Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Emotion, Identity, and Rehabilitation: Towards an Enactivist Correctional Practice Framework

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posted on 2023-11-13, 02:04 authored by Harry Dent

Correctional rehabilitation is an increasing area of concern in societal discussions around crime and justice policy as an alternative to strictly punitive approaches towards criminal justice. However, existing approaches to rehabilitative interventions are beset by a host of theoretical problems, which has meant that their efficacy has been so far limited. This theoretical thesis is part of a growing body of literature which aims to address these issues through developing more appropriate theoretical approaches to correctional rehabilitation. Specifically, this thesis develops a practice framework theory for intervention design, which considers the way that emotion can be utilised in intervention to facilitate desistance from future offending.

The thesis consists of three main sections. The first identifies some of the wider theoretical issues present in current approaches to correctional rehabilitation and outlines the main theoretical framework which I use to address these. I identify that the dominant approach to correctional intervention draws on an insufficient explanatory base, and places insufficient emphasis on the agency of people who offend. I then outline the enactivist perspective of human functioning, which is an agency-centric perspective which views humans as embodied agents who act adaptively in the environment they are embedded in and suggest that this could be a useful framework to use when developing theory in the correctional domain.

The second section develops the main theoretical assumptions made by the proposed framework. I discuss the role of emotion in correctional practice and discuss how this relates to the wider literature on emotion before describing a modified version of the enactivist view of emotion which aims to organise and unify some of the main perspectives from the emotion literature in a way which can be useful for the correctional domain. I also discuss how emotion relates to identity, through discussing the role of identity transformation in desistance from crime and how an enactivist view of identity can be useful in facilitating this identity transformation.

In the third section, I present an explanatory framework which aims to describe the factors which can lead people to engage in offending actions, based on the enactivist conceptions of emotion and identity. I then discuss the practice implications of this framework, specifically around how the information gleaned from an enactivist explanatory framework can be used to inform emotion-focused approaches which centralise the needs and values of the people who participate in correctional interventions.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

CC BY-ND 4.0

Degree Discipline

Forensic Psychology

Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

ANZSRC Socio-Economic Outcome code

280121 Expanding knowledge in psychology

ANZSRC Type Of Activity code

1 Pure basic research

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Psychology


Ward, Tony; Tyler, Nichola