Media representations…another teaser.

The last few weeks have been super busy for the DD310 module team. We have now finished writing and editing the textbook Mad or Bad: A Critical Approach to Counselling and Forensic Psychology and it is due to be published in May 2017. We have also been really busy creating films and audios for the module and writing the online activities and text for VLE.

One of the topics in the first block of the module is Media Representations of Crime and Therapy. For this week there will be not only be a great chapter in the textbook written by Troy Cooper from the Open University and Simon Cross from Nottingham Trent University, but there are two fascinating films produced by AngleEye Media, with OU academics Graham Pike and Meg-John Barker.

The first film looks at media representations of crime investigations, forensic psychology and forensic evidence and is hosted by Graham Pike. Using clips from TV shows such as ‘Criminal Minds’, ‘Law and Order’, ‘Cracker’ and ‘Lie to Me’, Graham talks about how realistic media depictions of forensic psychologists are. Graham also talks about the unreliability of forensic evidence and how it is not as accurate as it is portrayed on shows such as ‘CSI’. Furthermore, these shows have led to a misunderstanding of forensic science and what can realistically be achieved during criminal investigations.  You can see Graham whilst in the spotlight being filmed by Morgan from AngeEye.



The second film looks at how the media represents counselling and psychotherapy. Using clips from popular shows such as Frasier, Meg-John (MJ) describes how the media often depict counselling and psychiatry as being the same, whilst they are in fact very different.  Looking at clips from ‘Good Will Hunting’, the ‘Sopranos’ and ‘The Big Bang Theory’, MJ describes the main stereotypes that the media use to depict counsellors and how unrealistic they often are.  MJ also talks about some of the more realistic depictions of therapists such as the TV show ‘In Treatment’ and short films that the Open University has created,  which you can view here.  Here’s MJ in the spotlight, whilst Seth from AngleEye sorts the autocue.


Both of the films depicting media representations of crime and therapy will be on the VLE in Week 4 along with some fun and informative online activities. That’s all for now, as I don’t want to give too much more away, you’ll find out more in week 4 of DD310.



You meet the most interesting people filming for DD310

Last week I was lucky enough to go to London and be involved in some filming for the DD310 module, for the section of the module that looks at Grendon Prison. Although Professor Graham Pike was taking the lead for this section, I really wanted to come along and meet the speakers and try and gain an overview as to how this would fit in with the rest of the module. HMP Grendon is the UK’s only wholly therapeutic prison, and the aim of the filming was to talk to a number of different people who had been involved in Grendon about their experiences and to gain a variety of perspectives. Firstly, there was Mary Haley who is the head of Psychotherapy and a wing therapist at Grendon, then Professor David Wilson, who had been the Governor at Grendon and finally Noel ‘Razor’ Smith, who had been an inmate at Grendon for 5 years. All the speakers gave us fascinating insights into what it was like to be involved in the therapeutic communities in Grendon and below is just a short teaser of some of the interesting topics that came up.

Firstly Mary Haley was interviewed by Morgan Phillips a producer from the production company AngleEye and the interview focused on what it is like to work in Grendon as a therapist. Mary explained how Grendon was very different from any other prison as it was a wholly therapeutic prison where each wing live as therapeutic community, that is a group of approximately 40 men who have agreed to all share a living space and spend the majority of their time attending therapy.  Mary described how there is small group therapy in groups of 6-7 people, larger group therapy, individual therapy and also art therapy and psychodrama. The therapy is seen as being the most important part of the process of rehabilitation, as offenders can come to terms with the offences they have committed, and events that preceded them. The therapeutic communities are also run as democratic communities, as the men can vote who comes into the community and  who should leave. Mary also explained how before coming to Grendon a number of prisoner viewed it as an easy option, however once there they realised how much hard work is involved and not all of them make it through the therapy process with a number going back to the mainstream prison. However many of the prisoners do make it through the therapeutic process and spend a couple of years at Grendon in therapy. Below is a photo of Mary being interviewed by Morgan Phillips from AngelEye, with Colin Rogal on the camera and Seth Hamilton assisting.


