Date on Master's Thesis/Doctoral Dissertation


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph. D.

Department (Legacy)

Department of Educational and Counseling Psychology

Committee Chair

Stringfield, Sam

Author's Keywords

Dialectical behavior therapy; Skills group; Prisoners; Females; Mindfulness; Distress tolerance


Dialectical behavior therapy; Women prisoners--Rehabilitation; Women prisoners--Psychology; Women prisoners--Mental health services; Women prisoners--Mental health


This dissertation examines the effectiveness of a partial skills group component of Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) in female prison inmates. DBT is an evidence-based comprehensive treatment which addresses emotional reactivity, impulsivity and distress tolerance. The psychology staff at the Kentucky Correctional Institution for Women (KCIW) had noted that many of the behaviors leading to disruptive and dangerous situations within their female inmate population are related to inmates reacting to extreme emotionality. In response KCIW staff had implemented DBT on a limited basis. Although the treatment was in place, its effectiveness in promoting safety and security at KCIW had yet to be evaluated. This study used a non-randomized pre-test, post-test control group design to evaluate the effectiveness of this psychoeducational group therapy treatment as offered to volunteering female inmates at KCIW. The evaluation was implemented in order to determine whether the participants developed the adaptive coping skills purported to be taught by the treatment, evidenced a decrease in pathological symptomology, and a decrease in problematic behavior. Data were gathered through inmate self reports and record reviews of disciplinary infractions. A MANCOVA showed a significant overall effect for the treatment. Post hoc analysis showed a significant increase in the level of mindfulness and decrease in anger expression, a measure of distress tolerance, for the treatment participants but not the controls. Analysis of clinically significant change showed that 42% of participants showed significant improvement on the measure of mindfulness, 26% showed significant improvement on the measure of anger expression, and 17% showed significant improvement on the measure of borderline symptomology. There was also a significant increase in the frequency of reported adaptive skills usage between weeks one and two of the treatment. Lastly, there was a decrease in institutional infractions from the month prior to treatment to the month following treatment for the treatment participants, but not the controls. This study shows that delivery of a partial component of DBT may be a useful alternative for correctional institutions for females when the resource-intensive comprehensive DBT program is not feasible.