Formulation for Forensic Practitioners

Authored by: Caroline Logan

Handbook of Forensic Mental Health Services

Print publication date:  May  2017
Online publication date:  May  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138645943
eBook ISBN: 9781315627823
Adobe ISBN:


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Formulation is the process of creating one or several linked hypotheses about the underlying mechanism of a complex clinical problem (or problems) in order to prepare action to facilitate positive change (Kuyken, Padesky, & Dudley, 2009). The formulation process involves the imposition of an organizational framework to information relevant to the problem(s) to be understood and managed. Traditionally, that organizational framework has been the theoretical model applied by the practitioner to the problem and the person experiencing it (Johnstone & Dallos, 2013). Thus, a cognitive behavioral therapist may consider a client’s problem with recurrent depression in terms of the interplay among thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, and underlying core beliefs (Tarrier & Johnson, 2015). In contrast, a cognitiveanalytic therapist may examine the client’s experience in terms of reciprocal roles (Ryle, Kellett, Hepple, & Calvert, 2014). More recently, and reflecting the enhanced role of formulation in forensic services and in risk assessment and management in particular, consideration has been given to elaborating the organizational framework required by the formulation process (e.g., Sturmey & McMurran, 2011). This is because, in forensic settings and with clients who have especially complex presentations, formulation is thought to be the vital link between assessment and long-term, multidisciplinary, and cross-service interventions. In addition, there is a need for empirical research on formulation, which means that some consensus is required about process and outcome that will facilitate its systematic evaluation (Logan, in press).

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