Article Data

  • Views 409
  • Dowloads 151

Rapid Report

Open Access Special Issue

Healing trauma in a traumatising environment with young adult men

  • Laura E. McMinn1,*,
  • Geraldine Akerman1
  • Eileen Gaffney2

1Barnet Enfield and Haringey NHS Mental Health Trust, N15 3TH London, UK

2HM Prison & Probation Service, SW1H 9AJ London, UK

DOI: 10.22514/jomh.2024.016 Vol.20,Issue 1,January 2024 pp.120-126

Submitted: 03 August 2023 Accepted: 17 October 2023

Published: 30 January 2024

*Corresponding Author(s): Laura E. McMinn E-mail:


In this article, the authors outline the interventions offered by the Offender Personality Disorder (OPD) Pathways Complex Needs Service (PCNS) in a Young Offenders Institute and Category C men’s prison for addressing trauma with young adult men within the prison environment and highlight the challenges of trauma-informed practice and interventions within this context. The importance of collaborative work with the young men will be emphasised within the development of clinical formulations and responsive treatment plans. Direct and non-direct trauma therapies offered by the PCNS will be outlined (e.g., Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing (EMDR) Therapy, sensory approaches). The article will emphasise the importance of adopting a multidisciplinary and system-wide approach to healing trauma, and the crucial role of the PCNS prison officers. The various clinical spaces available for staff to process traumatogenic material will be highlighted as key to maintaining staff wellbeing and resilience. A reflection from a prison officer working in the service will be provided. This article aims to highlight the importance of adopting a holistic and system-wide approach to healing trauma for young men in custody.


Trauma-informed practice; Trauma; Young offenders institute; Prison officer; Young offender; Offender personality disorder; OPD

Cite and Share

Laura E. McMinn,Geraldine Akerman,Eileen Gaffney. Healing trauma in a traumatising environment with young adult men. Journal of Men's Health. 2024. 20(1);120-126.


[1] Maruna S, Mann R. Reconciling ‘Desistance’ and ‘What Works’. 2019. Available at: (Accessed: 11 February 2023).

[2] Levenson JS, Grady MD. The influence of childhood trauma on sexual violence and sexual deviance in adulthood. Traumatology. 2016; 22: 94–103.

[3] Taylor J. Compassion focussed working in secure forensic care. Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice. 2017; 3: 287–293.

[4] Johnstone L, Boyle M. The power threat meaning framework: towards the identification of patterns in emotional distress, unusual experiences and troubled or troubling behaviour, as an alternative to functional psychiatric diagnosis. Counselling Psychology Review. 2018; 33: 57–59.

[5] Beyond Youth Custody. Trauma and young offenders: a review of the research and practice literature. 2016. Available at: (Accessed: 11 February 2023).

[6] Streeck-Fischer A, van der Kolk BA. Down will come baby, cradle and all: Diagnostic and therapeutic implications of chronic trauma on childhood development. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry. 2000; 34: 903–918.

[7] Cohen S, Taylor L. Psychological survival: the experience of long-term imprisonment. 1st edn. Penguin Books Ltd: London. 1972.

[8] Haney C. The psychological effects of imprisonment. In J. Petersilia, K. R. Reitz (eds). The Oxford Handbook of Sentencing and Corrections (pp. 584–605). 1st edn. Oxford University Press: Oxford. 2012.

[9] Ismail N, Forrester A. The state of English prisons and the urgent need for reform. The Lancet Public Health. 2020; 5: e368–e369.

[10] Facer-Irwin E, Karatzias T, Bird A, Blackwood N, MacManus D. PTSD and complex PTSD in sentenced male prisoners in the UK: prevalence, trauma antecedents, and psychiatric comorbidities. Psychological Medicine. 2022; 52: 2794–2804.

[11] HM Prison & Probation Service. Prison Drugs Strategy. 2019. Available at: (Accessed: 11 February 2023)

[12] Violence involving prisoners. 2021. Available at: (Accessed: 11 February 2023).

