Exploring the experiences of Custodial Managers who have engaged in Guided Reflective Practice as part of their role working in a Youth Offending Institute

  • Naomi Starie Uwins

Student thesis: PsychD


Reflexivity and reflective practice are key components of personal and professional development within the psychology field. Such practices are also more commonplace in nursing through attending supervision, however reflection amongst uniformed prison staff working in the Youth Custody Service (YCS) is a novel venture. Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service has recently introduced Guided Reflective Practice (GRP), a model of supervision, to staff working in the YCS to support them with the emotional impact of their jobs and to enhance professional development through learning via reflection. Despite the emotionally demanding nature of working in prison, surprisingly little attention has been given to workplace support systems available to uniformed forensic staff. Existing literature regarding supervision with other forensic professionals suggests ambivalence towards engaging in such reflective practices, relating to the benefits to their emotional wellbeing and professionalism, alongside the perceived barriers in forensic environments. This Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis study explored Custodial Managers’ (CM) experiences of engaging in GRP to address a gap in the literature and gain greater understanding of GRP with this population. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with six CMs working in a Youth Offending Institute in South England. Transcripts were analysed and two master themes were generated: ‘A clash of two worlds – the complexities of introducing GRP to a prison’, and ‘GRP as a double-edged sword – making sense of the rewards and limitations of GRP’. The results indicated that there are benefits and challenges when engaging in sessions in a forensic environment. This study found engaging in GRP in a prison setting to be a complex phenomenon and presents fascinating paradoxes of participants’ experiences of doing so; staff expressed the need for, and benefit of, having support to manage the emotional impact of their roles through off loading or gaining different perspectives. However, participants also expressed challenges of engaging in GRP in this setting regarding feeling that it was unsafe to express emotions in their work environment. This was seen to clash with the requirement of GRP which encourages staff to access their emotions and reflect on their emotional responses to their work. As such, this study provides insight to GRP’s application- in-practice in a forensic setting and raises awareness of the complex nature of engaging in reflective practice in relation to prison work and the implications these have on practice. The need for careful consideration regarding the implementation and delivery of GRP is discussed, and further exploration into what works to support CMs in their roles is recommended.
Date of Award19 Jul 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Roehampton
SupervisorMark Donati (Director of Studies) & Jasmine Childs-Fegredo (Co-Supervisor)


  • Guided reflective practice
  • youth offending institute
  • reflective practice
  • prison officers

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