize research to inform practice. Despite the widespread use of MRT in correctional counseling contexts, we conclude that MRT is unsuitable for use in accredited social work field placements. Educators and accreditation agencies should critically evaluate the treatment models social work students learn and practice in field placements.
Alexander, M. (2012). The new Jim Crow. New Press.
Allen, L. C., MacKenzie, D. L., & Hickman, L. J. (2001). The effectiveness of cognitive behavioral treatment for adult offenders: A methodological, quality-based review. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 45(4), 498-514. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306624X01454009
American Academy of Social Work & Social Welfare. (2018). Promote smart decarceration (Fact Sheet). https://grandchallengesforsocialwork.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/180604-GC-decarceration.pdf
Armstrong, T. A. (2003). The effect of moral reconation therapy on the recidivism of youthful offenders: A randomized experiment. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 30, 668-687. https://doi.org/10.1177/0093854803256452
Bibus, A. A., & Koh, B. D. (2021). Intercultural humility in social work education. Journal of Social Work Education, 57(1), 16-27. https://doi.org/10.1080/10437797.2019.1661925
Blonigen, D. M., Cucciare, M. A., Byrne, T., Shaffer, P. M., Giordano, B., Smith, J. S., Timko, C., Rosenthal, J., & Smelson, D. (2022). A randomized controlled trial of moral reconation therapy to reduce risk for criminal recidivism among justice-involved adults in mental health residential treatment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 90(5), 413-426. https://doi.org/10.1037/ccp0000721
Bogo, M. (2015). Field education for clinical social work practice: Best practices and contemporary challenges. Clinical Social Work Journal, 43(3), 317-324. https://doi.org//10.1007/s10615-015-0526-5
Boland, A., Cherry, G., & Dickson, R. (Eds.). (2017). Doing a systematic review: A student's guide (2nd ed.). Sage.
Coalition Recovery. (2022). Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT). https://www.coalitionrecovery.com/rehab-blog/mrt/
Correctional Counseling, Inc. (1998-2022a). MRT training agreement. https://www.ccimrt.com/training/mrt-training-agreement/
Correctional Counseling, Inc. (1998-2022b). History of MRT. https://www.ccimrt.com/about/history-of-mrt/
Correctional Counseling, Inc. (2008). Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) added to SAMHSA’s National Registry of Evidence-Based Programs and Practices. Cognitive Behavioral Treatment Review [company newsletter], 17(3-4), 1-20. https://www.ccimrt.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/CBTR-17_3-2008final2008Q3Q4.pdf
Council of Accountability Court Judges of Georgia. (2021). Evidence-based curricula. https://cacj.georgia.gov/document/document/evidence-based-curriculums-therapies-reference-sheet/download
Council on Social Work Education [CSWE]. (2022). 2022 Educational policy and accreditation standards for baccalaureate and master’s social work programs. CSWE Commission on Educational Policy, CSWE Commission on Accreditation. https://www.cswe.org/getmedia/94471c42-13b8-493b-9041-b30f48533d64/2022-EPAS.pdf
Edmond, T., Megivern, D., Williams, C., Rochman, E., & Howard, M. (2006). Integrating evidence-based practice and social work field education. Journal of Social Work Education, 42(2), 377-396. https://doi.org/10.5175/JSWE.2006.200404115
Epperson, M. W., Roberts, L. E., Ivanoff, A., Tripodi, S. J., & Gilmer, C. N. (2013). To what extent is criminal justice content specifically addressed in MSW programs? Journal of Social Work Education, 49(1), 96-107. https://doi.org/10.1080/10437797.2013.755384
Ferguson, L. M., & Wormith, J. S. (2013). A meta-analysis of moral reconation therapy. International Journal of Offender Therapy and Comparative Criminology, 57(9), 1076-1106. https://doi.org/10.1177/0306624X12447771
Great North Counseling Services, LLC. (2016). Therapy-based groups. https://www.greatnorthcounseling.com/anger-management-and-mrt
Harrell, S., Johnson, C., Boys, C., Suslovic, B., Anderson-Nathe, B., Botts, K. (2022). “The broker of reality”: A scoping review of Moral Reconation Therapy. Journal of Evidence-Based Social Work, 20(1), 72-8. https://doi.org/10.1080/26408066.2022.2117583
Hepworth, D. H., Rooney, R. H., Rooney, G. D., Strom-Gottfried, K., & Larsen, J. A. (2009). Direct social work practice: Theory and skills (8th ed.). Brooks Cole.
