|By Alecia D. Chahine LMSW
An article I wrote was published on corrections.com last March and a year has almost past,
[Positive Psychology Group Therapy for Maximum Security Male Inmates: Identifying, Nurturing, and Enhancing Strengths and Virtues].
I have learned so much since writing this, but don’t get me wrong, I am still a rookie prison therapist. The article was about a therapy group that I started at a maximum security prison for inmates serving long-term or life- term sentences. This group (Positive Psychology Group Therapy for Long-Term Incarceration) covers fundamental topics of Positive Psychology, but it is geared more towards the incarcerated individual with the unique culture of prison in mind. I was so excited when the article was published. I felt almost relieved. When I first began writing the article my primary motivation was to get the group information out there as quickly as possible. I was scared that due to the strict movement towards evidence-based treatment that the group would be discontinued. The effectiveness of a Positive Psychology Group for long-term prisoners was/is empirically unknown. I was always thinking that the strong focus on recidivism would leave these lifers in the dust. For example, these inmates already often get excluded from programs simply because they have too much time to serve. Like I said, when the article was published I was so excited. The group participants, my coworkers, and several of the correctional staff also expressed their excitement and support. But the surprising part was what happened next. I started receiving emails from helping professionals and graduate students from all over the United States (and a few from Australia). Many of these individuals requested resources, suggestions, and further information about the Positive Psychology group. Some even expressed their frustration with how little is offered to the lifers at their facilities.
So many things have happened since the article was published; one of them being that the group was almost discontinued. Due to the continued support from my supervisors, the fantastic work that each group has put forward, and due to the motivation that I received from all of the email responses, I began to write a group manual. One of my supervisors explained that if I wanted to show the effectiveness of the therapy group, I would need to manualize it. This process was far more intense and time consuming than I ever could have imagined, but I completed the manual and I started utilizing it immediately. Each group participant received a copy and we just started to try it out. So far it is going wonderfully. I will probably always want to make minor adjustments until I get it just right, but with the help and feedback of the inmates I have a final product and it has been published for purchase.
Since the Positive Psychology Group Therapy for Long-Term Incarceration is now complete, we plan on beginning the initial stages of research. Hopefully, in time and when the research is complete, we will all be able to say that utilizing this type of therapeutic model is effective and evidence-based for the prison population.
More information may be requested from the author: firstname.lastname@example.org
Corrections.com author, Alecia Douglas Chahine LCSW, has a background in psychology, philosophy and social work and is a graduate of Gonzaga University and The University of Kansas. She has been working in corrections for over 7 years and continues to provide mental health services at a state prison and at a county jail. Alecia’s primary interest involves the movement towards a more humanistic strengths-based therapeutic approach and the impact that humor plays in the therapeutic process. Alecia published a therapy manual in 2014 (Positive Psychology Group Therapy for Long-Term Incarceration: A Therapy Manual), which is now being utilized across the country in a variety of settings. If you have any questions or comments, please contact Alecia by email: PrisonPositivePsychology@gmail.com
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