The second interview was with Professor David Wilson, who is currently a Professor of Criminology at Birmingham City University, but used to be a prison governor at Grendon before changing direction back into academia. David  told us about the historical background of Grendon and how at the time of opening in the 1962 there was a view in some circles that crime could be viewed as an illness and that psychiatry could offer some solution. In the early days Grendon was run by psychiatrists and then over time they were replaced by prison governors and psychologists, and therapists. David explained that Grendon is unlike other category B prisons, in that prisoners are encouraged to talk about their offending, take ownership of their offending and to see the links between why they have offended and events from their own past. By making the links and gaining insight into why they have offended prisoners’ can then try to change their behaviour so that they do not re-offend once they are released. The photo below is Morgan interviewing David Wilson.


In the third interview David Wilson spoke to Noel ‘Razor’ Smith. Noel has been described as being one of Britain’s most prolific bank robbers committing over 200 bank robberies. David asked Noel about his childhood, and he described his home life and the events that led up to him getting into a ‘life of crime’ and a specific event in his life that was a turning point and when he first began to commit crimes (to find out what it was you’ll have to watch the film on the module website). He then spoke about how he began his time inside, beginning with young offender institutes and then as he was older serving time in prisons and has spent around 32 years in total inside. The photo below is David  talking to Noel about his life with Graham Pike and I listening intently.


In the second part of Noel’s interview Morgan asked Noel about the time he spent in prisons prior to going to Grendon and he explained how he felt that all the prisons were doing were serving as a punishment, and that they didn’t help to rehabilitate him or the other inmates. Then he heard about Grendon from another prisoner who had been to Grendon and explained that it was a prison were the inmates helped one another, but it was really hard because you have to talk about yourself all the time and that can be really difficult mentally and emotionally. It wasn’t until years later when Noel’s son died and he wasn’t allowed to go to the funeral as he was deemed as being too dangerous to be given a day release from prison, that he decided he had to try and stop re-offending and try to find some rehabilitation.


From the moment he entered Grendon’s reception Noel described how it was clearly very different to other prisons, he was addressed by his first name rather than surname or number, and even offered a cup of tea, which would never happen in a mainstream prison.  After passing the weeks of induction that is used to decide if an offender is ready for therapy Noel began his stay on a wing and his therapy. He described how they had three hard and fast rules at Grendon; that is no violence, no sex and no drugs. If anyone found you had broken any of these rules the other inmates could vote you out. One of the major differences in Grendon was how the inmates all treated one another and Noel said this is because we were all interested in changing and helping each other to change and it became a really peaceful oasis for him in the 5 years he spent there. To hear more about Noel’s time in Grendon and the events in his life you will have to wait until we have it all up on the module website. I just hope you find it all as fascinating as I did hearing about it.

A great day recording for DD310

This morning I went to a sound studio in London to record a round table discussion, for an audio to be used as a resource for DD310. The plan for the audio was to complement the first chapter in our module textbook Mad or Bad: A Critical Approach to Counselling and Forensic Psychology on the tensions between therapeutic and forensics settings, and discuss a number of issues that therapists have to deal with. Taking part in the discussions were Fiona Ballantyne Dykes,  the Head of Qualifications at the Counselling and Psychotherapy Central Awarding Body (CPCAB) and Mary Haley  the Head of Psychotherapy for HMP Grendon, which is a therapeutic men’s prison. The audio was produced by Morgan Phillips from the production company AngleEye Media. The aim of the audio was to discuss the differences between therapy with members of the general public and therapy with offenders in prison, and the tensions of giving therapy in a forensic setting, such as a prison.

Below are some photos taken by Morgan of Suzi Roberts from The Sound Company, the recording studio in London, setting us up for the recording. Mary is on the left, Fiona is on the right, and I am in the middle.

Mary_fiona    Mary_fiona2

The round table discussion had general discussion points and also some specific questions for Mary and Fiona. We were interested in finding out what the average client is like, what types of problems they have, and what approaches Fiona and Mary use when helping them. Fiona comes from the person centred approach where the ethos is that therapy sessions are very much client led and the client knows the answers to their own problems, but the role as a therapist is to guide them to find the answers. Whilst Mary comes more from a psychotherapist background with particular focus on attachment theory, this explores the relationships formed in childhood and how they influence later life.

