“If you work with disturbed people, it is not improbable you will feel disturbed….There is something immeasurably valuable about remaining human when confronted with those people in most pain and conflict.”(Hinshelwood)
How do professionals working with the most severely disturbed service users maintain their sanity and remain open and receptive?
The psychopathology of the most seriously troubled individuals is contagious. Their pain, trauma, suffering and conflict often disturb the professionals looking after them. Professionals frequently experience an explicit or implicit expectation that they should be immune from anxiety and emotional distress in their work, yet their experience is very different from this. It is in the nature of close contact with complex personality pathology that we are disturbed. There is the ever present risk that this can result in professionals disengaging from the task, their team and their clients which can be corrosive to professional identity and to the culture of the work setting.
Supervision and consultation can provide a safe setting in which the challenges of the work with dangerous individuals can be considered, which can lead to more secure and less risky working practices.
In our work with the workers we aim to provide a way of thinking about and making sense of their and their client’s behaviour and to help them manage the emotional impact of this work. Our aim is to help professionals contain what is often experienced as unmanageable, whilst remaining humane and compassionate. This often results in the professional feeling more enlivened, and engaged with their work and their clients.
This conference will be relevant to all those working across the boundary of health and criminal justice. Our 2 main speakers, and several of the workshop leaders, work in The Portman Clinic, an NHS forensic psychotherapy clinic which specialises in offering long‐term psychoanalytically informed psychotherapy to people of all ages who suffer from problems arising from delinquent, criminal, violent and damaging sexual behaviours, and consultation, supervision and teaching to those working with the forensic and personality disordered population.