New Strategies To Working With The Justice Involved Individuals: 5 Additional Techniques


New Strategies To Working With The Justice Involved Individuals: 5 Additional Techniques

“Working with Abi is getting to be a delight. What a powerful story. She cries at times and makes me feel like crying, too, but she has been leaving the session, thanking me profusely. She has such a soft side.” Roberto articulated these words to Karen, his supervisor, who has been helping him develop new strategies to working with the justice-involved individuals.  “You continue to make progress and you have been implementing the principles and techniques we have been discussing. Let us take the next step and learn some additional tools,” said Karen, in a soft voice, but with a bright affect and smile.

 

In a previous article entitled, New Strategies to Working with the Justice Involved Individuals - 5 Reasons Why, I illustrated how Roberto was fearful of working with Abi because, “She just came out of prison and she is on parole. I would not know how to even start working with her.” Roberto was lucky, he had regular supervision, and Karen, his supervisor, carefully listened with the “third ear” and acknowledged the challenges associated with working with this patient population and took the time to discuss with him the how to effectively work with justice-involved individuals. 

Roberto first needed to be clear on the why it is crucial to learn the how of working with this patient population:

New Strategies To Working With The Justice Involved Individuals: 5 Additional Techniques
  • Be culturally appropriate

  • Help make meaningful changes

  • Overcome barriers

  • Help decrease recidivism risk

  • Help contribute to public safety

These are crucial reasons why all of us need to master what I call, New Strategies to Working with Justice-Involved Individuals. Roberto did tell Karen that he would not know where to start.  And once he fully understood the significance of learning how to work with justice-involved individuals, he needed to start learning the how of actually doing so.  He then learned the five principles to master:

  • Use engagement strategies

  • Use the skills of effective and comprehensive mental health assessment

  • Use the skills of effective and comprehensive substance use assessment

  • Practice integrated care

  • Focus on recovery 

sweet institute

Roberto discussed the principles, perceived that Abi was slowly engaging, “but I feel something is missing,” he articulated to Karen, who continued to work with him on the New Strategies.  He then learned how to implement the above five principles by

  • Encouraging Abi to tell her story

  • Being genuinely curious and caring

  • Joining in

  • Paying attention to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs principle

  • Being and remaining predictable

With these principles and techniques, Roberto has made much progress.  He seemed to have been successfully encouraging Abi to tell her story and with powerful results.  As Karen told him, he was now ready for the next steps.  Below are five additional techniques to use as part of New Strategies to Working to With The Justice-Involved Individuals.

1. Use yourself

SWEET Institute

It starts with knowing yourself, your strengths, and areas for improvement, and then using them for the benefit of the treatment plans, the therapeutic relationship, and the progress of your patients and clients.  You can use your strength in skills for listening to help engage, join in, and you can also use your limited knowledge of Rap songs, Reggaeton, or street drugs, to learn from your patients and clients, giving them an opportunity to teach something.  This will help them learn the difference between self-efficacy and self-esteem, and to see intelligence, skill or self-worth in a whole new way that can help with recovery.  In a world that puts emphasis on results, it is easy to forget how the power really lies in the details.  Using yourself takes skill, but if you are genuine, if you practice and use supervision effectively, you will master the art and science, and you will discover what my beloved colleague, Elizabeth Ford meant when she wrote, Sometimes Amazing Things Happen.

 

2. Be and remain non-judgmental

SWEET Institute

It is hard not to have a judgment, a hypothesis, or a preconceived notion.  It is equally unfair to be asked to not have them.  After all, this is part of our toolkit as clinicians.  We observe and we hypothesize.  However, what we cannot afford to do is draw conclusions directly from mere observation.  I often say that the best clinician is the best scientist, in the sense that we are constantly observing, looking at patterns, and often hypothesizing.  But we also need to then go through the testing or experiment phase prior to drawing any conclusions.  In the days when many believe that mental health or psychiatry is subjective, I can assure you that by following these rigorous steps, you will set yourself apart and stay away from doing harm.  And your impressions and diagnostic and clinical skills will be greatly enhanced, regardless of whether you may have been practicing for 30, 15, 10, or 5 years.  Being and remaining non-judgmental is particularly important when working with the justice-involved individuals, and you now have some additional tools to start doing so successfully.

