Practitioners working with personality disordered offenders face substantial challenges in their day-to-day work. Given that personality disorder is characterised by an ingrained pattern of maladaptive behaviours that are damaging to the individual or others around them, working with this client group can raise very strong opinions and high emotions in individual practitioners and staff teams. Furthermore, unexpected behaviours and high re-offending or drop out rates can be very demoralising. Examples might include the offender who:

  • functions well in the prison environment and does well in prison offending behaviour programmes, but reacts desperately when released into the community or when they are coming towards the end of their period under licence supervision
  • appears calm, in control and motivated to improve things and then chaotically self-harms soon afterwards
  • appears to want and need help but is hostile, insulting, undermining and belittling of your attempts to help him/her
  • constantly checks and suspects our motives, withholds information and frequently tests whether our reliability is good enough
  • talks about the harm they have caused to others but calmly rationalises, minimises or denies it
  • places high demands on staff time, with a sense of entitlement, hostility and verbal abuse
  • appears to be making good progress, but continues to offend or behave antisocially.

On the surface, these perplexing behaviours reflect very complex difficulties that have developed over a lifetime as a result of the complicated and unique interaction of temperamental, psychological, social and environmental factors.