Insight and Transference

What therefore can be said on favour of a psychodynamic approach to work with offenders?

  1. Insight

It is quite apparent that intellectual insight into the historical roots of one’s own behaviour and feelings does not produce change. The purpose of exploring past events in the life of offenders is primarily to enhance the understanding of the probation officer rather than to give any direct help to the offender. It does appear that a deeper insight by the client into their past is a sign of positive development. In other words, insight seems to follow improvement rather than cause improvement. Memories that were inaccessible become more readily available.


  1. Transference

A psychodynamic approach should be more interested in the here and now relationship between the offender and probation officer than in past events. It does seem that those events can be reflected in the here and now – this is common territory across all kinds of theories of human behaviour. Psychodynamic theory is especially interested in the way those past experiences may be felt consciously or unconsciously by the ‘client’ as emotions about the worker, or expressed as behaviour towards the worker. It is not clear however that pointing out such reflections is of any help; indeed it may be a hindrance if it moves the work away from the current realities to reminiscences. It can be useful for the worker to understand the reflections however:

  • So as not to take too personally the way the offender may behave
  • So as to recognise the intensity of feeling or strength of denial expressed by the offender
  • To enable responses to be informed

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