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.
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.