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Working with offenders: challenges to the recovery agenda

  • Eluned Dorkins and Gwen Adshead

Recovery approaches are now being developed in forensic as well as general mental health services. These are welcome developments that offer new ways of working with a socially excluded group of patients. However, the theoretical basis of recovery, with its individual humanistic ethos, may struggle to articulate the unique problems of forensic service users. In this article, we describe those problems and propose a ‘third way’ of thinking that bridges the recovery agenda (which looks for the best in people) and the forensic agenda (which must consider the worst in people). We propose using a ‘narrative approach’, which sees the forensic service user's offence and cruelty as part of their human story. We link this explicitly with the work of Dan McAdams and his concept of the redemption narrative.

Corresponding author
Eluned Dorkins, Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist, Langdon Hospital, Exeter Road, Dawlish EX7 ONR, UK. Email:
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For a commentary on this article see pp. 188–190, this issue.

Declaration of Interest


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Working with offenders: challenges to the recovery agenda

  • Eluned Dorkins and Gwen Adshead
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