A Qualitative Study of Goodbye Letters in Prison Therapy: Imprisoned Women who Self-Harm

Tammi Walker, Jennifer Shaw, Clive Turpin, Chris Roberts, Catherine Reid, Kathryn Abel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background. Self-harm rates amongst imprisoned women in the UK are extremely high and there are limited psychological therapies available to support them in prison. This paper presents women's subjective accounts of receiving 'goodbye letters' at the end of brief Psychodynamic Interpersonal Therapy (PIT) and how these letters positively impacted on their incidents of self-harm. Aims. This study presents the accounts of 13 imprisoned women who self-harmed and received letters following completion of a minimum of 4 sessions of brief PIT in prison. Methods. A semi-structured interview covered several aspects of their experience, which included details of self-harm since completing brief therapy, usage of goodbye letter and its impact. The interviews were analysed using thematic analysis. Results. Three themes emerged from the analysis: connecting with the therapist: receiving the letter; connecting to self: understanding and awareness; and connecting to others: sharing the goodbye letter. Conclusions. Findings are discussed and show the positive impact the letters had for the women following therapy. The preliminary impressions suggest that letters may be a helpful tool enhancing the benefits of brief PIT therapy with imprisoned women who self-harm.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date22 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • self-harm, psychodynamic interpersonal therapy, women, prisoners, qualitative


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