Although humans’ basic needs must be met to set the foundation for healthy behavior and break the cycle of poverty, some have already been affected by various mental conditions. Due to the side effects and social stigmatization associated with many of these mental health issues, individuals can feel forced to engage in crime or violence to make ends meet. In the African country of Liberia, this is an issue facing thousands and it prompts many questions. How do these individuals gain access to care? What effect do these conditions have on future generations? How do we break the cycles of crime and violence already apparent in Liberia? To approach answers to these questions, it is essential to understand therapeutic options. Particularly, people can learn many lessons by observing CBT eliminating violence in Liberia.
What is CBT?
According to the American Psychological Association, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is a type of psychological treatment that aims to change behavioral and thinking patterns. CBT centers on the understanding that complications in psychological makeup can be a result of learned behavior — hindering the thought processes.
Recipients of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy work on improving self-confidence, adopt effective coping mechanisms and alter the thinking patterns that contributed to negative behavior. Clients also learn to modify their habits — such as confronting, rather than avoiding difficult situations. Additionally, patients practice self-control and prepare for real-life scenarios they may find challenging.
One distinguishing factor of CBT is its focus on the current and future aspects of the patients’ life. While medical professionals take into account a person’s past, the main goal of this therapy is to create effective techniques to deal with the patients’ present issues.
Current Prevalence of Crime In Liberia
The Overseas Security Advisory Council’s (OSAC) 2020 Liberia Crime and Safety Report states that the country has seen increases in violent robberies and home invasions. The council also reports that “sexual assault and rape are the most commonly reported violent crimes.” In addition to this rise in crime, Liberia experiences greater social upheaval (than previously) due to escalating difficulties in the economy, healthcare and employment.
As urban poverty surges among Liberian cities, homelessness, pollution and deteriorating infrastructure have become increasingly concerning issues. Impoverished citizens face coinciding problems concerning lack of opportunity and inequality. Discrimination, poor education and epidemics such as Ebola all impact the poor most severely. Moreover, these unstable environments catalyze crime and violence rates in Liberia — especially in young men.
CBT & Cash Impact Violence in Libera
One study in the nation’s capital of Monrovia revealed the benefits of CBT on eliminating violence in Liberia. More than 1,000 men participated in this experiment, all of whom researchers considered at-risk for crime and violence. Researchers placed the men in one of four groups. I.e., one that received only therapy, one that received only cash, one that received both, and one that received nothing. Notably, the cash incentive provided to designated participants was enough to start a small business.
Therapy alone improved behaviors significantly, decreasing many of the men’s objectionable behaviors. However, the most lasting effects were seen in the men receiving both therapy and cash. The men were able to practice what they learned in therapy while taking advantage of the opportunity to feel like a “normal” member of society. These men received means, motives and opportunities. However, this time, it was all in favor of improving their lives and their influence on the community.
CBT eliminating violence in Liberia is not the only approach necessary to ending poverty. Yet, it does offer promise for positive change and highlights the importance of the long-term measures needed for vulnerable communities.
– Amy Schlagel