[13] National Offender Management Service. The offender personality disorder pathway strategy. 2015. Available at: (Accessed: 16 September 2023).

[14] Skett S, Lewis C. Development of the offender personality disorder pathway: a summary of the underpinning evidence. Probation Journal. 2019; 66: 167–180.

[15] Akerman G, Needs A, Bainbridge C. Transforming environments and rehabilitation: a guide for practitioners in forensic settings and criminal justice. 1st edn. Taylor Francis Group: London. 2018.

[16] Levenson JS, Prescott DS, Willis GM. Trauma-informed treatment practices in criminal justice settings. Handbook of Issues in Criminal Justice Reform in the United States. 2022; 30: 483–502.

[17] Office for Health Improvement & Disparities. Guidance: working definition of trauma-informed practice. 2022. Available at: (Accessed: 11 February 2023).

[18] Harris M, Fallot RD. Using trauma theory to design service systems. 1st edn. Jossey-Bass/Wiley: San Francisco. 2001.

[19] Ross MW, Diamond PM, Liebling A, Saylor WG. Measurement of prison social climate. Punishment & Society. 2008; 10: 447–474.

[20] Hunter S, Craig E, Shaw J. “Give it a Try”: experiences of black, Asian and minority ethnic young men in a prison-based offender personality disorder service. Journal of Forensic Practice. 2019; 21: 14–26.

[21] Moskowitz A, Heinimaa M, van der Hart O. Defining psychosis, trauma, and dissociation. Psychosis, Trauma and Dissociation. 2018; 1: 7–29.

[22] Gibbs M, Griffiths M, Dilks S. A grounded theory of how service users experience and make use of formulation in therapy for psychosis. Psychosis. 2020; 12: 245–256.

[23] Redhead S, Johnstone L, Nightingale J. Clients’ experiences of formulation in cognitive behaviour therapy. Psychology and Psychotherapy: Theory, Research and Practice. 2015; 88: 453–467.

[24] Brown JD, King MA, Wissow LS. The central role of relationships with trauma-informed integrated care for children and youth. Academic Pediatrics. 2017; 17: S94–S101.

[25] Perry B, Szalavitz M. The boy who was raised as a dog. 3rd edn. Basic Books: NY. 2017.

[26] Treisman K. Working with relational and developmental trauma in children and adolescents. 1st edn. Routledge/Taylor & Francis Group: London. 2017.

[27] Siegel DJ. The developing mind: how relationships and the brain interact to shape who we are. 3rd edn. The Guilford Press: NY. 2020.

[28] Bordin ES. The generalizability of the psychoanalytic concept of the working alliance. Psychotherapy. 1979; 16: 252–260.

[29] Baldwin SA, Wampold BE, Imel ZE. Untangling the alliance-outcome correlation: exploring the relative importance of therapist and patient variability in the alliance. Journal of Consulting Clinical Psychology. 2007; 75: 842–852.

[30] Sturm A, de Vogel V, Huibers MJ. Two sides of the working alliance: a qualitative study from the perspective of both probationers and probation officers. European Journal of Probation. 2022; 14: 40–59.

[31] Bourgon G, Guiterrez L. The importance of building good relationships in community corrections: evidence, theory and practice of the therapeutic alliance. In P. Ugwudike & P. Raynor (eds.) What Works in Offender Compliance (pp. 256–275). 1st edn. Palgrave Macmillan: London. 2013.

[32] Andrews DA, Bonta J. Rehabilitating criminal justice policy and practice. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law. 2010; 16: 39–55.

[33] Skuse T, Matthew J. The trauma recovery model: sequencing youth justice interventions for young people with complex needs. Prison Service Journal. 2015; 220: 16–25.

[34] Taylor J, Akerman G. Compassion focused cultures: introducing compassion into a democratic therapeutic community. Abuse: An international Impact Journal. 2022; 3: 24–45.

