Kirsten McFarland, PBNI Forensic Psychologist, talking about how she is delivering essential mental health services during COVID 19

Probation during Covid: Forensic Psychologist on delivering essential Psychology services

Probation Board for Northern Ireland Forensic Psychologist Kirsten McFarland talks about how Probation’s Psychology work continues during COVID-19.

Hi, my name is Kirsten McFarland and I am a Forensic Psychologist in training within the PBNI Psychology Department. As a result of lockdown and similar to staff across the organisation, the PBNI Psychology Department has had to adapt  during these unprecedented times. This is to ensure we maintain our core business as much as possible despite the limitations that the COVID 19 pandemic have brought.

The Psychology Department is a specialist forensic service within PBNI and our main role is to provide  psychologically informed opinion or advice with regard to a service user’s offending behaviour.

Primarily we work collaboratively with staff across the service to consult on issues relating to individual service users. These issues may include but are not limited to risk, mental health, personality disorder, learning disability and learning difficulties or brain injury.

Whilst we are required to work from home we continue to complete these consultations with staff through phone contact. We have also been able to complete initial assessments with service users through video and phone calls and more recently we have been able to attend multiagency meetings with our partner agencies through tele and video conferencing. This allows us to consider how we can effectively manage an individual’s risk through a multidisciplinary perspective.

We recognise the profound impacts that the current circumstances can have on an individual especially on the factors relating to the individual’s offending including their mental health and addiction issues. As such, we have endeavoured to offer these service users additional support at this time and continue to liaise with the relevant services. This includes GPs, addiction services, mental health teams and specialist forensic mental health teams.

The advice and support that we have received  from these services continues to be invaluable to our Department and ultimately assists with the risk management of the individuals that we work with.