We were also interested in issues such as confidentiality, consent, disclosure and risk and how much this varies from a therapeutic setting as compared to the forensic setting of a prison. Initially, before the discussions began, I thought that there would be a real contrast in working as a therapist in a prison as compared to a therapeutic practice or agency. However, as the discussions developed it became apparent that there were more similarities in working as a therapist in these two settings as compared to differences. Both Fiona and Mary had very similar experiences in relation to confidentiality, risk to themselves and clients, disclosure and self-disclosure. Both Mary and Fiona also raised the importance of having supervision, that is having a supervisor to talk to about their clients, almost like the therapist’s therapist, but to only talk about clients rather than other issues.

Towards the end of the session Mary also raised a really interesting point about the paradox of giving therapy in a prison, where on the one hand you are trying to help someone overcome problems in their life and help them heal, whilst on the other hand they are in a place that’s main purpose is punishment. This appeared to be one of the major differences in working as a therapist in a forensic setting, as compared to a therapeutic setting. There were lots of other fascinating discussions that arose, but you will need to wait until you listen to the whole audio in Week 2 of the module. I hope you enjoy listening to the audio and find it as interesting as I did hearing about Fiona and Mary’s experiences.

How’s it going so far?

I must admit I haven’t written a blog for a while now, but that doesn’t mean we have been sitting about twiddling our thumbs and not doing anything! The whole module team have all been really busy working on various issues related to creating the module and trying to take all your comments on board, so thanks for all your forum posts on the content you would like to see, assessment and collaborative learning.

We have now got all the authors for our book Mad or Bad? : A Critical Approach to Counselling and Forensic Psychology, which will be the core text book for DD310. We have a fantastic range of authors to cover all the different topics, and all the authors have also written outlines for their chapters. It looks like it’s shaping up to be a really great book, so I hope you all enjoy it once it’s published. For the images that will be used in the book and also for the DD310 module website, we are setting up a crowdsourcing event online. For this online event OU students will be able to send in their own images of representations of mad/mad, therapy and crime and from the ones that are sent in we will be able to choose some for the book and to use on the module website. If you are interested in participating, and would like to see images you have produced being used in the module, you can make submissions online at:

All the images will also be shown on our gallery site here at please visit this site if you would like to see some of the entries that have already been sent in, and to see your image if you decide to submit one.

As I am sure you know, here at the OU we don’t only provide a book as part of your module, there are also online learning materials with films, audios and activities. We have spent the last few months going through archive footage to see if there are existing materials that might be useful, as well as thinking of new materials we can create for the course. We are going to be interviewing a wide range of experts including; a crime fiction writer, forensic psychologist, academics from psychology, counselling and criminology, and counselling practitioners who work in prisons and other therapeutic settings. We are also making some films illustrating different types of therapy (e.g. CBT) and creating a short animated film.

As well as creating all of the sound and vision materials, we need to think about online activities, so that students not only make the most out of using the online materials, but so that they are engaging and stimulating. What is also exciting is that all the online course materials will be on the new virtual learning environment (VLE) for our module, so hopefully it will be easier for students to navigate and also have an improved design. That’s it for now, I’ll keep you posted on your progress :)

A fantastic day at the Box Set Mind Set – The Forensics of Popular Culture

This Saturday Andreas Vossler and I, two of the academics from the DD310 module team, and Barney Savage, an audio producer here at the OU, all went to London for the day to attend a fascinating one day seminar called The Box Set Mindset – The Forensic of Popular Culture. The seminar was organised by the International Association of Forensic Psychotherapy (IAFP) and Media and Inner World, in association with Bournemouth University and the University of Roehampton. The seminar brought together both academics and forensic psychotherapists to discuss well known television series and the themes of murder and violence. We thought attending would be really useful for the module section on media representations of crime and therapy, and we hoped that some of the speakers might be willing to do interviews with us that we could use as audios on the DD310 website. We were very fortunate as the organisers Richard Curen and Professor Candida Yates allowed us to come along and bring some recording equipment too.

