I’m Abe French. I began creating Thinking Matters about 14 years ago. I was developing and delivering cognitive behavioral programs in a county jail and doing some technical assistance for the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) at that time. My “day job” was as a Case Manager at the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC). Up to that point, I had been a Corrections Officer working (primarily) with violent offenders (1987-2000).
Part of my job (1993-2000) was facilitating Strategies for Thinking Productively (STP) groups. We used a program titled OPTIONS: A Cognitive Self-Change Program (Dr, John M. (Jack) Bush & Brian Billodeau). Around 1997 our facility (Michigan Reformatory-MR) began using Thinking for a Change as well. For a few years I facilitated groups of offenders using both models. I was fortunate to have been trained by the authors Dr. Jack Bush, Dr. Juliana Taymans, Dr. Barry Glick and Steve Swisher. Additional training in Cognitive Reflective Communication, Motivational Interviewing and Role Play was provided by MDOC as well. I must mention that some of my trainers included Brian Billodeau, Mark Gornik , Deena Cheney and Michael Clark. All of these are top notch trainers and individuals. (Thank you.)
Note: I have provided links above for those who are interested in knowing more about the people and programs I have mentioned.
In 2001 I became a Grants Coordinator for the Office of Community Corrections (OCC). My specialty area was cognitive behavioral programming. In this capacity it was my responsibility to inventory, monitor and make recommendations for various approaches used statewide under MDOC funding. Over time I began to notice that many good approaches were in use and some of them were not being used properly. This was normally because the agency resources and logistical dynamics did not match well with program parameters.
This created a lack of fidelity between author guidelines and program delivery. In response to this situation, I began to review all cognitive behavioral approaches I could accumulate. My goal was to assist agencies and individuals to choose curricula that would best combine agency resources with program requirements. This often took the form of explaining program characteristics and determining if the end user had the resources available to maintain fidelity. Many times we averted a situation where a 90 day length of stay in jail did not try to use a 6 or 12 month approach. Often users would not initially understand that a linear program design is unwieldy (to impossible) for use in a community based group where open enrollment is a necessity.
I retired form the MDOC in 2013. For about a year I was the Director of a residential substance abuse program. Unfortunately, the facility could not maintain grant funding and closed. This provided me with enough free time to work more on Thinking Matters, LLC. Since that time I have been doing more training, writing and consulting. I have learned about web design and have created the Thinking Matters sites to support our work with cognitive behavioral approaches.