Psychological Therapy in a Forensic Setting

Executive Summary

In the introduction, the author dwells on the importance of psychological assistance and emphasizes the role of psychological consultants in terms of working with young offenders. The introduction sets the tone for the remaining report and explains the possible value that the researcher intends to bring with this work. It is claimed that the objectives of psychological counseling seem to be realistic and should be nurtured in order to help young offenders.

The segment regarding the benefits and challenges of offering therapy in a forensic setting contains two respective subsections. The essential benefits outlined by the author are as follows: (b1) improving the future for young offenders, (b2) preventing individuals from psychological or physical harm, and (b3) aligning the therapy against the interests of young offenders. As for the challenges, there are two of them: (c1) lack of connection between the counselor and the client and (c2) high probability of not meeting the expectations of offenders.

As for the types of services to be offered to young offenders, the author delineates a series of general education and training programs that could help correctional facilities reintegrate incarcerated individuals. This relates to communication, interpersonal skills, social exchange skills, and other custom agenda that could be aligned against offender feedback. The role of cognitive-behavioral therapy is also described in detail, along with its huge potential of reducing the rate of reoffending among younger delinquents. The lack of evidence regarding the effectiveness of proposed methods was outlined as the key drawback that can be associated with psychological services provided to young offenders.

The problem of response to therapy among young offenders was addressed as well, with the author paying specific attention to unresponsiveness to treatment, self-harm behaviors, and the presence of sexual abuse within the correctional environment. It was found that most issues related to the lack of response to treatment stemmed from the age of end-users and their emotional state.

There were five essential suggestions and recommendations covered by the author: to (I) focus on supportive care, (II) increase participation of offenders in design and delivery of treatment programs, (III) constantly ask for feedback and have young offenders contribute to treatment policies and protocols, (IV) improve staff selection and training methodology, and (V) establish a therapeutic alliance between staff members and end-users.

The forensic setting is one of the most intricate settings where recovery principles could be applied successfully. The amount of stigma experienced by incarcerated individuals grows continually, as the criminal justice system recurrently affects them in a way that amplifies social disadvantages and makes it impossible to evade them (Stasch et al., 2018). Even so, the process of recovery is still a vital task that has to be completed by forensic psychological consultants because they have to guide younger offenders through the process of discovering the biggest advantages of having the ability to overcome mental health issues. Giving a positive hope for the future is not easy, and this report is intended to outline the key milestones and objectives that a psychological consultant might want to achieve in order to attain realistic outcomes in young offenders.

Benefits and Challenges of Offering Therapy in a Forensic Setting

Key Benefits

One of the main reasons why therapy should be offered to young offenders within a forensic setting is the high probability of improving their chances to grasp a better future. Knowing that their body and mind are still in development, psychologists should work with young adults to help them establish themselves without forcing any of the ideas upon them (Davies and Nagi, 2017; Vossler et al., 2017). Young offenders in therapy could eventually prevent themselves from relapse and get rid of negative behavioral patterns for the sake of their brighter future. In the case where the therapist has been able to draw the offenders’ attention to the required treatment, they will successfully turn a theoretical benefit into a practical chance to improve their future.

Another benefit that cannot be ignored is the high probability of preventing any kind of damage, either psychological or physical, and help young adults get through their most sensitive years without additional issues linked to mental health. Young offenders might have problems when trying to recover from past alcohol or drug abuse and suicidal behaviors (Spink et al., 2017). Psychological consultants could build a support system and engage more positive peers in the discussion so as to help offenders realize the need to get through a treatment program and work toward becoming better individuals. Such like-mindedness will not be achieved under the condition where the counselor does not provide enough continual support for the target population (Gould, McGeorge and Slade, 2018). Vital life skills attained by young offenders will prevent them from hindering their recovery or engaging in high-risk behaviors.

As independent individuals, young offenders could also benefit from therapy within forensic settings through the interface of therapies that have been developed and deployed in accordance with their age and interests. From addictions to anxiety, young offenders could engage in all kinds of therapy or motivational discussions to step away from their past negative behaviors and beliefs (Linden, O’Rourke and Lohan, 2020). As they are learning to become independent, they could become more interested in contingency management and the impact of adventure that the recovery process brings. Despite the correctional setting being somewhat limiting, psychological consultants could have the opportunity to improve young offenders’ communication skills and self-esteem (Favril and O’Connor, 2021). With positive beliefs and bonds, young adults will have a chance to develop both individually and as a group.

Key Challenges

The essential issue of providing therapeutic services to the given target population is the possible lack of connection to them since they are not children nor adults yet. Even though they may have a partially developed worldview, they would still need guidance because they lack life experience and specific knowledge (Humayun et al., 2017). Therefore, a therapeutic relationship between a psychological consultant and a grown offender is most likely to differ from that same relationship with a young offender. Accordingly, it may be a problematic experience for the counselor to outline the correct therapy and structure it properly (Carl, Schmucker and Lösel, 2020). Even if personal preferences could have some kind of an impact on the outcomes of therapy, psycho-educative efforts should be in line with offenders’ preferences, which may be hard to achieve.

