The objective of this study was to examine women’s perceptions after participation in a motivational and gender-sensitive program (VINN) and to explore what was experienced as helpful. The qualitative data consisted of reports and transcriptions from 13 group interviews with 65 participants on probation or imprisoned in Sweden, Denmark, Russia, Estonia and Norway. The data were analysed according to systematic text condensation. The participants’ perceptions could be grouped into the following clusters: confidence and trust, deeper understanding, change and future hopes. The women appreciated the collaborative atmosphere focusing on quality of life, autonomy, strengths, coping and resources. The most beneficial experiences reported, regardless of country, were that their personal repertoires of actions were expanded during their participation, and their confidence in their ability to desist from crime and substance abuse in the future increased. The results support the program’s salutogenic approach combined with motivational interviewing as a bridge to change. Future research should investigate whether the participants report sustainability of the changes.