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"Actionable Motivational Interviewing: Gendered Perceptions of Probation Officer-Client Relationships" (C.J. Appleton and Danielle S. Rudes): Review 3

Published onApr 20, 2023
"Actionable Motivational Interviewing: Gendered Perceptions of Probation Officer-Client Relationships" (C.J. Appleton and Danielle S. Rudes): Review 3

Vote: Publish pending major changes

Thank you for the opportunity to review this manuscript. This study employed interviews with 15 men and women on probation to examine how they perceive the therapeutic alliance and what factors contribute to this alliance. I agree with the authors that the lived experiences and perceptions of justice-involved persons are important to center in our scholarship, even if it means it may not necessarily be generalizable. We have much to learn from their first-hand insights. Understanding their perceptions about the PO-supervisee/client relationship is helpful, particularly because the therapeutic relationship is often quite important for affecting change.

I have some comments about the manuscript that I believe, if addressed, could increase the impact of this paper. First, I recommend trying to help draw the link for the reader between how POs view and treat women and men differently (potentially) on probation and how that can impact how people on probation experience that relationship- I would recommend doing this both in the abstract and in the introduction.

Second, I would recommend scaling back on RNR and focusing more instead on literature and theory about relationships, how they are formed and improved, and their impact on client outcomes. Many aspects of this are there, but the text would benefit from some more careful organization of these ideas and how they all fit together. Further, though it might be useful to note that relationships are a central component of the RNR model, they exist whether practitioners are engaging in other evidence-based RNR practices or not. There is some implication that good relationships would lead to better practices that align with the RNR model, but there is not a lot of research that has explicitly tested this. Since this paper is not focused on outcomes or behavioral change, it might be best to keep the intro and discussion centered around the process and its importance in this context.

Third, I think it would be helpful to discuss indicators of the TA in this context from a measurement perspective. The authors note the core features other scholars have identified and studied. It might be worth describing how other scholars arrived at these features, notably because I think here’s where you might be able to really sell how your study contributes to the literature. Because your study centers on actual voices of people with lived experiences, which I don’t think has necessarily been done previously, it can add to/refine current operational definitions of the TA in this context and behavioral techniques from MI (constructs) that cooccur with these indicators of good TA. I think framing this paper a little more with a lens toward its contribution to measurement (and thus to other studies of its importance for outcomes) could be beneficial. In other words, you (a) use an inductive strategy centering voices of those with lived experience to identify potentially other important indicators of the TA in the probation context that were not previously identified by other researchers using different measurement development approaches and (b) you leverage the experiences of people on probation to help identify the specific behavioral strategies (which may or may not be part of MI) that facilitate the development of these indicators.

Fourth, I think more needs to be said about why the authors think motivational interviewing strategies and dual-role relationship features might be perceived or experienced differently across genders. It is not convincing enough that most studies of justice-involved persons focus on men and, therefore, might not generalize to women or that research identifies important relationship aspects for a particular gender, but those studies only studied that one gender. Readers are going to want to know why, specifically, women would potentially experience the relationship differently. What evidence/justification do we have for this assumption from the empirical literature and extant theory?

Fifth, I would recommend incorporating more information and details about gender-neutral and gender-specific approaches to intervention…and how this study can contribute to the literature on gender-responsive intervention.

Sixth, what do the authors mean when they say, “we take a gendered approach to identify any gendered dimensions in the officer-client relationship from the clients’ perspective” and indicate they use a “gendered lens” when doing the inductive coding? Please define the gendered approach/lens and how it was applied in this work. It seems as if the approach used simply compares answers provided by women to answers provided by men….however, I suspect there was more to this. Please elaborate.

Related to this, in the results/discussion sections, the authors note the few instances in which the men and women seemed to have somewhat different views/experiences or express value of certain behaviors/aspects. Given the small sample size, which limits generalizability (which the authors note), I would caution against assuming that men and women differ on these items. It could easily be the case that these are simply idiosyncratic experiences and interpretations that do not have much to do with one’s gender at all. There are too few people interviewed to make the case that men value techniques promoting autonomy and women want a mentor who self-discloses, for example, or that women prefer more prompt communication whereas men prefer more frequent communication. If the authors wish to report the total # of men and women reporting these same/similar trends, that could help the authors make a case for a more “gendered” finding. Without this, I am not convinced these findings are necessarily gender-specific and/or that someone would not also endorse the importance of a strategy or technique that someone of the opposite gender identified.

Seventh, I would recommend presenting the findings in each section with subheadings to clearly delineate the MI techniques that would facilitate the specific indicator of TA and, separately, where differences emerged across women and men. I think this would add some organization and help the reader to process and organize the information better. Relatedly, it may be worth considering discussing each indicator separately rather than combining it (e.g., separate honesty, trust, and fairness, since they are unique indicators of the TA that were identified through inductive and deductive approaches).

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