Another problem linked to counseling young offenders is the presence of multiple stakeholders whose expectations cannot be met at the same time. It can be hard to recognize the points of connection that should be respected in order to support young offenders’ right to uniqueness while counseling them (Ioannou et al., 2018). Prevention of distress is a complex topic that is often underestimated or ignored by counselors because they do not have enough experience in terms of working with young offenders. Hopes and expectations are unlikely to be met because offender behavior, either young or adult, may be hard to eradicate (Sowerbutts et al., 2019). Accordingly, counselors may have trouble setting the right limits to offender behaviors and worldviews without affecting their personal boundaries, which is a specific problem that cannot be easily overcome over the course of therapy. Without predefined limits, a proper therapeutic relationship will not be achieved, leaving young offenders unresponsive to treatment.

Types of Services to Be Offered to Young Offenders

A General Overview

It may be safe to say that young offenders could significantly benefit from services that would improve their interpersonal skills and reintegrate them back into the community without any limitations or setbacks. This is necessary to improve their social interaction experiences and ensure that they will not come back to their instances of negative behavior (Winstanley, Webb and Conti‐Ramsden, 2021). In a sense, problematic past behavior will have to be included in the program to contribute to valuable behavior modifications that can help the youth progress and develop over time. Such behavioral programs would be focused on cognitive mediation to help young offenders work as a group and learn from each other to overcome issues and curb anger, anxiety, depression, or any other instance of mental health problems (Young, Greer and Church, 2017). This initiative could be supported by self-monitoring and timely reports provided by offenders with the intention of gaining insight into their expectations and needs. According to Vossler et al. (2017), this kind of advocacy is needed to provide young offenders with all types of support, ranging from vocational and educational to direct counseling and therapy.

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

There are quite a few specific benefits that might be exploited by the psychological consultant when focusing on the process of helping young offenders overcome their past issues and develop a different worldview. With the aid of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), they could assist offenders in terms of establishing improved conflict resolution strategies and more positive beliefs that could reduce recidivism rates and validate the effectiveness of therapy within correctional settings (Hollin, 2019). The need for cognitive skills cannot be bypassed when keeping contact with the youth in question because the criminal justice system could have an implicitly negative impact on their health and behaviors. Accordingly, CBT could be utilized to educate young adults and motivate them to step away from delinquent conduct in order to evade repeated incarceration (Simpson et al., 2018). Therefore, the number of disciplinary violations is going to reduce, and offenders will revise their worldviews to have a better understanding of how they could become the best versions of themselves.


The most evident downside of the approaches discussed above is the questionable rate of effectiveness when applied to young adults. There is a vast body of literature on the topics of psychological counseling and the application of CBT within correctional settings, but it lacks detail when it comes to treating young offenders (Barnes, Hyatt and Sherman, 2017). Therefore, the potential risk of reoffending and delinquent behavior relapse cannot be eradicated since some of the young individuals could be simply unresponsive to any kind of mental health treatment. More information has to be collected in regard to how young individuals might be affected by different variations of psychological assistance or therapies. According to Vossler et al. (2017), reduction of recidivism may ultimately become impossible in the case where the correctional facility management does not pay enough attention to the role of effective interventions and their timely implementation. The need for a more all-inclusive treatment framework makes it safe to say that young offenders are currently overlooked as a population in terms of psychological assistance, partially because of their lawbreaker status.

Response to Therapy among Young Offenders

Lack of Response

First, there may be a lack of response to therapy caused by the end-users externalizing behaviors that would have a damaging influence on their interaction style and reduce their chances to partake in the treatment course. This means that young offenders could have trouble adhering to the new principles of life and improving the quality of their interactions (Fortune, 2018). Therefore, the degree of externalization could serve as an indicator of how resistant to change young offenders could actually be. Despite most of the issues coming from a wrongful overview of the situation, young offenders could also remain unresponsive to treatment because of their need for struggle (Eastman, Craissati and Shaw, 2019). In a sense, they would not want to alter their worldviews in order to display a certain degree of resistance and display uniqueness. The ultimate success of psychotherapeutic approaches aimed at young offenders can be linked to their exposure to violence as well, as complex cases would require more time.

Helping Those Who Self-Harm

Knowing that some of the young individuals could be prone to self-harm behaviors, it should be noted that intervention methods proposed within the framework of the current paper should be deployed with caution. The criteria for self-harm behaviors may be hard to delineate because young adults are less stable than their older counterparts, which creates room for unpredictable mixes of personality disorders and other psychological conditions (Malvaso et al., 2017; Vossler et al., 2017). In addition, it will be crucial to pay attention to gender-specific markers and see how male and female young offenders would respond to treatment and counseling sessions (Hanham and Tracey, 2017). Recurrent suicidal behaviors are different for the two sexes, so it is crucial to remain as engaged as possible in order to react to any changes occurring within the community.

