It will be clear by now that there is no way of understanding the development of personality disorder without TAKING A HISTORY. Understandably, this may not be possible at the first meeting, but should be a priority during the first few weeks of contact with the individual offender. The primary purpose of a personal, family and social history is to understand the developmental pathway, resulting in the emergence of problematic relationships and behaviours in adulthood. This approach is not at odds with a primary duty to protect the public, as understanding the relationship between personality disorder and offending is a crucial element in developing an effective risk management plan. However, there are additional benefits to history taking, most important being the positive effect of striving to work with the individual in arriving at a greater understanding of the person; this greatly improves the chances of engaging in a collaborative relationship.
OASys clearly contains within it all the relevant categories for an assessment – with sections on childhood problems, relationship difficulties, experiences of education, employment and criminogenic attitudes. However, understanding the development of attachment is dependent on a rather explorative (or ‘curious’) approach which requires qualitative information to develop a meaningful story of development which has explanatory value. This is not always easy, as personality disordered individuals may struggle to access their own thoughts, feelings and reflections on their life. The Assessing Attachment Tips below highlight some of the key issues.
The reality is that some interviews proceed fairly smoothly, while others are more challenging. With experience, interviewers can develop their own ways of gaining quality information from reluctant or emotionally inarticulate individual offenders.
Assessing Attachment – Tips