Exploring the talk-in-interaction in a groupwork programme to address sexual offending

Eve Mullins, University of Edinburgh

 *evemullins@gmail.com / emullins@exceed.ac.uk


In the field of Corrections, communication between practitioners and clients is central to building effective working relationships, aiming to reduce reoffending. Current approaches dominating this field, the Risk-Needs-Responsivity model and the Good Lives Model, emphasise the importance of this relationship in both achieving client behavioural change but also in motivating their engagement with treatment. This is highly relevant given research evidence on the negative outcomes of non-adherence to treatment.  Practitioners’ skills in demonstrating empathy, warmth, respect and ‘therapeutic genuineness’ are identified as key building blocks to construct and maintain effective working relationships with clients. Previous research has used both quantitative methods to demonstrate links between these practitioner skills and offender behaviour post treatment, and qualitative research interviews to retrospectively explore individuals’ views of what makes working relationships effective.  However, it is yet to be established how working relationships in this setting are interactionally built and maintained through talk.

This paper introduces an ongoing PhD study focussing on practitioners’ practice skills in a groupwork programme with male sexual offenders in Scotland. This recently implemented groupwork programme, ‘Moving Forward Making Changes’, is based on the Good Lives Model. The focus of the current presentation is to briefly outline the utilisation of the innovative methodological approaches of conversation analysis and discourse analysis in this study, and their potential benefits in exploring key practice skills in situ. Conversation analysis and discourse analysis allow fine-grained analysis of interaction as it unfolds, exploring how realities and identities are constructed in interaction and how social action is achieved. These methods have been applied to exploring the practices of police officers, child protection helpline handlers and community meditators, providing insight into effective practice and improved practitioner training.


The society is devoted to promoting criminological study, research and practice in the region and bringing together persons engaged in all aspects of the field. The membership of the society reflects the diversity of persons involved in the field, including practitioners, academics, policy makers and students.

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