raft: Regional Alternatives in Forensic Treatment - developed by the Center for Therapeutic Justice (CFTJ)
Program Overview and Philosophy
RAFT, Regional Alternatives in Forensic Treatment, is part of a larger continuum of care a client needs to change his or her lifestyle. Recovering from chemical dependency is a life-long process and affects every relationship. Most clients need the non-stigma support of many community resources over a long period of time to reach a maintenance stage.
The desired benefit of this program is a decrease in use and an increase in life manageability: obeying laws, staying out of the system, improving relationships, and becoming a contributing citizen.
The group goal is "taking a good, long, hard, honest look at yourself," and the clients become the key determinants of their outcome in this program. They are each asked to share about their substance abuse and use, the consequences of this behavior in their lives, and the choices and options they have today.
LIFE WITHOUT A CRUTCH, currently used as the primary client text in over three hundred correctional sites in the United States, provides reading and homework assignments that allow the client to pursue an individualized process of open, self-exploration between sessions. Assignments are selected to encourage new insights and aid the group process. Clients are provided with books they can keep after the group ends. Audiocassettes are available for anyone with reading difficulties.
Teachable moments and sanctions are used as appropriate interventions. The signed client contract, another intervention, promotes responsibility and client awareness of the group's objectives.
RAFT, a comprehensive substance abuse outpatient program in collaboration with Community Corrections, is based on resource information indicating that there is greater client success in: 1) outpatient group settings; 2) 12-week programs; 3) programs that require client payment; 4) programs that address loss, alienation, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and relationships; and, 5) programs that understand the dynamics of the criminal justice system.
The client copayment financially supports Community Corrections, but more importantly it fosters client pro-social behavior; increased participation; mature understanding; adult responsibility; a sense of being a capable human being; and less entitlement. In addition, the copayment is the first group issue that pulls the group together and becomes "grist for the mill" as the group begins to sort out their feelings, likes, and dislikes.
RAFT has been shown to be effective regardless of the client's stage of readiness for change, degree of dependence, or amount of previous treatment. Prochaska, Norcross, and DiClemente, in CHANGING FOR GOOD, characterize the stages of change as pre-contemplation, contemplation, action, maintenance, and termination. Most clients involved with Community Corrections present in the pre-contemplative stage.
People with substance abuse issues must go through predictable phases of change: pre-contemplation, recognizing the problem, working hard to do something about the problem, and maintaining and staying on track to stay clean and sober for the first month, first nine months, and first year. RAFT's diagnostic and treatment process is not unlike that found in the medical treatment of other chronic diseases.
RAFT should be considered as an opportunity for both professionals and clients to make further assessment about future decisions pertaining to clients proactive functioning as citizens in their community.
We do not claim that a majority of clients will make a total turn around in their lives during the 12-week program. Many clients have severe to moderate developmental delay, present with unresolved adult stage tasks, suffer from socioeconomic and cultural deprivation, and would benefit from parenting and habilitation. Recommendations for further services will reflect ongoing substance abuse and other psychosocial issues if needed. Nonetheless, following this program, most clients will make important "course corrections" that will benefit themselves, their family, and their community on a daily basis.
Far too often the criminal justice system fails to recognize what brings about long-lasting and significant change. Generally, lecturing, shaming, and punishment fail miserably to bring about positive turns in people's lives. Over time acceptance, respect, listening, understanding, valuing, and caring are much more effective.
RAFT offers the client a unique grasp of what it takes for a person to move through the stages of change and address unproductive behavior, attitude, and perceptions while choosing more successful life alternatives. Providing information to the client about "what works" and not degrading her or him about "what did not work" reduces emotional damage and increases the likelihood of the client's appropriate contribution to his/her family and community.
This program represents a major effort Community Corrections can utilize to offer prevention strategies, address the revolving door of recidivism, and provide community safety. Our team approach with Community Corrections and the local court system assures improved communication and cooperation while promoting therapeutic justice for the offender, the victim, and the community. What affects one affects all.