Connecting with clients: Building therapeutic alliances with people who are incarcerated

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Deborah Denton and Linda Grenade



Prison counselling is often regarded as involving additional challenges to those generally faced by practitioners working within the community. One of the most critical relates to the worker–client therapeutic alliance and how this can best be established. Drawing on data collected as part of a broader doctoral study, this paper describes various ways in which prison counsellors attempt to engage with their clientele in a meaningful and productive way. Analysis of relevant qualitative data identified four themes as particularly salient. These were trust, listening, authenticity, and a non-judgemental attitude. Examples of specific strategies employed by practitioners related to each of these themes are provided. They demonstrate that despite the demands of working within a prison context, meaningful connections that help to promote a client’s wellbeing and personal growth can be achieved.


Keywords: prison counselling, incarcerated individuals, relationship, therapeutic alliance


Address for Correspondence
Dr. Deborah Denton