Building a Relationship of Trust

  • Psychologists must build relationships of trust with the inmates to have psychological breakthroughs; this can take real time and effort. On the part of the psychologist, treating the detainee with respect and as a fellow human being is the first step in this process. This can make a big difference, particularly because the detainees are often expecting to be treated harshly by the state. It can help create cognitive dissonance, and begin to break down the inmate’s rigidly held views. Psychologists should not be discouraged by detainees’ unwillingness to talk or meet with them at the outset, and should expect that this will be a long-term process.
  • Where possible, countries should try to ensure continuity in the psychological counseling for inmates, and have the same psychologist(s) remain with the detainee throughout. A lack of continuity can make it far more difficult to build trust.
  • Prison staff and other actors in this process should also be encouraged by the psychologists to treat these prisoners with respect to reinforce the building of trust.