A Qualitative Interpretive Meta-Synthesis (QIMS) of women’s experiences in drug court: Promoting recovery in the criminal justice system

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Title

Journal of Social Work Practice in the Addictions

Publication Date


Date Added



Drug courts have been part of the criminal justice system for over 30 years. A plethora of quantitative quasi-experimental, experimental, and meta-analytic studies have demonstrated their effectiveness at promoting recovery from substance use disorders and reducing criminal recidivism. Qualitative studies, however, are less common and little is known about specific populations that drug courts serve, such as women. To our knowledge, this is the first qualitative interpretive meta-synthesis (QIMS) of women’s experiences in drug court (n = 79). The QIMS resulted in four new, overarching themes related to (1) receiving praise, compassion and encouragement from the judge and counseling staff; (2) promotion of parenting skills and improvement of mother-child relationships; (3) receiving gender-specific services addressing co-occurring mental health and trauma issues; and (4) continuous performance monitoring, including drug testing, which held participants accountable for their conduct while promoting gradual development of intrinsic motivation for change. Implications for drug court practice and future research are discussed.




Social Work

Comments/Extra Notes

Additional author: Szymanowski, Sydney