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ACA 2018 Conference & Expo Sessions

450 - Understanding Incarcerated Women: Implications for Counselors and Researchers

Apr 29, 2018 12:15pm ‐ Apr 29, 2018 1:15pm


Incarcerated women with mental health diagnoses represent one of the most marginalized groups of people in the United States. They are often victims of multiple traumas. They then find themselves in oppressive institutional environments where they continue to be abused. This roundtable session focuses on how to build a true therapeutic alliance with incarcerated women and how to empower such a disenfranchised group. Qualitative research methods are discussed as an ideal way of understanding this population further.

This topic addresses a little-understood, highly marginalized population of clients that are in great need of quality mental healthcare. Despite making up a small segment of incarcerated people, populations of incarcerated women are on the rise. In order to provide incarcerated women with better mental health care, it is critical that counselors understand the high rates of trauma and mental health disorders in this population. It is also important to understand the ongoing institutional oppression and abuse that occurs for women while incarcerated. Empowering this population through the therapeutic alliance is essential but challenging. To advance the field further and improve mental healthcare for this group, qualitative research methods may most clearly illuminate incarcerated women's struggles and experiences.

Learning Objectives:

  • Participants will learn about the prevalence of trauma and mental health disorders for incarcerated women along with statistics showing the growth of this population. Presenter will use evidence from recent literature to support the information presented.
  • Participants will learn the key roles of genuineness and empowerment in helping incarcerated women build an alliance with the mental health counselor, who is viewed as an authority figure. Using evidence from recent literature, examples of institutional oppression are discussed, as potential barriers to forming a therapeutic alliance. Even if participants do not work with correctional populations directly, participants will be invited to think of their own clients that have experienced severe trauma and may find themselves oppressed in their life circumstances for various reasons. Presenter will ask that participants consider the importance of genuineness and empowerment in their work with those clients.
  • The benefits of qualitative research for marginalized populations will be discussed, with examples of how qualitative data has advanced our understanding of incarcerated women, in particular.


  • Frankie E. Fachilla, MA, Licensed Professional Counselor with Mental Health Service Provider Designation, Corizon Correctional Healthcare

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