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McGauley, G. Bartlett, A. (2015). Striking a Balance; the Contribution of Forensic Psychotherapy to Imprisoned Women and Their Environment. Int. J. Appl. Psychoanal. Stud., 12(2):106-121.

(2015). International Journal of Applied Psychoanalytic Studies, 12(2):106-121

Striking a Balance; the Contribution of Forensic Psychotherapy to Imprisoned Women and Their Environment

Gillian McGauley, MB BS, MD(Res), FRCPsych and Annie Bartlett, MB BChir, M.A., Ph.D., MRCPsych

In the UK forensic psychotherapy, with its roots in psychoanalytic thinking and practice, has developed mainly within the National Health System. Consequently its application and potential contribution to the treatment and care of imprisoned women is an under-investigated area. This paper describes characteristics of the population of women in prison, the extent of their health and social care needs and sets this against societal representations of women offenders. Dynamic psychotherapy in women's prisons must maintain an awareness of the women's issues and the social life of the prison. Drawing on work in the 2 largest women's prisons in the UK we focus on the contribution forensic psychotherapy, as one component of the health care service, can make to the care of these women and to their environment. We describe how the external world of the criminal justice system and prison environment and the internal world of the women can interact, either resonating with or habituating to each other. We propose that, when working to help imprisoned women understand their minds and the actions that flow from their psychic states, the forensic psychotherapist needs to strike a balance between helping patients integrate split off mental states and experiences that are traumatic while ensuring that these experiences do not overwhelm the mind of the patient, staff and institution.

[This is a summary excerpt from the full text of the journal article. The full text of the document is available to journal subscribers on the publisher's website here.]

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