Struggle to integrate psychodynamic work into offender supervision 2

I think that I was also aware of a not entirely honest process of re-writing and describing social work history to suit a dismissal of psycho dynamically informed ideas about change. From the time of my entry into the profession, psychodynamic approaches to the work seemed to attract hostility and I always felt at odds with the prevailing fashions in this respect. The fashionable argument was that social work and probation in particular had been dominated by a kind of Freudian psychodynamic ideology. Shoplifting as a sexual offence was the sort of interpretation that was mocked. A more materialistic approach was preferred – shoplifting was about money and a reflection of poverty and inequality. It was in fact not easy to find these quasi-Freudian practitioners in the probation service at a time when there was a significant tradition of mature recruits often from the forces – not the most obvious recruiting ground for the psycho-analytically inclined.

The material realities of what actually happened between probation officer and client did not really come into the equation when such a neat theory of historical progression in which the radical new could rebel against the ‘establishment’ old, was available. There was the other convenient component of this theory of the new, that I mentioned when discussing the importance of history taking. This, encouraged I fear by many of those interested in psychodynamic work and adopted wholesale in popular descriptions of counselling on TV, saw psychodynamic work as a search for the unconscious feelings and wishes that were believed to drive neurotic and troubled behaviours. This search was characterised it was believed by an attempt to interpret current behaviour in the light of past traumas, which if brought to consciousness would release the individual to a life of greater maturity freed from the destructive problems that had brought them to trouble or breakdown. This was the extension of the shoplifting as a sexual offence ‘joke’ to the ‘shoplifting was caused by being fed on the wrong breast as an infant’ joke!


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