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Winners of the 2017 Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy NOW Awards - Panoptikon

Wednesday, 15 November 2017

The British Psychoanalytic Council's recent PPNOW (Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy NOW) Awards, the top award for Innovative Excellence, went to Elena Mundici and Katya Orrell

Panoptikon is a new organisation but the two founders, Katya Orrell and Elena Mundici are not new to the field of forensic psychotherapy.  Both have spent many years working in and consulting to prisons and forensic settings both inside and outside the UK.  The name 'Panoptikon', meaning 'a total perspective', relates to the fact that the work they do is carried out 'in the round': they offer a Staff Support Service alongside Prisoner Support which as well as individual work, also includes their pioneering 'Couple Therapy Reversed'.  This work is aimed specifically to treat prisoners; often sex offenders/those deemed too high risk and therefore refused by other services.  This population is often without an experience of 'good enough' parenting, and who through this framework experience concretely what it feels like to be thought about by an actual couple in real time.  This is further enhanced by their 'joined up approach' with staff whose needs are also being met and therefore has a knock-on effect both institutionally and with regards to specific cases.  Panoptikon is also working with the organisation often consulting directly with the Governor or senior management team first to create a bespoke service in each establishment. This, as well as the fact that Panoptikon also offer training in areas such as trauma, helps to focus the work from many different angles and encourages communication and thinking where often there is a pull towards action.

Nomination piece by David Millar:

Katya Orrell and Elena Mundici are forensic psychotherapists working in a Category B local prison. To maintain their posts when previous funding was withdrawn, they formed their own company, Panoptikon, to maintain a psychotherapeutic presence in the prison. Significantly, the prison governor supported their initiative as he was aware of the impressive outcomes of their work.

At a recent International Association for Forensic Psychotherapy Conference in Sicily, I was privileged to hear separate presentations from each these clinicians. Katya gave an in-depth account of her work with a recalcitrant prisoner on an indeterminate sentence who felt he had 'no voice and no audience' to hear his complicated life story and perverse worldview. It was a very moving literary presentation in that it evoked the fable of the mute swan that is able to sing only when facing its demise.

Elena, by contrast, presented her work with a prison officer as part of the combined clinical and staff support role that Panoptikon offers. What was revealed as she delicately allowed the prison officer's tale to unravel was his, perhaps not unsurprising, perception that he was as much a 'prisoner of the system' as those he guarded. Significantly, he felt he had no more choice in life than those inmates who looked to him for an alternative view of their lives. He was torn between 'terror and wonder' and Elena showed us how, through their work, he was able to see the possibility of the 'wonders' that were open to him.

I feel that both of these psychotherapists, each relatively new to the profession, meet the criteria for innovating a clinically demanding and socially inclusive 'business plan' in their prison setting. It encompasses both the institute and the institutionalised in a highly original manner and has encouraged psychoanalytic thinking 'behind bars'.

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