Moral reconation therapy (MRT) is a therapeutic technique that is widely used in the treatment of substance addiction. The therapy was first used in prison-based communities, but it has proven to be effective in a variety of settings and populations. Many individuals who have been resistant to standard addiction treatment have improved with the cognitive-behaviorial approach used in moral reconation therapy.
Moral reconation therapy was developed during the early 1980s by two psychologists: Dr. Kenneth Robinson and Dr. Gregory Little. Although the word "reconation" may be unfamiliar to many people, it is derived from the psychological term "conation", which is used to describe the process of conscious decision-making. MRT is based on the idea that substance abusers make poor choices due to a flawed sense of moral reasoning. Their hedonistic behavior shows that they have little concern for the well-being of others; they disregard society's laws in their pursuit of pleasure. If a person's sense of moral reasoning could be improved, they could adjust their behavior and make better decisions. Punishment and continued counseling would not be necessary under these circumstances. To achieve an improved level of moral reasoning, substance abusers must acknowledge the consequences of their actions and recognize the impact it has on others.
The effectiveness of MRT has been confirmed through extensive research; in fact, at least 120 studies have been performed to validate this therapeutic technique. Some of these studies measured the positive impact of moral therapy, and the treatment was proven to improve participants' sense of purpose and heighten their level of moral reasoning. The MRT program has been added to the National Registry of Evidence-based Programs, and it has also been deemed an "Evidence-based Program" by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Nearly every state in the country uses MRT, and it is used in many different settings.
Every moral therapy group is led by a facilitator who has been specially trained in the MRT technique. A variety of official MRT workbooks have been developed, and group members must have a workbook in order to participate in group exercises and to do the homework assignments. A typical MRT group meets once or twice per week, and the program takes about three to four months to complete. A group is usually comprised of about 15 members. During group sessions, members work through the 12 steps of the MRT program. These steps focus on fundamental issues that help participants confront their beliefs, assess their relationships and improve their moral reasoning. Participants share insights and learn from each other as they work through the program.
Moral therapy can be a helpful technique for chronic substance abusers who have failed to respond to other forms of treatment; however, the therapy is effective for any addicted individual. MRT works equally well with both men and women, and it is effective for a broad range of age groups. The low cost of MRT is an attractive aspect of the program; the technique also doesn't require its participants to have advanced reading skills. In most cases, MRT is employed in conjunction with traditional addiction treatment, including psychotherapy and behavioral counseling.
MRT group members often cite the safe environment of their group as one of the key benefits of the program. In a supportive atmosphere, participants feel comfortable forming relationships and learning from other members who face similar issues. Mutual trust develops among group members, and they learn how to accept help from one another.