Spark Real Change: Top Strategies for Case Planning

The Northpointe Suite   •   An equivant product

It’s no secret that change isn’t easy, and most of your clients are facing obstacles without the proper skills, support or resources in place. Taking a responsive and evidence-based approach to case planning can help lay the groundwork for positive incremental successes on an individual level, and eventually, lower recidivism rates on a community level.¹

The big question is, How? How do you create a plan that will help clients find the internal motivation to make those needed behavior changes?

Working collaboratively with clients is the first step, but simply having a conversation is not enough. As the criminal justice practitioner, you need to actively involve clients in their success by defining goals that are meaningful.   This translates into more client investment and better outcomes.

From decades of experience, we’ve found the most effective strategies for responsive, evidence-based case planning to be:

Pull together the right data. Two of the most important considerations for an effective case plan are the individual’s risk/needs assessment and the court order. The risk/needs assessment is central to setting goals that reflect a client’s individual characteristics (dynamic risk factors) and stability factors. Conditions of the court order can be woven into the plan in a way that supports the goals and creates a more balanced approach, rather than simply listing actions mandated by the court.

Prioritize needs. Not all criminogenic needs are created equal. The risk/needs assessment identifies key targets for intervention or “drivers” and helps to prescribe the proper level of intensity.  For example, a person may have a hard time maintaining employment if a more influential criminogenic need (e.g. Antisocial Personality, Antisocial Attitudes) has not been addressed. Also consider prioritizing the individual’s most pressing survival issues before satisfying higher needs.

Build in small wins. Case Planning is a complex and long-term process, but the goals you set don’t have to be. Work with your clients to break big goals into short-term tasks and more easily attainable activities. Small, incremental successes, especially early on, can help motivate clients to take on bigger challenges in the long run.

Include client strengths.  Often times case plans focus solely on skill gaps, such as learning new coping strategies or developing prosocial companions, and overlook protective factors.  Protective factors are the qualities, abilities, or circumstances that help clients live productively and meet prosocial goals.  Sometimes called strengths, protective factors can help motivate and give clients the confidence they need to achieve success in case plan goals.  This can lead to increasing self-efficacy and the ability to deal with future challenges more effectively.  Look to the risk/needs assessment for protective factors and also engage the client to identify areas of strength.

Get creative with timelines. It can be overwhelming to have so many things to achieve, especially if the client isn’t motivated or doesn’t have a solid history of prior accomplishments. After you’ve worked with your client to prioritize needs and broken out your goals into manageable chunks, find ways to stagger accountabilities to support those priorities. Not every goal requires check-ins on the same cadence, and not every goal needs an immediate start.

Match interventions to capabilities. Clients come to you with a wide spectrum of learning styles, mental and emotional capacities, cultural and gender differences, as well as varying degrees of readiness to change. Choosing the right interventions at the right pace is an art, and you’ll be most successful if you rely on a combination of the risk/needs assessment and the client’s input.

Define parameters upfront. What does success look like? Collaborate with your client to define your shared vision of success for each goal, and build measurement into your plan so it’s clear what progress is being made. This is also the point in the planning process where any issues with goal attainability and timelines will likely surface, so it’s a good checkpoint to make sure your client will be set up for success.

Redefine and readjust as needed. Even the best case plan isn’t infallible, and that’s why supervision always comes back to responsivity. Listening to your clients, backing off or increasing intervention strategies, and periodically reassessing clients’ risks and needs can all help you maintain a flexible, dynamic and responsive case plan. And more importantly, focusing on responsivity keeps communities safer, because it works.

We’re always happy to share our experience and talk through your current challenges. Get in touch if you’d like to talk more about responsive case planning, or if a technology solution could make your case planning/management process more effective. As you support your clients, we support you. Give us a call today.

¹ Hooley, Doug. 6 evidence-based practices proven to lower recidivism.