The talks were based on popular TV shows that have all become box sets and throughout the day there was the underlying theme that watching these shows, whether through a box set DVD, or an online streaming service, is different than watching live television drama, where you have to wait each week for the next episode. The first talk focused on the series The Killing and was presented by Dr Andrea Esser, a Principle Lecturer in Media and Communication from University of Roehampton, and Dr Sandra Grant OBE, a Consultant Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist. For anyone who is unfamiliar with The Killing, it is a Danish TV drama that investigates the killing of a young woman, with a female detective (Sarah Lund) in the lead role, with fantastic acting and scenery, and very unlike the usual American crime dramas that pervade the TV channels.  Both presenters gave fascinating insights in to the TV series, from a media and psychoanalytic perspective. As part of her presentation, Sandra explored the killer’s motivations from a psychoanalytic perspective, she described how the killer viewed the victim as a possession and felt rejected, and also committed the murder as an act of revenge. Taking a slightly different approach, Andrea conducted focus groups to ask viewers why the show was so appealing and she found that people liked the fact it was different from the usual crime dramas, and they felt the characters and the relationships between them were believable. Respondents also said that the acting was so good that the felt the characters were real people, with real flaws. Andrea was also kind enough to let Andreas interview her about her research, so hopefully we will be able to incorporate this audio into our online module materials. One last point made by Andrea that I thought that was really interesting, was that one of the big differences between crime dramas and real investigations is that in TV series there is always a hero, and the series often focus on that lead detective, whereas in real life we often know very little about real police detectives who have solved crimes, and this made me wonder how the police feel about this.

The second talk was on the TV show Breaking Bad and it was presented by Dr Estela Welldon a Psychiatrist and Forensic Psychotherapist and found of the IAFP, and Dr Bradley Hillier Specialist Registrar Forensic Psychiatrist and Treasurer of the IAFP. For anyone not familiar with the series Breaking Bad, the story is set in the USA and follows a chemistry teacher (Walter White) who has terminal cancer and teams up with a former pupil (Jesse Pinkman) to make the drug crystal meth in an attempt to ensure his family will have financial security once he dies. The series is very violent and over the course of 5 series the characters change and develop in various ways. Estela analysed Walter White from a psychoanalyst perspective looking at his motivations, emotions, personality and interactions with other characters and how they change over the series, as both characters become more deeply entrenched in a life of crime.  Whilst Bradley took a case study approach to the character Jesse Pinkman and described him as though he was one of his patients in psychiatric hospital or prison.  After the presentation, Bradly was also kind enough to let me interview him about his work with offenders and his views on how realistic the media represents offenders with mental health problems, and how realistic the character of Jess Pinkman is compared to real offenders. Bradley’s interview will be incorporated into the online module materials for DD310.

The third and final presentation of the day was on the series House of Cards and was given by Professor Candida Yates, Professor of Communication and Culture at Bournemouth University, and Professor Brett Kahr, Senior Clinical Research Fellow in Psychotherapy and Mental Health at the Centre for Child Mental Health. For anyone not familiar with House of Cards, it is a drama series that follows an American Politician (Frank Underwood) and all the intricacies of his elaborate plan to get himself into a greater position of power, aided by his wife (Claire Underwood). Candida described Frank Underwood as a machiavellian anti-hero with many motivations, such as revenge, murder, deception and linked the character to Shakespeare’s Richard III. Brett, described how the character of Frank Underwood met the criteria of most psychiatric diagnoses including, psychopathy and psychosis. Brett also described why we are so fascinated by psychopaths and that in his research he had found that many people (when interviewed confidentially) have fantasies about killing people, although the majority of us obviously don’t act out on this! After the presentation I was fortunate enough to interview Brett about his research on sex and violent fantasy, and this will also be used as online module materials for DD310.

