Moral Reconation Therapy

Moral Reconation Therapy (MRT) is a systematic treatment strategy that seeks to decrease recidivism among juvenile and adult criminal offenders by increasing moral reasoning. Its cognitive-behavioral approach combines elements from a variety of psychological traditions to progressively address ego, social, moral, and positive behavioral growth.

MRT takes the form of group and individual counseling using structured group exercises and prescribed homework assignments. The MRT workbook is structured around 16 objectively defined steps (units) focusing on seven basic treatment issues: confrontation of beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors; assessment of current relationships; reinforcement of positive behavior and habits; positive identity formation; enhancement of self-concept; decrease in hedonism and development of frustration tolerance; and development of higher stages of moral reasoning.

Participants meet in groups once or twice weekly and can complete all steps of the MRT program in a minimum of 3 to 6 months. MRT attempts to change how drug abusers and alcoholics make decisions and judgments by raising moral reasoning as articulated in Lawrence Kohlberg’s Stages of Moral Development. 

MRT is one of the most widely implemented cognitive behavior programs, implemented in 40 states and several countries. MRT seeks to move clients from hedonistic (pleasure vs. pain) reasoning to levels where concern for social rules and others becomes important. Research on MRT has shown that as clients pass steps, moral reasoning increases in adult drug and alcohol as well as juvenile offenders. Controlled evaluations of MRT indicate that program participants have lower recidivism rates than controls.

In 2005, a meta-analysis of nine published outcome studies detailed the effects of MRT on recidivism in parolees and probationers. The studies found MRT cut expected recidivism by nearly two-thirds over a time period of six months to over two years. It is designed specifically for treatment resistant clients.

EMERGENCE also will provides integrated co-occurring treatment for people with substance abuse and mental health issues, and MRT is an effective component of integrated co-occurring treatment.