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Cognitive Self Change

Cognitive Self Change

The Cognitive Self-Change Program targets the thinking behind the violent behavior.

To be eligible for the Program, an individual must have been convicted of a violent crime among the “listed offenses” found at 13 VSA Section 5301 (7) Directive 371.09 Designation of Listed Offenses.


Cognitive Self Change consists of learning and demonstrating the ability to perform four skills:

  1. Pay attention to your thinking.
  2. Recognize when your thoughts and feelings are leading you toward committing a violent or criminal action.
  3. Think of new thinking that will lead you away from violence and crime, and that you can feel OK with yourself when you think it.
  4. Practice using this new thinking in real life situations.


The major tool of Cognitive Self Change is the “Thinking Report” in which offenders report objectively the thoughts and feelings they experienced during the commission of past offenses.

The Program is generally delivered in 2 parts. Phase I is most often delivered in secure facilities and requires a minimum of 8 months to complete. Phase I focuses on learning the 4 skills listed above. Phase II is always delivered in the community and requires 12 months to complete. Phase II focuses on practicing the 4 skills in real life situations. In some circumstances, offenders can take both Phases I and Phase II in the community.