Ireland, C.A. and Gredecki, N. (2012), "Themed issue: qualitative viewpoints in forensic practice", The British Journal of Forensic Practice, Vol. 14 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/bjfp.2012.54314baa.001Download as .RIS
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Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Themed issue: qualitative viewpoints in forensic practice
Article Type: Editorial From: The British Journal of Forensic Practice, Volume 14, Issue 2
Welcome to the latest edition of The British Journal of Forensic Practice. This is a themed issue looking at qualitative viewpoints in forensic practice, and which provides a range of papers across the broad area of forensic practice. We are delighted to begin this issue with an excellent paper by Mary Barnao, Peter Robertson and Tony Ward, considering ethical decision making in forensic practice. There are few papers that consider ethical issues in forensic practice, particularly the process of ethical decision making, and as such, this is a much welcomed addition. Their paper considers forensic practice from the consideration of human dignity and its associated values, alerting clinicians to a broader range of ethical issues than a reliance solely on codes of ethics. As such, they present an extremely helpful, practical framework for ethical reasoning, and apply this to case studies throughout. Importantly, they identify the more subtle aspects of ethical dilemmas, encouraging clinicians to be both alert and responsive to these, and to consider more that just the codes of conduct. Crucially, they discuss the importance of dignity and human rights, and how clinicians can consider such principles when faced with an ethical dilemma.
The following paper is by Kathryn Mason and Joanna R. Adler, focusing on group-work therapeutic engagement in a high-secure hospital. Here they discuss the forensic client’s perspective of factors that influence their engagement in such group work within a high-secure hospital environment. Their study focused on an opportunistic sample, using semi-structured interviews. Using interpretative phenomenological analysis (IPA), they identified a range of themes. The most substantial theme was “culture of the environment”, linking closely to the concepts of choice, fundamentally originating from culture. They noted further themes that influenced engagement, including relationships, trust, motivation, group-work content and expected outcomes. This was a well-rounded and considered paper, that offered an enhanced richness of understanding in the area.
A paper by Kathryn Evans, Craig D. Murray, Lorna Jellicoe-Jones and Ian Smith follows, exploring support staff’s experiences of relationship formation and development in secure services. This follows nicely from the previous paper, and where is notes the importance of effective therapeutic relationships as a key feature of staff working with forensic clients in a mental health settings. As such, their study explores the experiences of support staff within secure mental health services in regards to the formation and development of therapeutic relationships with forensic clients. Again, using IPA of the data, they noted three main themes. These included, developing relationships with patients, seeing the person and managing risk, and finally, maintaining boundaries. They carefully discuss these themes in terms of relationship formation and development, barriers that may prevent such relationships from being built, and the implications for clinical practice. As with the previous paper, it is both considered and thought provoking.
The following paper focuses then on the importance of supervision in forensic psychology, by Andrew Day. This paper argues that supervision is frequently considered a crucial aspect of forensic psychological practice, and yet little evidence exists to support the idea that supervised practice leads to better outcomes for either clients and/or organisations. A number of models of supervision are noted, as well as the variability in an individual’s experience of supervision. This paper discusses some of the aims of supervision in considerable detail, and with great clarity. As such, it proves an opportunity by which supervision in forensic services could be enhanced, maximising the benefit both for the supervisee, as well as the organisation.
Phyllis Annesley and Kerry Sheldon follow this paper with a detailed exploration of the issues clinicians encounter in using cognitive analytic therapy (CAT) within a high-secure hospital. Similar to previous papers, a qualitative approach is taken, and where clinicians views of using such therapy in a high-secure environment is considered. They identify five themes from their analysis. These were: concerns around therapy and the therapeutic relationship; issues with CAT stages and structure; issues around CAT tools; issues connected with the high-secure hospital setting; and concerns about integrating CAT and teamwork. The paper summarises how clinicians have consequently addressed these issues by helping others to understand the therapeutic relationships and adapting CAT tools and structure accordingly. Their paper recommends that high-secure hospital managers ensure CAT therapists are fully supported, and any therapy staff members involved in CAT are appropriately trained in the work they are expected to undertake. They further conclude that the Association for Cognitive Analytic Therapy and CAT training organisations need to demonstrate sensitivity when their approach is being used in a high-secure hospital context, as well as ensuring that trainees undertaking such work in a forensic environment feel suitably qualified and able to do so.
The final paper in this issue explores an evaluation of a violent offender treatment programme. Here, a qualitative approach is also used when aiming to evaluate the effectiveness of their programme, solely from the forensic client’s perspective. This paper appreciates it tentative findings, as it was predominantly exploratory in its nature, due to a small-sample size and reliance only on the views of group members who had undertaken the intervention. As such, there is always the potential risk of such forensic clients wishing to regard such therapy in positive terms. Yet, with such awareness in place, it offers a richness of information, and very helpful considerations for further work in this area. They examine service user feedback in relation to mental health service provision and their engagement in a therapy programme aimed to address their risk of violence. Again, using an IPA, they noted four broad themes. These were consistency, learning and application, the group experience, and programme structure. Findings indicate participants held positive views of the intervention, feeling they could relate to the material covered, feeling it had enhanced their ability to manage violence and aggression. A key benefit of the study was the opportunity to respond to the feedback from participants as to possible improvements for the intervention, such as simplifying programme material, maintaining patient motivation, and ensuring effective communication. As such, it offered a number of potential benefits that may maximise a forensic client’s sense of autonomy and freedom of choice, and which has the potential to enhance the motivation to engage.
Carol A. Ireland, Neil Gredecki