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Summer Conference 2015

Summer Conference 2015

Date(s) - Saturday, June 6th, 2015
9:30 am - 4:30 pm

“Starred Up”: Imprisoned in a cycle of shame and violence
with Jonathan Asser and Anna Motz

We invite you to a screening of the award-winning film, Starred Up, a prison drama which features a therapeutic group. This will be followed by questions and answers with the film’s creator Jonathan Asser, and a presentation in the afternoon by Anna Motz, focussing on the relationship between shame, violence, humiliation and rage. The significance of this is depicted powerfully in the film’s prison setting, but may also appear in less graphic detail in the consulting room.

Jonathan Asser trained as a psychodynamic counsellor at Birkbeck. He won the BACP Award for Innovation for his unique approach to working therapeutically with violent prisoners (Shame/Violence Intervention or SVI), in which he offered an alternative to the usual punishment and segregation. The Prison Service shut down his work however, despite delivering it at that time for free. He used his twelve years’ prison experience to write Starred Up which has so far won a Scottish BAFTA and the award for Best British Newcomer at the BFI London Film Festival.

In an interview with the Guardian last year, Jonathan described an escalating situation with a group of violent offenders: “I’m scared, but it isn’t fear that holds my attention. It’s shame. I’m totally and utterly focused on the excruciating feeling of exposure throbbing through me as [the offender] heaps disrespect on me in front of the group.

And I know, from years of experience working in the heat of the moment with the most dangerous men in HMP Wandsworth, that we can get through this. … I’m doing something no other solo officer, governor or civilian at this level of escalation with [an offender] in this prison would do. I’m controlling my fight-or-flight response; I’m offering [him] a high-status alternative to violence.” Copyright Guardian News & Media Ltd

Anna Motz is a psychoanalytic psychotherapist working with adults and adolescents. She is also a consultant clinical and forensic psychologist with extensive experience of assessing and treating people who have longstanding difficulties with violence against themselves and others. She is the author of The Psychology of Female Violence: Crimes Against the Body (Routledge, 2008) editor of Managing Self Harm: Psychological Perspectives (Routledge, 2009) and Toxic Couples: The Psychology of Domestic Violence (Routledge, 2014.) She is also an independent consultant and trainer, and has developed training packages for staff working with violent offenders with personality disorders. She specialises in forensic psychotherapy, female violence, self-harm, couple violence and developing ‘relational security’ within secure settings. Anna is the former president of the International Association for Forensic Psychotherapy.

Anna’s presentation will consider ‘The rending pain of re-enactment: violent responses to shame’. She has described the film as “dark but wonderful”, and as dealing with “important realities – not the kinds that are generally evident in the consulting room in such graphic detail, but ones that do speak to widespread feelings of shame, humiliation and rage.” She says, “There are important links with forensic psychotherapy and mentalization-based therapy we have been offering to violent offenders in the community” This powerful film depicts the forces that lead men to enact unspeakable acts, so often in response to a wish to preserve their psychic integrity.

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