Young Prisoners and Their Mental Health: Reflections on Providing Therapy

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Young people in the secure estate bring with them a range of psychological and social difficulties. This paper focuses on how to best provide therapy for young people aged 15-21 years in youth offender institutions (YOIs). It draws upon the author’s personal reflections of providing therapy to young people in YOIs and some qualitative interviews with several clinical psychologists who work with young prisoners. The paper considers the work of psychologists working within mental health in-reach teams, rather than the work of psychologists who deliver offending behaviour programmes. The paper starts by considering the complex needs of young prisoners. It then argues that to work effectively the therapist must work with the team and systems around these young people. Moreover, the therapist must understand the context of the YOI and thus its impact on the young person and the therapy being offered. The paper concludes by describing the process of psychological formulation and its role in relation to this therapeutic work. It argues that psychological formulation can be an effective means through which to help therapists understand how systematic factors, the prison context, and the effect of that context can impact on therapy.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)26-31
Number of pages6
JournalPrison Service Journal
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2011

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