From the inside : a qualitative study of counsellors’ experiences of working in prisons.
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Counselling
This qualitative study sought to explore the experiences of counsellors’ working in prisons, with an aim to discovering what drew them to the work, what they expected it to be like and what the reality of the experience was. The four participants were all counsellors currently working one-to-one with inmates in prisons in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Rich and detailed data was gathered through semi-structured interviews and analysed using narrative thematic analysis. Three key themes were identified as participants shared their personal narrative: working within the prison context, aspects of the counselling work that are specific to working in a prison and the counsellor’s personal journey. Detailed descriptions of the themes and the participants’ personal stories are reviewed in relation to existing literature. The findings show that counselling work in prisons is challenging and very different to counselling in a normal setting. The participants were passionate about their work and had strong opinions on how prisons were organised and what they offered inmates.
There is a large amount of literature pertaining to the challenges of working in a prison and limited literature concerning why people choose to work in prison, how they experience it and the rewards associated with the work. This study adds to that literature. Implications for practice and recommendations for further research are also included.