My irritation at such trivial dismissals of what seemed to me to contain so much wisdom, led me to resist many of the alternative approaches to work with offenders that became fashionable. However, when I felt that the kind of group work my team had been running was not sustainable, a different kind of accommodation began with more cognitive and behavioural approaches to the work.
As I describe this shift in thinking from the distance of 30 years, it seems so obvious that it is almost strange to write it down in this way. The first stage was to decide that there was no point in letting the best be the enemy of the good. If the kinds of ‘in depth’ work we were doing could not in practice be sustained, why not do something that was still useful although limited that could be sustained. After all, there was evidence that approaches such as alcohol education groups were useful even if not life changing.
Maybe other perspectives about change were in the ‘atmosphere’. Why imagine that change was a singular intense process akin to the bereavement process? The metaphor of chaos theory, with the fluttering of the butterfly’s wings in the Amazon changing the weather patterns in Europe, found expression in the Sunday supplements. Why should personal change, reduction in re-offending etc not be brought about as much by a combination of all kinds of small factors, such as the butterfly wings of a 6 session alcohol education group as by a deep therapeutic experience?