'Messy Women': A case study of the adaptation of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy for a group of difficult to engage offenders
A Dialectical Behaviour Therapy program was created for female offenders supervised by Wollongong Community Offender Services (COS). The cohort, nicknamed 'Messy Women' by case managers, had been difficult to engage in established offender programs or interventions, creating high levels of distress and frustration. Consultations with specialist psychologists indicated that these female offenders would likely meet the diagnostic criteria for Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and as such they could respond well to DBT. Following these consultations, the COS District Office, in partnership with the University of Wollongong Northfields Clinic, developed a modified DBT program and trialled its use for this particular client group over a ten month period from October 2010. This case study outlines (1) why a new approach was required with this client group, (2) the reasons for using DBT and the modifications that were made to the basic DBT approach for this client group, (3) the issues and challenges which arose during the delivery of the program in a community correctional setting and (4) the results of an initial evaluation of the program's effectiveness. The results suggest that the DBT approach was well-received by both the female offenders and the COS staff and that it has had success in reducing some of the difficult behaviours characteristic of the client group. The program also appears effective in the management of these 'messy women' within a community corrections context in Australia.