Working as a probation officer can be emotionally exhausting. The workload with complex cases can be difficult, but many clients have mental health problems. With increased pressure on the system, some of these issues have intensified. That’s why probation officers need to know how and when to access bespoke treatment support and emotional healthcare for clients. With prompt action, and positive ways of encouraging them to access treatment programs, your client can get the support they need, and you can combine their goals with your supportive work on rehabilitation.
The number of offenders on probation with mental health problems is high. It is estimated that many have a psychiatric problem ranging from addictive behavior to depression and that this increases in ex-offenders. People with mental health problems have a higher risk of physical health disorders. This not only impacts your caseload and the time you have to support each client but can affect the future rehabilitation of the client. If you are working in an environment with high caseloads and high numbers of people with mental health needs, you are also vulnerable to emotional health problems. It is vital that you realize you are not alone with this issue and the client is also not alone with their health problem. That’s a really important concept to get across to people as they frequently feel isolated, particularly when burdened with the stigma of being an ex-offender.
Many offenders and those on probation with mental health needs do not access services to help them with behavior issues, anger management, or rehabilitation treatment. Without help, they have a higher risk of re-offending and ending up back in the prison service. There are many positive opportunities for probation officers to work in partnership with the mental health team to ensure people can access care early and get support with addiction treatment and rehabilitation. When it comes to mental health, probation officers can make a positive difference in their lives.
One of the most important things a probation officer can do is to access some training on mental health awareness and how to deal with basic problems. Examples include how to do a basic emotional health assessment and asking salient questions helps identify people at risk and those who potentially need help. By having the knowledge and skills to recognize problems with mental health, probation officers are in an ideal position to encourage someone to access the service that will give them support.
Some offenders and people on probation may be unsure about seeing a psychiatric team and may have a stereotypical view of services. That’s mainly due to assumptions in the community, but probation officers are ideally positioned to quash that myth. A knowledgeable probation officer can signpost people to services in a supportive way, reassuring them about stigma and perception of care. It is also vital for people to understand they are not alone and that getting help is a positive way of getting their lives back and well on the road to rehabilitation. It is vital to explain to people on probation that getting treatment will help them get back on the road to recovery and help them transition back into a new and positive life. It is also important that this group of people understand that it is not just prisoners that experience these problems but so do others from all walks of life.
Several treatment centers have programs for ex-offenders that include residential treatment services. Many ex-prisoners have addiction problems with medication or alcohol and need support. By helping them take that first step to access a treatment center, they can be supported through a program of care that will enable them to continue living a healthy life in the community.
Probation officers need to understand what happens in a treatment center to explain and empower their clients to access the program without fear of judgment or the therapy itself. Crucially, as a probation officer, you are in a position to support an ex-offender on treatment by encouraging them to continue and get through the program while they work with you. That extra support and advice could be the catalyst that motivates them to stick it out. Treatment centers often have tailor-made programs for ex-offenders so they can share experiences and support each other.
The treatment center uses a mixture of experiential and traditional ways to deliver addiction treatment. Some programs are residential, and others run on a clinic model. There is also an app to support clients.
When a client is referred to a treatment center, they will undergo an in-depth assessment to determine their needs and check for serious medical conditions. Clients can discuss their situation and needs with the team to recommend a program of treatments designed to help them the most. This could be aimed at recovering from addiction or another psychological problem. Examples include art therapy and psychotherapy as just two of the range of treatments aimed at helping people recover. The course length will be discussed, and clients are encouraged to set achievable goals.
Treatment programs can be tough, especially when people are feeling vulnerable, but the team has lots of support to help you on the road to recovery. You will also be given ways to deal with things like triggers so you can manage your health in a better way and continue living a positive lifestyle, leaving addictive behaviors behind. Some centers also allow the family to learn how to best support you in the community.
When working with ex-offenders and have mental health problems, their physical health is also important. There are some good opportunities to introduce lifestyle interventions such as daily exercise and encouraging a healthy diet as this will also improve their mood and general physical health. Research has shown that both offenders and ex-offenders experience poorer physical and mental health than other citizens, so taking the opportunity to promote healthy living complements this treatment and the psychological support given.
It is also important that you take opportunities to care for yourself if you are a probation officer, especially if you have a large and mentally challenging caseload. Taking breaks at work, getting exercise, and getting support for your wellbeing is vital too. You can be more productive and be better placed to help others in need by doing this.
Reach out and make that call to see how programs like Mending Fences can help the people you are supporting. If you have probation or ex-offender clients that have mental health or addiction problems, getting help from a treatment center will not only get them the specialist support they need but will ease the workload on your casebook. By working in partnership with the treatment center, you can help your clients on the road to rehabilitation and recovery. And by understanding what they offer, you can encourage people to get help and continue the program.