The last parts of the seminar involved discussions of all the three TV shows and peoples’ reflections on them and box set series in general. One of the discussion points involved the addictive nature of having a box set where you can ‘binge’ watch a series and how that differs from watching live TV. Also how the addictive nature of watching TV differs from other forms of entertainment or art, such as reading a gripping novel, or even viewing work of art. Dr Estela Welldon made a great comment and said that in many cases we tell people not to watch too much TV, but we never say ‘you’ve looked too long at that painting’.  All in all, it was a fantastic day and it really opened my eyes into the another side of crime drama, and also made me think about how we watch TV, or consume box sets and how we can passively become addicted to watching these types of TV shows. Finally the conference also made me consider about how the media represents crime and mental health, which is one of the topic we cover DD310, and how we can teach this to our students.

Friday Thinker on collaborative learning

by Catriona Havard

Last Friday I was invited to do the Friday thinker on the Open Universities’ Social Sciences Facebook page. I really enjoy doing the Friday Thinker spot, as it gives me the opportunity to talk directly to students, hear they views and comments, and also answers any questions they have. Usually, when I take on the Friday Thinker, I pick a topic from my own research such as eyewitness memory, or face recognition, but this time I decided to do a something a little different. I thought I would use this opportunity to see if I could talk to students about their learning experiences that could then be used directly in the creation of our new module DD310. One of the issues we have been thinking about is online activities and forums, so I decided to ask about students experiences of collaborative learning and group work with the modules they have studied already, or at work. I was specifically interested in situations where they felt the group work was beneficial, so that we could incorporate something similar, or alternatively when perhaps it didn’t work do well, but there could have been a way to make things run more effectively.

When I posted up my question, I did not expect the wealth of comments and feedback I received. There was a real mixture of experiences, although there were several students that had experienced very similar situations and could offer great advice on how they thought collaborative learning could be more effective. Many student felt frustrated that the forums were too quiet and that other students did not participate, or only participated to the bare minimum. This then started a discussion about whether there should be compulsory participation as that could be effective in making more students participate. However, other students felt that they would be put off by compulsory participation, with one student even suggesting that this would be torture! Some students also felt that it wasn’t fair in collaborative forums that their TMAs marks could be effected by other students they were working with, especially for level 3 modules where the module score can influence the overall degree classification.

There was also a big discussion about giving feedback to others students, and how some students didn’t feel they were best placed to do this, whilst others were worried that it could introduce bias and prejudice. This seemed to suggest that students might need guidance on how to give appropriate feedback to one another. Maybe teaching the feedback sandwich approach might be useful for students to learn, where positive comments come initially followed by constructive criticism and then fishing on a positive note. There was also an issue about timings, and that the OU flexibility means that people can work at different speeds, and some can be ahead of others and waiting for forums to open of students to start participating , whilst others students might leave everything to the last minute and post in a forum at the last opportunity. This seems to suggest that any forum activities linked to TMAs need to be time limited, and open for a specific period before the TMA, but closing to ‘read only’ on a date that it gives everyone enough time to incorporate discussions or ideas into the assessment.

There were some positive comments, where students had felt that they benefited from forums, for instance learning how people see specific issues in a certain way, or interpret things differently one other. After all, much of what we study in Psychology is how people see, remember or experience the world in a different (or similar) way to one other, suggesting we should all be able to benefit from collaborative learning. Many of the encouraging comments about collaborative learning, described tasks that involved either some role play (client /therapist, police/witness), a debating element with students taking ‘for’ or ‘against’ stances, or creating some shared resource such as a webpage/presentation. I think that these comments have certainly given me some great ideas to take back to our module team to think about how we can develop an online collaborative learning task that is hopefully engaging, and beneficial to students. I would just like to thank again all the students who took part in the Friday Thinker as I really enjoyed all the discussions.

What do you want out of your module?

The other day we had our big learning design workshop were all the team involved in creating the DD310 module got together to share ideas about the best way to make the module. At the workshop there were quite a lot of people who all had ideas about the new module and ways we could help to create it. There were all the academics involved Meg John Barker, Graham Pike, Bianca Raabe and Andreas Vossler who is also the co-chair with myself. There were also people from Learning and Teaching Solutions who put the material online and help to make films and audios, there was someone from careers and an employability champion to ensure we think about employability skills. There were also people from the faculty to make sure we think about the timescale, how long we have to produce certain materials and to make sure we get the right balance between the types of tasks we use in the module and someone from the library to help us out with the types of support they can offer.

