Acquired Brain Injury and Interventions in the Offender Population: A Systematic Review

Esther Q.J. de Geus*, Maarten V. Milders, Joan E. van Horn, Frank A. Jonker, Thijs Fassaert, Juliette C. Hutten, Femke Kuipers, Christel Grimbergen, Siri D.S. Noordermeer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Background and Aims: The prevalence of acquired brain injury (ABI) in offender populations appears much higher than in the general population, being estimated at 50% compared to 12%, respectively. Taking into account ABI-related cognitive and social impairments or behavioral changes in forensic treatments might be relevant and may improve treatment outcomes. The aim of the current review is to summarize and integrate the literature on psychological interventions or treatments for consequences of ABI in the forensic setting. Reviewing this literature could provide crucial information for improving treatment options for offenders with ABI, which may contribute to reducing recidivism. Methods: The PubMed/MEDLINE, PsychInfo, CINAHL, COCHRANE, and Web of Science databases were searched for studies in adult offenders with ABI that evaluated the effect of psychological interventions with a focus on ABI-related impairments and recidivism. Results: This review identified four intervention studies that met the inclusion criteria. These included an adult population (≥18-year-old) in a forensic setting (given the focus of the current review on treatment, defined here as an environment in which offenders are treated while being incarcerated or as outpatients), non-pharmacological treatments and were published in English or Dutch between 2005 and 2020. All studies reported some positive effects of the intervention on interpersonal behavior, cognition and recidivism. The aspects of the interventions that seemed most beneficial included personalized treatment and re-entry plans, support for the individual and their environment and psychoeducation about the effects of ABI. Discussion: Although positive effects were reported in the studies reviewed, all studies had methodological limitations in terms of sample size, study design and outcome measures which affects the strength of the evidence. This limits strong conclusions and generalizability to the entire offender population. Conclusion: Despite high prevalence of ABI in offender populations, interventions in forensic settings seldom address the effect of ABI. The few studies that did take ABI into account reported positive effects, but those results should be interpreted with caution. Future studies are warranted, since this does seem an important venue to improve treatment, which could eventually contribute to reducing recidivism.

Original languageEnglish
Article number658328
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalFrontiers in Psychiatry
Issue numberMay
Early online date7 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - May 2021

Bibliographical note

Copyright © 2021 de Geus, Milders, van Horn, Jonker, Fassaert, Hutten, Kuipers, Grimbergen and Noordermeer.


  • acquired brain injured
  • forensic
  • intervention
  • offenders
  • prison
  • recidivism


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