 

3. Ask for their feedback

SWEET Institute

I often tell all SWEET attendees, my supervisees, mentees, friends, and colleagues how a question is often more important than an answer.  When working with the justice-involved individuals, the mere act of asking for their feedback can be far more powerful than the actual feedback or answer they provide.  When you ask them for their feedback, you are also engaging them, and making them part of the whole decision-making process.  Asking them for their own explanatory model of their illness or consulting with them on what they think should be done can be very powerful tools.

 

4. Ask for permission

SWEET Institute

Related to asking for their feedback, asking for permission is another powerful technique to use when working with the justice-involved individual.  Respect is very important in this specific subculture, “How dare you telling me I cannot leave? Who do you think you are?” asked Harry, a justice-involved patient and client, evaluated by Nate, a seasoned clinician.  (See the previous article entitled, 5 Reasons Why Patients and Clients Are Likely To Escalate).  Explaining there will be some delay in the clinic visit and sincerely apologizing, stating, “I am interested in your story; I want to hear more,” and “I would like to ask you some specific questions,” or “I would like us to take some time to complete the treatment plan,” all show respect for the therapeutic relationship, respect for your patients and clients as humans, and also shows your understanding of their subculture and your willingness to make the therapeutic process work.  Next time you meet with your justice-involved patients and clients, remember to ask for permission.  Doing so will take you a long way, and you will become more effective working with them.

 

5. Examine yourself

You are using yourself, you are striving to be and remain non-judgmental, and as I stated above, it starts with self-knowledge.  What does it mean to you to be working with a justice-involved individual?  What does it mean to you to be in a room with someone who may have committed a violent crime?  How much does that relate to you?  

SWEET Institute

Equally, do you know what you do not know? Do you know where to find the answer?  Do you know how you learn best?  More importantly, do you know when and how to best seek consultation?  

Regardless of how long you have been practicing, either peer or informal or formal supervision is necessary, if you are to successfully and meaningfully work with the justice-involved individuals.

 


“Working with Abi is getting to be a delight. What a powerful story. She cries at times and makes me feel like crying, too, but she has been leaving the session, thanking me profusely. She has such a soft side.” Roberto articulated these words to Karen, his supervisor, who has been helping him develop new strategies to working with the justice-involved individuals.  “You continue to make progress and you have been implementing the principles and techniques we have been discussing. Let us take the next step and learn some additional tools,” said Karen, in a soft voice, but with a bright affect and smile.


 

And so it went, 5 additional techniques for Roberto to continue to see that working with Abi, a justice-involved individual, who was recently released from prison, who is on parole, can, in fact, be a delight and gratifying.  Roberto continued to learn the new strategies, the right tools, skills, principles, and techniques.  In this session, as you did with this article, he learned to:

  1. Use himself

  2. Be and remain non-judgmental

  3. Ask Abi for her feedback

  4. Ask for permission

  5. Examine himself

Like Rob Liano says, “Knowledge is power? No, knowledge on its own is nothing, but the application of useful knowledge, now, that is powerful.”

May you use the knowledge imparted in these series of articles to harness power and continue to make a difference in the lives of the justice-involved individuals.


For more in this series of articles, check below!



References:

  1. Osher, F.C., D’Amora, D.A., Plotkin, M., Jarrett, N., & Eggleston, A. (2012). Adults with behavioral health needs under correctional supervision: A shared framework for reducing recidivism and promoting recovery. New York: Council of State Governments Justice Center.

  2. Osher F, Steadman H.J., & Barr, H. (2003). A best practice approach to community reentry from jails for inmates with co-occurring disorders: the APIC model. Crime and Delinquency, 49, 79–96.

  3. Reuland, M. & Cheney, J. (2005). Enhancing success of police-based diversion programs for people with mental illness. Delmar, New York: GAINS Technical Assistance and Policy Analysis Center for Jail Diversion.

  4. Health & Human Services. State Health Of cial Letter #16-007, RE: To facilitate successful re-entry for individuals transitioning from incarceration to their communities. April 28, 2016.