Western Australia always a wonderful experience

Recently we took our team back to Perth to support the program work undertaken by WA Department of Corrective Services. During this trip we were able to trial a number of new training packages to enhance practice. The ten days was a busy time working with a wide range of groups who both support and run intervention with offenders. Along with facilitation skills, we delivered packages on case formulation, supporting offenders in change work, intervention skills in working with female offenders, and supervision training.

Offender group work facilitation skills: Offender group work is different from other forms of group interventions. The key purposes are to assist in developing pro-social identity, shifting cognitive distortions and schema that support offending, and rebuild empathic relationships with others. In this course we worked with several practical ideas related to making group work come alive for participants. There a number of key ideas that we think are important in offender focussed group work, one of which is matching offender needs (criminogenic) to content of interventions.

Case formulation training: Case formulation in simple terms seeks to answer the question: “What’s going on and what are we going to do about it”. Firstly, there is a top-down process of cognitive behavioural theory providing clinically useful descriptive frameworks. Secondly, the formulation enables practitioners and offenders to make explanatory inferences about what caused and maintains the presenting issues. Thirdly, case formulation explicitly and centrally informs intervention. Case formulation is a cornerstone of evidence-based CBT practice. This training used case studies to develop formulations that bridge between practice and theory and research.

Supervision of offender group work: There are few human service contexts which rival the challenges posed to those working with criminal justice populations. ‘Offenders’ (an organisationally derived term applied for economy of description rather than rehabilitative value) are a mandated population and are often ambivalent about change. In addition to the challenges posed by offender motivational and personality issues, the nature of offending (and in particular violent and sexual offending), the desire to make a difference and the persistent pressure to accurately judge risk and safety issues can all contribute to worker fatigue, stress and burnout.

Supervision, as one means by which some of the challenges outlined above can be met, can be viewed as an investment by Correctional organisations in the wellbeing of those who work most directly as change agents. In addition to the promotion of wellbeing, supervision has an important function in the professional development of competent and effective human service workers.

This training will be based around Rubel and Okech’s Supervision of Group Work model (SGW) which differentiates between three different roles held by the supervisor, three different foci of the supervision process itself, and three different levels of interaction that occur within the group. In particular, it is able to integrate and be responsive to the interactions of the various roles of the supervisor, the skills and approach of the facilitator, and the background, culture and needs of individuals within the group and as a whole group.

Supporting offenders in change: One of the key challenges that exist for any correctional system is to ensure that the right people access the right interventions at the right time. Embedded in this notion is the idea of the right people also need to be treatment ready to maximise the opportunity they are afforded through program access. This training will explore a number of key steps, as well as skills, that those working with offenders the best chance of success. The idea of integrated and collaborative practice with internal as well external program providers will also be covered as building an audience for change has been equated with embedding long-term change. The training considered the possibility that extending collaborative practice to the family system of the offender has merit.

Intervention skills for working with female offenders: This training will provide staff with opportunities for reviewing current perspectives on what works for women offenders. The importance of assessment information and comprehensive formulation, and intervention planning are other themes that emerge. There will be some ‘hands on’ practice in groups, and ways of working with difficult presentations by female offenders. Feedback on group facilitation and psychotherapy skills was provided.

In addition we spent three days consulting with a wide range of DCS staff over practice issues (family violence with indigenous offenders, high risk family violence offenders) as well as contributing to program design for high risk female offenders.

Published on Monday, November 14th, 2011, under Learning & development, Programme design & development, What Ken thinks

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