Forensic Psychology, Psychology, Winter postcards from our modules

A winter postcard from module DD310 Counselling and forensic psychology; investigating crime and therapy

We continue our series of winter postcards from the School’s modules, written by the academics who work mostly closely with students and tutors, the Staff Tutors. They write about what’s happening on each module at this point in the year. Today Stephen Robinson writes from DD310 Counselling and Forensic Psychology: Investigating Crime and Therapy.

Hi, I’m Stephen Robinson and I’m staff tutor in the School of Psychology and Counselling and a member of the DD310 module team. I have also worked as an associate lecturer on the module since it began in 2017.

DD310 is a fascinating module that explores intersections between counselling and forensic psychology.  It considers a wide range of issues, such as how crime is represented within society and the media, as well as the effects of labelling people as ‘mad’ or ‘bad’ on the treatment they receive. The module takes a critical approach, exploring the impact of sociocultural factors on development and on the likelihood of entering the criminal justice system. It also explores a range of therapeutic approaches and considers the challenges that therapists face when working in forensic settings.

What’s happening on DD310 at the moment? 

The current block, which runs until the end of January, focuses on the topic of sex and sexuality in mental health and crime. Students will explore several different aspects of sexual identities and practices, such as how victims and perpetrators of sex crimes, as well as people with diverse sexual identities and practices, are treated within counselling and forensic contexts. For example, should perpetrators of sex crimes, be considered as ‘mad’ or ‘bad’ and how should they be treated within the criminal justice system?

What are students enjoying about this module?

Many students seem to enjoy learning about different types of counselling, (psychodynamic, mindfulness based, cognitive behavioural therapies and systemic approaches) as well as exploring how the process of counselling becomes increasingly challenging for both therapists and prisoners, within forensic settings. They also tend to enjoy learning about HMP Grendon, which is the only prison in the UK that operates as a therapeutic community, with a focus on group therapy and structured community living.

What do you find interesting about DD310?

I find the material on media representations of crime fascinating. For example, why do female murderers tend to be vilified within the media, despite the fact that most murders are committed by men?  Such questions allow students to explore the impact of cultural influences on how crime is understood and represented within the media and wider society.

This has led to some fantastic tutorial discussions about factors that influence the way in which crime is reported and many students have told me that, the module has helped them to develop a much better understanding of the media, by viewing it through a much more critical and evaluative lens. This is great learning for third level study, where there is a great deal of emphasis on critical evaluation of all sources.

What message would you send to current and future DD310 students?

To current students I would urge you to ensure that, as well as reading the text book carefully, you should spend plenty of time on the module website, as the video resources for DD310 are excellent and really help to bring the material to life. In Block 4 for example, which considerers different types of counselling, there are video clips of counselling sessions (using actors) that will really improve your understanding of what each perspective involves and of what it may have to offer to clients.

To current and future students, I would say that good self-care is very important whilst studying the module, as it includes a range of sensitive topics that relate to many of our lives, including crime, sexual crime and sex and sexuality.  The module team have ensured that such material is well sign-posted and, where there are topics that are potentially sensitive or triggering, students will have the choice of a second topic for their TMA.

Of course, the sensitive topics in DD310 reflect the fact that both counselling and forensic psychology are applied disciplines that deal with challenging real-life situations.  Hence the module provides a great opportunity to develop a good understanding of these disciplines and of their application within complex real-world settings.


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