We had lots of things to consider such as the module learning outcomes, the type of students who may study the module, the best way to present materials, e.g. using audio, films, online text, a text book. Here we all are busy coming up with ideas.

Trina Blog 2-1

One of the things that came out of the workshop is that we are really interested in hearing from you the students. We want to know about what has helped you learn, and the things you have enjoyed doing in previous modules or prior study, so that we can try to incorporate these ideas in the new module.

Trina Blog 2-2

One of the initiatives we need to employ in your module is collaborative learning, i.e. learning in groups or pairs, so we would really like to hear your views on when you have enjoyed this and felt it was useful.

We also need to think about issues such as when to have tutorials? What type of tutorials to have, face to face, or using OU live? At what points in the module would tutorials be useful, before a TMA, or perhaps after a TMA to learn how to work with feedback from your tutor and improve future marks.

What we really want is your feedback on how what you would like to see in this new module and how we can provide the best study experience for you, so please do give us your comments.

Making a new OU module

by Catriona Havard (DD310 Module Team Co-Chair)

After being a Psychology lecturer at the Open University (OU) for nearly 4 years I am being given the opportunity to chair a module in production. For those of you not familiar with OU speak, that means I am going to be in charge of making a brand new module, along with my co-chair Andreas Vossler and the rest of the people on the module team. The module we are creating is DD310 Counselling and Forensic Psychology: Investigating Crime and Therapy. It is a level 3 module which will be compulsory for students studying the Forensic Psychology, Psychology with Counselling, Psychology & Law, and Criminology & Psychology degrees, and an optional module for students studying the Psychology degree. My expertise comes from the Forensic Psychology side, and Andreas Vossler is the Counselling academic expert. We are also very lucky to have a fantastic group of other academics such as Graham Pike, Meg John Barker, Bianca Raabe and Zoe Walkington on the module team, as well as a number of other support staff.

We had our first meeting yesterday with representatives from the Faculty of Social Science, and a briefing of some of the things we need to keep in mind whilst creating the module. There were so many different issues that we need to be aware of before can jump into making the module. It’s really exciting to be involved in creating something from scratch, that is not just new to the Open University, but new to the field of Psychology more generally, as most courses do not combine forensic and counselling psychology, although there does appear to be a growing need to study both of these topics. In making DD310 we want our students to be as excited and fascinated by the materials they study, as we were making them. As the module combines both forensic and counselling psychology we need to consider what will be interesting for students studying either subject (e.g. Forensic Psychology, or Psychology with Counselling degrees) so they will enjoy the whole module and not just the parts that are specific to their degrees.

The content is just one of many issues we need to consider, and up until the meeting yesterday I hadn’t been aware of all the other things that we need to think about when planning our new module. There are issues such as accessibility, which is ensuring everyone can access the materials in some format regardless of whether they have any visual or auditory impairment. There is student workload to consider, that is planning how much time students should spend on activities and reading each week, and also including time for assessments and any revision. We also have to think about what types of resources we need to find or create, such as a textbook, films, podcasts or even using animations, to make the module exciting and interesting to study. We need to decide how many and what types of assessments should be included, whether to have an end of module exam or project. Some of the issues we need to think about also involve taking into consideration what students might be doing on other modules around the same time. For example, if students are also doing DE300 which is the level 3 core Psychology module, then they will have a large independent research project they need to complete, so is it really sensible to ask them to do another one DD310, maybe an exam might be better?

Perhaps you, like me are starting to realise that creating an OU module includes an awful lot more than you initially thought that it would. Creating DD310 includes a vast amount of planning, and looking at many different factors, rather than simply deciding what topics the module will cover. One of the purposes of this blog is to get some feedback from you as Open University students, about what you might like to see in the new module we are creating. Do you have any comments or queries about the new DD310 module? Are there topics you were expecting to see, or wanted to learn about? How do you think you learn best about a new topic (reading, seeing, doing)? Is there any aspect of a previous module you studied that you really enjoyed, or helped you learn, that you would like to see on a new module? Hopefully by taking on students’ comments we can further improve of modules right from the start.