UK Network

Division of Clinical Psychology


From Name to Number: how can the process of incarceration create unconscious re-enactments of loss, trauma and dissociation?

Presenter: – Carolynne Murphy, Art Psychotherapist, forensic-based (UKCP/HCPC registered)

Incarceration justifies a change of identity in relation to self, others and society. The impact of this transition from non-offender to offender identity on a person’s sense of self is not known. However, identity conflict, like all conflict, disturbs health. Identity alteration and identity confusion are inner manifestations of dissociation.

Individuals who enter prison experience identification in prison as a numerical process, globally. In Scotland, an individual receives a Scottish Prison Identification Number (SPIN) at point of incarceration. Paradoxically, some individuals continue to implicitly and explicitly identify with SPIN post liberation.

This workshop will explore the physical and psychological relevance of SPIN through the therapeutic notion of un/conscious re-enactment. To illustrate these ideas recent case material from my own practice within maximum secure prisons in Scotland will be used alongside concepts informed by inner and outer manifestations of dissociation. The ancient art of tattooing will show the therapeutic and social factors that helped one patient to rehabilitate and raise the pathological factors that hindered reintegration processes for another.