In my experience, depression is a common issue for offenders. With this in mind, it is important to understand how a practitioner can deal with depression if it is linked to offending behaviour.
In this short article, I will seek to begin to offer a solution to this. To do so, I will firstly consider what I term as “essential knowledge” and then suggest a useful skill that you (should you be a practitioner) may wish to consider using.
This is the first thing I would advise, and it’s rather simple!
– Signpost to a General Practitioner (GP)
Most of us in the criminal justice system will not be medically qualified to deal directly with depression as an illness, and thus I would suggest signposting and encouraging offenders to visit their GP should you believe depression is an issue. Here, their GP can discuss and work with the offender to consider possible medication or access to therapies.
Note: When an offender does see a GP about the issue, it is wise to monitor and discuss their progress.
I have termed this part ‘useful skill’. This relates more specifically to a Cognitive Behaviour Therapy skill you can use to great effect. Firstly, however, it is important to understand the following on a very basic level:
– Thoughts, feelings and behaviour are all linked. Change or alter a thought and the resultant feelings and behaviour will also change / alter.
So how do you change / alter thoughts? Here is a useful exercise (try to encourage this on a daily basis):
Step 1: Ask the offender to write down, in their phone or on a piece of paper, their achievements from each day. This can be anything from going to the gym to meeting a friend.
Step 2: After they have done this, ask them to write next to each of these successes what personal characteristics they carry that helped them achieve it e.g. I am a kind person or I am reliable. (Tip – start always start with – I am…)
Step 3: Review this list frequently during the week.
So what is the purpose of this? People tend to attach meanings to things that happen in their lives naturally. For a depressed person, this is usually a negative thought, therefore, by focusing on our achievements and qualities we can start to see ourselves more positively and identify our personal characteristics, thus building self esteem.
Should you wish to see more articles relating to working with offenders then please explore our website and check regularly for updates.
Interested in related books? Please check out: Reoffending: A practitioner’s guide to working with offenders and offending behaviour in the Criminal Justice System
Are you interested in looking at Cognitive Behaviour Therapy exercises that you can carry out with offenders? If so, have a look at, The Victim Awareness Workbook