chapter  3
14 Pages

Psychotherapy and the prisoner—impasse or progress?

This chapter explores the possibility of working as a psychotherapist within the prison service. I discuss the psychodynamic processes involved in treating offenders, with addictive behaviour in criminality and in sexual and drug abuse, within a psychotherapeutic community in a prison. The therapeutic community provides an intensive relationship ex­ perience in which the interaction between the inmates and the staff within the prison institution are mirrored in the therapeu­ tic community in general and groups in particular. I illustrate this with the use of clinical examples of how this environment allows the customary defences of violence and deviant behav­ iour to be creatively challenged in the therapeutic groups, thereby permitting new possibilities of coping with the anxie­ ties of the prisoner. It has been suggested that the prison culture is an obstacle to the effectiveness of psychotherapy, but I argue that with the use of the therapist's countertransference a hu­ mane understanding of the conflicts can be achieved.