For about 15 years, debut author and therapist Shea Hellervik ran a treatment program for juvenile offenders, experience upon which she bases this workbook. The program, based on cognitive-behavioral principles, challenges the thinking errors made by juvenile offenders: If they can change their thoughts and change their behaviors, they can begin living pro-social lifestyles. Some offenders, she says, may not even realize that they think before they act and can therefore choose to act in a different way. Shea Hellervik cautions, however, that the change process may be both lengthy—a minimum of six months to start—and strenuous. Parents should form a Change Process Team with other interested adults so that they have support in helping their offenders make desired changes. The book, which offers a criminal behavior history assessment, chemical health and education assessment, essay assignments and other exercises, would be vastly improved if it provided some evidence that parents, with their own emotional investments, can deliver treatment interventions with effectiveness comparable to that of a disinterested professional. Furthermore, the presumed effectiveness of the original treatment program is based on a single study that was not subjected to peer review through publication; even this study found significant effects only with offenders who were committed for a period of 180 days—a disappointingly small group. It’s difficult to see how parents will be able to successfully implement the program with so little supporting information. On the other hand, Shea Hellervik does an excellent job of identifying the obstacles parents may face and (as the title suggests) alleviating the damaging blame that can paralyze efforts at change. Concepts are explained thoroughly and comprehensibly, and the book’s progression is logical, with each chapter building on the previous. While the nonjudgmental, affirming stance is likely to be refreshing to beleaguered parents, these same parents are tasked with making profoundly difficult decisions with very limited guidance. Overall, the workbook may have more potential as a supplement to other, more intensive programming rather than as a stand-alone treatment. Either way, it would be strengthened by the inclusion of additional research.
Promising but ultimately unconvincing guidance for addressing a challenging familial and social issue.