Thinking for a Change

Philosophical Foundation
Thinking for A Change is a cognitive-behavioral program, governed by a simple, straightforward principle-thinking (internal behavior) controls actions (external behavior).

graduation from thinking for a change will change their lifeTherefore, it is necessary to target offenders’ thinking in order to change their actions that lead to criminal conduct. Thinking for A Change is appropriate for a wide range of offenders. Some offenders engage in criminal conduct because they are under-socialized, lacking a repertoire of pro-socially acceptable responses to their daily lives. This often takes the form of aggressive acts but can also be manifested in withdrawn behaviors, or other anti-social behaviors such as those associated with drug and alcohol abuse.

Other offenders engage in planned and deliberate criminal acts supported by strong antisocial attitudes and beliefs. Their way of thinking supports and justifies the serious offenses they commit. Behavior change cannot take place for these individuals until they become aware of their thinking and see a reason to change.

Cognitive Behavior theories whether they be Cognitive Restructuring (e.g., Ellis, Meichenbaum) or Social Learning (Bandura) view individuals’ maladaptive behaviors as learned. For many offenders these learned antisocial thoughts and actions become the central means by which they cope with life. Strong internal reinforces such as feelings of excitement, pleasure and power offering immediate gratification maintain these behaviors.

Thinking for A change uses a combination of approaches to increase offenders’ awareness of self and others. This deepened attentiveness to attitudes, beliefs and thinking patterns is combined with explicit teaching of interpersonal skills relevant to offenders’ present and future needs.

The goal is to provide contextual instruction and related experiences so that offenders are confident and motivated to use prosocial skills when faced with interpersonal problems and/or anti-social or stressful problems. The philosophy of the program endorses that offenders should be empowered to be responsible for changing their own problem behavior. The intervention program provides the offender the tools to take pro-social action and change their offending ways.

While the format for Thinking for a Change is different and improved, the theoretical and philosophical foundation of the program as originally developed, designed, and implemented has not changed. Each component is still presented in a systematic, logical fashion using the standard procedures for cognitive behavioral interventions. The three components of Thinking for a Change are: Cognitive Self Change, Social, and Problem Solving Skills. Cognitive Self Change teaches a concrete process for self-refection aimed at uncovering antisocial thoughts, feelings, attitudes and beliefs.

Social Skills instruction prepares group members to engage in pro-social interactions based on self-understanding and consideration of the impact of their actions on others. Problem Solving Skills integrates the two interventions to provide an explicit step-by-step process to address challenging and stressful real life situations.

Articles on the evidence based effectiveness of Thinking for a Change (T4C):

Preventing Future Crime With Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Evidence-Based Practices
Reducing recidivism – an exploration of one county’s effort
Tippecanoe County Probation Department
Download the “Thinking for a Change” Curriculum 3.1 by clicking here.


 Sample lessons – please click on the image to download a pdf lesson for your review:

Lesson one - t4c - Thinking for a change lessons      lesson 2 - t4c - Thinking for a change lessons

lesson 12 - t4c - Thinking for a change lessons    lesson 24 - t4c - Thinking for a change lessons

Download the “Thinking for a Change” Curriculum 3.1 by clicking here.

The program integrates these three types of interventions in the following way:

Lesson 1 begins the program with an overview and introduction.

Lessons 2-5 and 11-15 teach Social Skills.

Lessons 6-10 teach the Cognitive Self Change process.

Lessons 16-24 teach Problem Solving Skills.

Lesson 25 provides a wrap up of the program with the option of extending the program based on the needs of group members. For example, groups may opt to meet for additional sessions to learn new Social Skills that they may negotiate with their Group Facilitators, along with further practice in applying Cognitive Self Change and Problem Solving Skills to newly identified problem situations.

Lesson Format

Each lesson begins with a cover sheet for the Group Facilitators to familiarize themselves with the summary and rationale of the lesson. Concepts and definitions are outlined along with the learning objectives for that session. The cover sheet ends with an outline of the major activities of the lesson and a table listing supplements such as charts, handouts, and PowerPoint slides that will be used for that lesson. The lesson is in a two column format, in which the content (the material that must be delivered to the group members) is in the wider left hand column, and the (Group Facilitator) Notes, which provide directions are in the narrower, right hand column of the page.

All of the components are defined as a set of skills, which can readily be detailed by the various steps required to accomplish the skill. Cognitive Self Change is now one skill that has three steps. There are nine Social Skills included in this revision.

successful thinking for a change training course

The flow of the lessons in both Social Skills and Cognitive Self Change provide the foundation upon which Problem Solving Skills successfully mediate stressful situations.

Problems Solving is now defined as a set of six skills and is delivered in nine lessons. The Problem Solving component includes two “review and practice” lessons. Lesson 20 provides group members opportunities to practice the first three skills of Problem Solving. Lesson 24 provides group members a summary and practice opportunity to demonstrate all six skills of Problem Solving.

The Program Organizer allows group members to initiate discussions about their learning after completing each of the components as well as serve as a summary review after the entire program is completed.

Successful t4c training helps reunite families

Shortcuts Become a T4C Certified Facilitator Find training opportunities & discuss T4C in the online discussion forum Thinking for a Change: Frequently Asked Questions Contact Steve Swisher, Correctional Program Specialist