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Aiyegbusi, A. (2009). The Psychodynamics of Forensic Mental Health Nursing. Int. Forum Psychoanal., 18(1):30-36.

(2009). International Forum of Psychoanalysis, 18(1):30-36

The Psychodynamics of Forensic Mental Health Nursing

Anne Aiyegbusi

The aim of this paper is to clarify some important interpersonal dynamics that underpin forensic patients' presentations within the clinical environment, in a way that is accessible to nurses. The world of forensic mental health nursing is often difficult to describe to those who have not experienced first hand prolonged clinical contact with patients at the therapeutic interface of secure services. Even then, the characteristic, intense emotional phenomena that tend to arise out of interpersonal relationships with patients and colleagues is not easy to articulate. Yet, for those of us who consider our professional identity to be one of “forensic mental health nurse,” it seems important to find a way to put words to what appears to occupy a large component of our working lives. More importantly, if we can develop a way to make sense of the way our work makes us feel and the way we can find ourselves relating to others within our professional roles, we will be in a better position to harness our energy and enthusiasm in the service of supporting forensic patients towards effective care and treatment pathways. Of course, forensic patients are supported through services with or without a framework for articulating emotional and interpersonal experiences. However, this frequently occurs in the context of significant struggle. For patients, this struggle is often characterized by difficulty communicating what their needs are, and for nurses this struggle is often characterized by feeling emotionally overwhelmed by their task of providing containing, therapeutic relationships for patients whose interpersonal needs are not clear to them. This article will use case examples to describe some of the complex interpersonal and emotional challenges faced by forensic nurses, and explain how a psychodynamic framework could support nursing practice in each of the case examples.

(Received 7 May 2008; accepted 3 September 2008)

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