Jarldorn, M. (2020). Radically rethinking social work in the criminal (in)justice system in Australia. Affilia, 35(3), 327-343. https://doi.org/10.1177/0886109919866160
Kohlberg, L. (1984). Essays on moral development: The psychology of moral development. Harper & Row.
Little, G. L., & Robinson, K. D. (1988). Moral Reconation Therapy: A systematic step-by-step treatment system for treatment resistant clients. Psychological Reports, 62(1), 135-151. https://doi.org/10.2466/pr0.19188.8.131.52
Little, G. L., & Robinson, K. D. (2006). How to escape your prison: A Moral Reconation Therapy workbook (revised). Eagle Wing Books.
Little, G. L., & Robinson, K. D. (2009). Moral Reconation Therapy facilitator’s handbook (revised and updated). Eagle Wing Books.
McCance-Katz, E. F. (2018, January 11). Statement of Elinore F. McCance-Katz, MD, PhD, Assistant Secretary for Mental Health and Substance Use regarding the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs and Practices and SAMHSA’s new approach to implementation of evidence-based practices (EBPs). Substance Abuse and Mental health Services Administration. https://www.samhsa.gov/newsroom/press-announcements/201801110330
Mehrotra, G. R., Hudson, K. D., & Self, J. M. (2017). What are we teaching in diversity and social justice courses? A qualitative content analysis of MSW syllabi. Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 37(3), 218-233. https://doi.org/10.1080/08841233.2017.1316342
Moral Reconation Therapy. (n.d.a). What is MRT—Moral Reconation Therapy®? https://www.moral-reconation-therapy.com/
Moral Reconation Therapy. (n.d.b). About MRT. https://www.moral-reconation-therapy.com/about.html
National Association of Social Workers. (2021). Code of ethics. https://www.socialworkers.org/About/Ethics/Code-of-Ethics/Code-of-Ethics-English
Nineteenth Judicial Circuit Court of Illinois. (n.d.). Moral Reconation Therapy. http://19thcircuitcourt.state.il.us/2225/Moral-Reconation-Therapy-MRT
Peter G. Dodge Foundation. (2018). SAMHSA’s Registry of Evidence-Based Programs (NREPP) suspended. https://pgdf.org/samhsas-registry-of-evidence-based-programs-nrepp-suspended/
Pew Charitable Trusts. (2021). Moral Reconation Therapy. Results First Clearinghouse Database. https://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/data-visualizations/2015/results-first-clearinghouse-database
Scheyett, A., Pettus-Davis, C., McCarter, S., & Brigham, R. (2012). Social work and criminal justice: Are we meeting in the field? Journal of Teaching in Social Work, 32(4), 438-450. https://doi.org/10.1080/08841233.2012.705241
Sichling, F., & O’Brien, D. B. (2020). Knowledge that changes social work practice: An exploration of its sources and content. Advances in Social Work, 19(2), 383-396. https://doi.org/10.18060/22918
Smith, D., Cleak, H., & Vreugdenhil, A. (2015). “What are they really doing?” An exploration of student learning activities in field placement. Australian Social Work, 68(4), 515-531. https://doi.org/10.1080/0312407X.2014.960433
Sun, L. H., & Eilperin, J. (2018). Trump administration freezes database of addiction and mental health treatments. Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/trump-administration-freezes-database-of-addiction-and-mental-health-programs/2018/01/10/ed421654-f577-11e7-beb6-c8d48830c54d_story.html
Trotter, C., Rooney, R., & Rooney, G. D. (2020). Strategies for work with involuntary clients. Australian Social Work, 73(3), 263-266. https://doi.org/10.1080/0312407X.2020.1745622
Wiechelt, S. A., & Ting, L. (2012). Field instructors' perceptions of evidence-based practice in BSW field placement sites. Journal of Social Work Education, 48(3), 577-593. https://doi.org/10.5175/JSWE.2012.201000110
Yochelson, S., & Samenow, S. E. (1976). The criminal personality: A profile for change (vol. 1). Rowan & Littlefield.
Copyright (c) 2023 Sam Harrell, Brianna Suslovic, Constance Johnson, Chandler Boys, Ben Anderson-Nathe, Kassandra Botts
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.