One of the better things about my job is working with inmate-patients consistently for a couple of years and seeing them make progress and develop insight and change and grow emotionally.
Back in 2013, a young new arrival was assigned to my caseload. He had been on parole and was back in prison on a new term. He was twenty-four years old and struggling with a lot of emotional issues. He had a lot of unresolved anger, and his primary coping skill was substance abuse. The combination of being pissed off at his girlfriend while drunk led to his offense and arrest.
At first, he had a hard time sharing anything personal with me because he thought that would be a sign of weakness and vulnerability. So when I saw him for his first few appointments, our conversations were short and superficial—nothing more than case management. Eventually, he began to feel more comfortable talking to me and confessed that he felt nervous and scared about being released into the community. He was constantly worried that he would mess up somehow and wind up back in prison, or that he would do something violent while still in prison so that he’d receive more time added to his existing sentence.
Once he was honest with his feelings, I was able to really start working with him on a deeper, more therapeutic level. I referred him to treatment groups for additional opportunities for psychoeducation and guidance. Gradually, he stopped being so anxious and started feeling more confident about himself and his ability to succeed.
Today was his last appointment with me. His release date is Monday the 11th, my day off. When he came in to see me this afternoon, I asked him how he was doing.
“I’m feeling excited this time,” he said. “I don’t have to come back unless I want to come back.”