School of Education


Doctor of Philosophy in Education (PhD)


David T. Vacchi


veterans therapeutic court, transformative learning, Mezirow, mentor




The purpose of this holistic, multiple-case design case study was to describe the transformative learning journey of justice-involved veterans assigned to one of Washington State’s veterans treatment courts (VTC). Veterans treatment courts are designed to help justice-involved veterans break their criminogenic cycle, but the VTC’s efficacy is still debated. Yet, when applied to other modalities, transformative learning has proven effective in changing counter-societal behavior. The guiding theory for this study is Mezirow’s theory of transformative learning, one of the premiere adult learning theories, and will be used as the rubric to evaluate if veteran transformative learning indeed occurs. The central research question is what is the transformative learning experience of criminally charged military veterans who participate in veterans therapeutic courts? To adroitly capture these veterans’ voices, a criterion-based group of 10 justice-involved Washington State VTC members were individually interviewed, passively observed during their court sessions, and their court mandated reflection essays analyzed. The inductive analysis, including potential countervailing explanations, followed the case study analytical protocols of Creswell and Poth and Yin including impactful word and phrase analysis leading to emergent, related, and significant themes. Summarily, the study confirmed that transformative learning did indeed occur during the veterans therapeutic court journey and three resultant key themes. First that relationships, familial and extra-familial, including mentors, were critical to this journey. Second, vision-casting, whether internally or externally generated, was a key component for the successful journey. Third, a focused rebluing, which included skills and knowledge were essential for the veterans to continue their successful transformative journey.

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