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"Actionable Motivational Interviewing: Gendered Perceptions of Probation Officer-Client Relationships" (C.J. Appleton and Danielle S. Rudes): Review 2

Published onApr 20, 2023
"Actionable Motivational Interviewing: Gendered Perceptions of Probation Officer-Client Relationships" (C.J. Appleton and Danielle S. Rudes): Review 2

Vote: Do not publish

My vote is to not publish the paper. For reasons reported below, it is very difficult to make sense of this paper, findings largely replicate what we know from other studies, and implications are very limited due to the very small sample.

The introduction to this paper refers to the RNR (risk, needs, responsivity) model of community supervision and, more broadly correctional intervention, the therapist-relevant “therapeutic alliance,” and the dual-role relationship inventory, which taps into three dimensions that include perceived fairness of probation/parole agents, their caring about clients, and their trustworthiness. It introduces the idea that there are general societal expectations that women will relate more emotionally and positively to clients. Putting gender-related assumptions aside, it is difficult to sort out how all of the other concepts and measures lead up to a novel research question that needs to be addressed and that is addressed. Regarding gender differences between male and female supervising officers, the following assertion should be backed up with cited research: “In these settings, gendered norms are quickly assumed for women and men officers; men are expected to align with the “law enforcer” and women are expected to align with the “social worker.” Is this found universally? Is it found in the setting where the present research is conducted? Or is this just an assumption?

Also, relevant to the various concepts noted above, therapeutic alliance is more than “rapport.” It includes the identification of common goals and a plan to work towards those goals. This comes out later in the paper but not in the first mention.

The paper highlights Skeem and colleagues’ work on the dual-role relationship. They considered research on the therapeutic alliance when they developed the Dual-role Relationship Inventory DRI. They also considered the control function of probation and parole officers. By considering the therapeutic alliance and control, they developed a scale with three dimensions: caring and fairness on the part of the supervising officer and trust by the person being supervised. The following sentence mixes the three dimensions with antonyms and various indicators of PO behavior: “Previous research on the unique challenges presented by the officer-client relationship has noted the importance of various domains, including caring, fairness, trust, toughness, expectations, PO interpersonal skills, and therapy-related interactions (Skeem et al., 2007; Ross et al., 2008).” This mixing creates conceptual confusion.

The phrasing and structure of several sentences make it difficult to understand what the authors mean. A few of many examples follow.

EXAMPLE 1: “The responsivity principle promotes tailoring the intervention to the individual to increase effectiveness (Andrews & Bonta, 2017), such as specific to one’s gender.” What does “such as specific to one’s gender” refer to?

EXAMPLE 2: “Within supervision, the development of TA is fundamentally limited by the non-voluntary nature of the officer-client relationship (Trotter, 2006) and quite possibly the gendered organization logic embedded in community corrections settings (Britton, 1997).” If the gendered organization logic embedded in community corrections is relevant to the present research, the authors need to explain this logic and note how it leads up to the research questions and/or the design of the study.

EXAMPLE 3: “Research has shown that within this context, quality officer-client relationships are marked by officers who are able to balance their dual-roles of law enforcement agent and social worker (Skeem et al., 2007; Trotter, 2013), and particularly women officers (Britton, 1997).” It is not clear what “and particularly women officers” refers to.


The section “The Present study” suggests that the focus of the research is on Therapeutic Alliances and what probation/parole officers do to develop them. This is fine, and it suggests a way to focus on all of the introductory and literature review material. Then in the same paragraph, the authors indicate that they also will study caring, collaboration, and transparency, as well as honesty, trust, and fairness. In this section and earlier in the paper, the authors wrote about a “gendered approach.” At least when this is first used, the authors should explain explicitly what they mean by “gendered approach.”

The sample size (15 people on probation) is very small and it is not very racially diverse but is very diverse in other ways, for example, on supervision from 1 to 31 years. This creates problems in determining who findings could be generalized to, and it seems more like a convenience sample than a sample taken for a specific purpose.


The findings present research evidence from other studies about how damaging supervision is, statements of what probation and parole officers should do, and actual findings. It would be best to limit the findings section to just findings.

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