Restoring and counseling the formerly incarcerated

When a person is released from prison, they often need to start their lives over. They must find jobs and build positive social networks. However, without finding their own motivation and values, it is difficult for the formerly incarcerated to change. How can we help them with a more holistic approach?

Why traditional counseling is not enough

As a trained therapist with 35 years of experience, Ulf Lidman has helped rehabilitate and restore gang members across Europe. He has seen firsthand what does and doesn’t work when counseling people before and after they leave prison.

There are three things that people seem to focus on when working with former inmates,” Ulf says. “They focus on the person’s need to have a livelihood, on family and parenting skills, and on sticking to the rules of their parole. This is not enough. We need to really engage with the individual to uncover specific solutions that will work for them. What works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for someone else.”

A model for counseling the formerly incarcerated

Based on his experience, Ulf has established a model of how to empower and restore former inmates. Rather than focusing on a few aspects of their lives, the model takes a broad perspective that focuses on everything from daily activities to nurturing their inner lives.

A lot of the people I have worked with have been living with a discrepancy in prison – they haven’t been living according to their core values,” Ulf says. “Now they do want to live according to those values, and live with integrity, so they don’t become a repeat offender. Through my holistic approach, we work with all areas of their life so they can find balance.”

Crisis counseling and Motivational Interviewing

Ulf’s model combines two counseling approaches. Anticipatory Crisis Processing helps former inmates deal with the real challenges and threats they may experience upon leaving prison. Just as important, however, is Motivational Interviewing. This involves the counselor or therapist building a relationship with the client to help them discover their own motivations for changing.

Motivational Interviewing is about evoking their abilities, even if they do not know that they have them,” Ulf says. “Everything they need to get back on track is within themselves, but they need guidance to find it.”

Ulf’s approach puts a strong focus on the practical aspects of their lives. This includes everyday activities and routines, using physical activities to balance the body and mind, and cultivating their inner life. It also involves helping them find positive ways to rest and relax, while abstaining from drugs and alcohol. Finally, the approach emphasizes the importance of finding a way to give back to the community.

Take the next step

If your organization helps prepare prisoners before they are released, or provides counseling for them after their release, Ulf can design a course based on your specific needs. Read more on the pages below.


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