[35] Taylor J, Hocken K. Hurt people hurt people: using a trauma sensitive and compassion focused approach to support people to understand and manage their criminogenic needs. The Journal of Forensic Practice. 2021; 23: 301–315.

[36] Livesley WJ. Integrated treatment: a conceptual framework for an evidence-based approach to the treatment of personality disorder. Journal of Personality Disorders. 2012; 26: 17–42.

[37] Youssef C. The importance of the therapeutic alliance when working with men who have committed a sexual offence. Journal of Criminal Psychology. 2017; 7: 206–220.

[38] HM Inspectorate of Probation. Desistance: general practice principles. 2020. Available at:,some%20false%20stops%20and%20starts (Accessed: 11 February 2023).

[39] Porges SW. The polyvagal theory: neurophysiological foundations of emotions, attachment, communication, and self-regulation. 1st edn. W. W. Norton & Company: London. 2011.

[40] van der Kolk BA. Developmental trauma disorder: toward a rational diagnosis for children with complex trauma histories. Psychiatric Annals. 2005; 35: 401–408.

[41] Duke NN, Pettingell SL, McMorris BJ, Borowsky IW. Adolescent violence perpetration: associations with multiple types of adverse childhood experiences. Pediatrics. 2010; 125: e778–e786.

[42] Fox BH, Perez N, Cass E, Baglivio MT, Epps N. Trauma changes everything: examining the relationship between adverse childhood experiences and serious, violent and chronic juvenile offenders. Child Abuse & Neglect. 2015; 46: 163–173.

[43] Gilbert P. The evolved functions of caring connections as a basis for compassion. In P. Gilbert, G. Simos (eds.) Compassion Focused Therapy: Clinical Practice and Applications (pp. 90–121). 1st edn. Routledge: Abingdon. 2020.

[44] Young JE, Klosko JS, Weishaar ME. Schema therapy: a practitioner’s guide. 1st edn. Guilford Press: New York. 2003.

[45] Bateman A, Fonagy P. Mentalization based treatment for borderline personality disorder. World Psychiatry. 2010; 9: 11–15.

[46] Shapiro F. Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) therapy: basic principles, protocols, and procedures. 3rd edn. Guilford Press: NY. 2017.

[47] Douglas KS, Hart SD, Webster CD, Belfrage H. HCR-20 Version 3. Mental Health, Law, and Policy Institute, Simon Fraser University. 2013.

[48] Kropp PR, Hart D. SARA-V3: user manual for version 3 of the spousal assault risk assessment guide. Proactive Resolutions. 2015.

[49] Ward T, Fortune C. The good lives model: aligning risk reduction with promoting offenders’ personal goals. European Journal of Probation. 2013; 5: 29–46.

[50] Bond N, Gemmell L. Experiences of prison officers on a lifer psychologically informed planned environment. Therapeutic Communities: The International Journal of Therapeutic Communities. 2014; 35: 84–94.

[51] Del Re AC, Flückiger C, Horvath AO, Wampold BE. Examining therapist effects in the alliance-outcome relationship: a multilevel meta-analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 2021; 89: 371–378.

[52] Flückiger C, Del Re AC, Wampold BE, Horvath AO. The alliance in adult psychotherapy: a meta-analytic synthesis. Psychotherapy. 2018; 55: 316–340.

[53] Horvath AO, Bedi R. The alliance. In J. C. Norcross (ed.). Psychotherapy Relationships That Work: Therapist Contributions and Responsiveness to Patients (pp. 37–70). 1st edn. Oxford University Press: New York. 2002.

[54] Horvath AO, Del Re AC, Flückiger C, Symonds D. Alliance in individual psychotherapy. Psychotherapy. 2011; 48: 9–16.

