Psychosocial Interventions for Prisoners with Mental and Substance Use Disorders: A Systematic Review

Sreekanth Thekkumkara, Aarti Jagannathan, Krishna Prasad-Muliyala, Pratima Murthy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
150 Downloads (Pure)


Purpose of the Review:
The prevalence of mental and substance use disorders is three to five times higher than that of the general population. Psychosocial interventions are effective in identifying and managing mental health and substance use disorders. This article aims to review the randomized control studies which have used nonpharmacological interventions alone or in combination with pharmacological interventions for managing mental and substance use disorders in prison/correctional settings.

Collection and Analysis of Data:
Studies included were randomized control trials and pilot randomized studies that assessed the impact of psychosocial interventions for prisoners with mental disorders and substance use disorders. A comprehensive search for articles was done by the primary author (Sreekanth Nair Thekkumkara) in the following databases: PubMed, ProQuest, PsychArticles, and Google Scholar (search engine), for the period June 1, 2000, to December 31, 2020.

Results and Conclusions:
The 21 studies included in the review had a sample size of 34 to 759. The settings of all the interventions were the prison and different types of psychosocial interventions were provided across the studies. The average duration of intervention ranged between 10 min and 120 min with the frequency of one to six sessions per week for 1 to 36 months. All the 21 Randomized Control Trials (RCTs) were nonIndian studies. Overall, the results of the included studies showed significant improvement postintervention (motivational intervention, interpersonal therapy, cognitive behavior therapy, positive psychology intervention, music therapy, and acceptance and commitment therapy) on primary outcome measures such as symptom severity of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse prisoners. Positive effects were observed on secondary outcome measures such as motivation, aggression, follow up rates, and recidivism. A limited number of studies have focused on evaluating psychosocial interventions in prison settings. Most of the interventions were tested in prisoners with substance use disorder alone or in those with dual diagnoses and in high-income countries.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)211-217
Number of pages7
JournalIndian Journal of Psychological Medicine
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jan 2022


  • Prison
  • Jail inmates
  • Mental disorders
  • Substance use disorders
  • Psychosocial
  • Peer intervention

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Social Sciences
  • General Psychology
  • General Health Professions


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