Helping Offenders Cope with Sexual Abuse

The final thoughts on offenders’ response to therapy should aim at establishing an environment where sexual abuse would become a restricted behavior that is condemned and rejected by all existing stakeholders. While there are no specific solutions to date, the existence of policies deployed by the government improves the state of affairs and brings correctional facilities closer to a scenario where no inmates are raped, for example (Kane, Evans and Shokraneh, 2017). The consultant could engage required offenders in therapy in order to explore their past experiences and prevent similar traumatic events from happening in the future. CBT could be one of the most prominent instruments in this case. A zero-tolerance policy paired with therapeutic interventions would serve as a reasonable motivation for sexual abuse victims to report all related cases of misconduct (Smith, 2021). Young offenders should be educated on the topic of rape because no new and effective policies and procedures will be implemented without their feedback. When looking at existing policies and initiatives, forensic psychologists should clearly see their opportunities in terms of how they could promote sexual education among young offenders and protect them from repeated exposure to inappropriate behaviors.

Suggestions and Recommendations

First of all, it may be a valuable addition to the current care environment to expect more consistency in the process of delivering supportive care. In other words, more stability and resourcing have to be achieved under the guidance of important stakeholders in order to strengthen forensic teams and achieve a higher level of relational security (Case and Haines, 2018). Many young adults, even if incarcerated, may be experiencing a severe sense of abandonment due to the lack of connection to any other individual, leaving forensic psychologists responsible for establishing the relationship and helping the youth engage with the required services. As the alleged end users, youth will be required to communicate with the care team in order to help everyone track the progress and see how mental health issues could be resolved in the most effective way (Payne et al., 2020). This could also be an important step for the prison because mental health should be emphasized by the strategies proposed by the respective executives to generate more trust coming from young adults.

Another recommendation is to ensure that most of the end-users rightfully participate in the delivery of intervention programs and contribute to their design and delivery. In a sense, this step could be related to the processes of planning or participation. A variety of unit-based activities may be included in the discussion in order to facilitate the process of care provision and generate a better response to therapy (Fitzgibbon and Healy, 2019). Young adults, as service users, may also be required to dwell on their daily life in order to create the foundation for future approaches and their rightful implementation. Without the experiences of incarcerated individuals, the prison team will be rather unlikely to create anything positive. This is the main reason why reflective groups or community meetings could become an essential response to mental health problems in young adults (Baybutt, Dooris and Farrier, 2019). Daily life should be the main source of interventions since there is practically no additional information intended to support facility initiatives linked to mental health.

The facility could also increase the participation of young adults in the process of developing treatment protocols and policies. Even though the legislation will only revolve around what prison officials could do to improve the mental wellbeing of the incarcerated individuals, there is a myriad of other aspects that have to be covered. According to Snow and Woodward (2017), these range from catering arrangements to the decoration of treatment facilities, making end-user participation an essential topic of discussion that cannot be evaded or postponed. With time, the ability to listen to the feedback provided by young adults will help both the therapist and the prison executives ensure that all recovery needs are met with precision. This participation should not encompass all organizational levels, but it surely should address some of the essential concerns that appeal to the target population (Shepherd et al., 2018). Peer reviews and group discussions might significantly affect the quality of therapeutic interventions over time.

An alternative recommendation is to review the process of staff selection and pay more attention to the possibility of conducting in-depth performance reviews. With the aid of end-user feedback, the prison administration will see how the staff is coping with the needs of young adults and make necessary corrections to the existing strategy. This would mostly touch upon the senior staff, as they have to be seen as alleged role models that pave the way for future updates and enhancements (Nolan, Dyer and Vaswani, 2018). The principles of mental health recovery should be respected at all times, allowing the therapists and incarcerated individuals to identify the common ground and generate improvements that respond to the needs of every stakeholder involved in the process. This recommendation stems from the idea that mental health in younger individuals has to be covered with an eye on how they normally cope with mental health issues and what are their key needs.

The ultimate recommendation would be to build a stronger connection between the staff members and service users in order to establish a strong therapeutic alliance that will allow for improved treatment strategies. The principles of recovery and mental health needs have to be connected through the interface of collaborative care, which would require all stakeholders to contribute to the general strategy in their own way (Padfield, 2018). A broader understanding of the issue of young adults having to cope with mental health issues shows that traditional approaches are not as effective as their renewed alternatives. Therefore, there may be a need to deploy new approaches to staff training that would involve communication with young individuals and a restructured learning process (Mulvale et al., 2019). Even if it will be hard to pioneer, the administration has an opportunity to develop a secure setting and achieve equal input from all important stakeholders.


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