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Psychological Services

Introduction

Sentenced offenders, probationers and persons under Correctional Supervision have equal access to needs based psychological services, despite the limited number of psychologists in DCS, in order to maintain their emotional well-being, promote continued effective functioning and to improve their quality of life.

The Primary Responsibility of the Psychologist

The primary responsibility of the psychologist in the Department of Correctional Services is the management of a psychological/mental health programme where the offender is assisted to adjust in a correctional centre, learn new coping skills and to prevent re- offending behaviour.

Function of the Psychologist

The main functions of the psychologist entail assessment, diagnosis and treatment of sentenced offenders, probationers and persons under Correctional Supervision.  Assessment and diagnosis are continuous functions which commences directly after the person has been referred to the psychologist.  Assessment is done in order to get a complete picture of the person's general functioning.  During evaluation, various methods can be used to obtain information, namely interviewing, psychometric tests and observation of persons in group situations, feedback from functional personnel, as well as consultation with family members and/or persons who have the necessary information about the person. This information serves as the basis for making a diagnosis and decision regarding an appropriate treatment programme for the offender, probationer or person under Correctional Supervision.

Participation in programmes is mainly voluntary, except in those cases in which it is necessary to expect participation from a person in a certain programme (for example when the Court recommends that an offender should receive psychological treatment). The offender, probationer or person under Correctional Supervision, however, is also responsible for making use of all other opportunities, facilities and/or care and development services at their disposal.

Target Groups for Psychological Treatment

Due to a lack of human resources and scarcity of psychologists nationally – not only in DCS - all sentenced offenders, probationers or persons under Correctional Supervision cannot receive psychological treatment as is the case elsewhere in the World. This necessitates prioritization of psychological services. Psychologists mainly attend to the following target groups:

·        Suicide risks

·        Court referrals

·       Persons who have previously received psychiatric or psychological treatment and /or who are mentally ill

·       Youth and Females

·        Aggressive and/or sexual offenders

·        Persons who request to see a psychologist

Treatment Methods

In all cases the most appropriate therapeutic technique is determined by the individual needs of the offender, probationer or person under Correctional Supervision.

The following treatment methods are used:

Individual Psychotherapy

Owing to the nature and extent of the problems of some sentenced offenders, probationers or personnel members, individual therapy is sometimes necessitated. This therapeutic method makes provision for a person to receive intensive attention for an individual problem in a one-on-one relationship. The consequence of this intensive form of therapy is, however, that only a limited number of persons have access to psychological services at a given time.

Within this context the therapist/psychologist can make use of various techniques in order to assist the person to acquire more socially acceptable behavioural patterns, deal with and control anxiety, stress or aggressive impulses.

Group Therapy

In group therapy more than one offender, probationer or persons under Correctional Supervision are involved in psychological treatment at a time (approximately 8 to 12 persons). This method of treatment is more economical, especially when it comes to general/similar problems which have to be dealt with, since more than one person can be involved at the same time.

Such a group forms a micro-cosmos in which those involved can learn behavioural patterns which are socially more acceptable and in which they can improve or expand their interpersonal skills.

Couples and/or Family Therapy

As the family is the primary system in which the individual functioned prior to his/her conviction and to which he/she will return after having served his/her sentence, it is important that problems which couples or families may experience and which could lead to re-offending should be solved within this context. This form of therapy provides for family ties to be strengthened and for mutual adaptation to be facilitated during the sentence or after release.

Structured Programmes

Structured programmes (e.g. anger management programmes) are rendered to sentenced offenders, probationers and persons under Correctional Supervision by psychologists with the cooperation of other professionals (e.g. social workers and functional personnel) in an attempt to create a safe, therapeutic and stimulating environment.

Conclusion

In order to promote Psychological Services in the Department, psychologists are expected to constantly evaluate their methods, approaches and techniques scientifically and to keep abreast with changing needs and circumstances, and to conduct research projects where possible.