[55] Flückiger C, Rubel J, Del Re AC, Horvath AO, Wampold BE, Crits-Christoph P, et al. The reciprocal relationship between alliance and early treatment symptoms: a two-stage individual participant data meta-analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology. 2020; 88: 829–843.

[56] HM Prison & Probation Service. Understanding prison violence: a rapid evidence assessment. 2018. Available at: (Accessed: 11 February 2023).

[57] Ismail N. After a decade of austerity, urgent changes are needed to improve prison services. University of Bristol Policy Report 79. 2022. Available at: (Accessed: 11 February 2023).

[58] Sturge G. UK Prison Population Statistics. House of Commons Library. 2022. Available at: (Accessed: 11 February 2023).

[59] Bourbonnais R, Jauvin N, Dussault J, Vézina M. Psychosocial work environment, interpersonal violence at work and mental health among correctional officers. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry. 2007; 30: 355–368.

[60] King A, Oliver C. A qualitative study exploring vicarious trauma in prison officers. Prison Service Journal. 2020; 251: 38–45.

[61] Frost L, Scott H. What is known about the secondary traumatization of staff working with offending populations? A review of the literature. Traumatology. 2022; 28: 56–73.

[62] Binley J. The experience of post-traumatic stress disorder in ex-prison officers. Prison Service Journal. 2023; 267: 66–74.

[63] Kinman G, Clements AJ, Hart J. Job demands, resources and mental health in UK prison officers. Occupational Medicine. 2017; 67: 456–460.

[64] Kinman G, Clements AJ. Sickness presenteeism in prison officers: risk factors and implications for wellbeing and productivity. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2022; 19: 3389.

[65] Walker EJ, Jackson CA, Egan HH, Tonkin M. Workability and mental wellbeing among therapeutic prison officers. Occupational Medicine. 2015; 65: 549–551.

[66] Dennard S, Tracy DK, Beeney A, Craster L, Bailey F, Baureek A, et al. Working in a prison: challenges, rewards, and the impact on mental health and well-being. The Journal of Forensic Practice. 2021; 23: 132–149.

[67] Taylor J, Shostak L, Rogers A, Mitchell P. Rethinking mental health provision in the secure estate for children and young people: a framework for integrated care (SECURE STAIRS). Safer Communities. 2018; 17: 193–201.

Abstracted / indexed in

Science Citation Index Expanded (SciSearch) Created as SCI in 1964, Science Citation Index Expanded now indexes over 9,200 of the world’s most impactful journals across 178 scientific disciplines. More than 53 million records and 1.18 billion cited references date back from 1900 to present.

Journal Citation Reports/Science Edition Journal Citation Reports/Science Edition aims to evaluate a journal’s value from multiple perspectives including the journal impact factor, descriptive data about a journal’s open access content as well as contributing authors, and provide readers a transparent and publisher-neutral data & statistics information about the journal.

Directory of Open Access Journals (DOAJ) DOAJ is a unique and extensive index of diverse open access journals from around the world, driven by a growing community, committed to ensuring quality content is freely available online for everyone.

SCImago The SCImago Journal & Country Rank is a publicly available portal that includes the journals and country scientific indicators developed from the information contained in the Scopus® database (Elsevier B.V.)

Publication Forum - JUFO (Federation of Finnish Learned Societies) Publication Forum is a classification of publication channels created by the Finnish scientific community to support the quality assessment of academic research.

Scopus: CiteScore 0.7 (2022) Scopus is Elsevier's abstract and citation database launched in 2004. Scopus covers nearly 36,377 titles (22,794 active titles and 13,583 Inactive titles) from approximately 11,678 publishers, of which 34,346 are peer-reviewed journals in top-level subject fields: life sciences, social sciences, physical sciences and health sciences.

Norwegian Register for Scientific Journals, Series and Publishers Search for publication channels (journals, series and publishers) in the Norwegian Register for Scientific Journals, Series and Publishers to see if they are considered as scientific. (

Submission Turnaround Time