Psychosocial functioning of drug treatment court clients: a study of the prosecutor's files in Ghent, Belgium



Ciska Wittouck, Anne Dekkers, Wouter Vanderplasschen, Freya Vander Laenen

Therapeutic Communities: The International Journal of Therapeutic Communities




– Problem solving courts are a result of the therapeutic jurisprudence movement. Drug treatment courts (DTCs), for instance, aim to divert substance using offenders away from the criminal justice system (CJS) to (drug) treatment services. DTCs are associated with reduced criminal offending and substance use. Psychosocial outcomes of DTCs, such as employment, health and family relations, received only little attention. The paper aims to discuss these issues.



– This paper focuses on the outcomes regarding substance use and psychosocial variables of a Belgian DTC situated in the Ghent region, which were investigated by a naturalistic evaluation study with a pre- post-design using judicial files.



– The results show that Ghent DTC clients were diverted to drug treatment and financial counselling services. Next the Ghent DTC produced beneficial outcomes regarding employment. Contrary to criminal offending (De Keulenaer and Thomaes, 2013), substance use was not significantly reduced in the Ghent DTC sample. Yet more compliance with opioid maintenance treatment was observed. Information on more client centred outcomes such as health and social relations was lacking, precluding a full outcome measurement of psychosocial variables.


Research limitations/implications

– Future DTC studies should address more client centreed outcomes by gathering information through DTC clients and treatment services instead of solely relying on judicial data sources. In addition, DTCs should develop a clear and uniform registration system regarding these outcomes.



– Since the therapeutic jurisprudence movement continues to expand, discussion regarding the roles and tasks of the CJS as well as treatment and counselling services is vital. Each actor should maintain its own role and task, regarding monitoring and substantive work, to insure a “problem solving approach” that is in line with the recovery philosophy.









Human Services and Justice Coordinating Committee