I do my internship at one of the Gatesville prisons, and I am allowed to do individual counseling and group counseling.

I do a lot of diagnosis and share the current diagnosis with the inmates to ensure they are being seen for what their mental health status is and being treated for the correct mental health diagnosis.

They will challenge you to see if you are trustworthy and this is where all my training comes into play.

I am a “solution-focus” kind of guy who wants to know what the problem is, besides them being locked up, and how I may be able to assist them with the mental health issues.

I can listen to what got them there later. Right now, my focus is on how I can help with their mental health issues.

I have learned that “reality therapy” works well with this population. Some use the “poor me” and “pity-party” mentality to make it seem like the system did them wrong.

When they come to me either in groups or one on one, we address their issues and discuss ways of making life easier for them while they do their time. Most just need someone who will listen and assist them with their issues and show concern or compassion. Being a counselor-in-training is hard because I am an older counselor who has experienced a lot of the bad things.

We just took different paths or different roads and mine has me with a master’s of science degree and theirs has them doing time for making bad decisions.

What can we do to keep them out of the system or from returning to prison once they are released?

We can provide jobs after they have done their time for their crimes, give them a chance to be part of the “American way” and get a job so they can stop the thug mentality.

We can allow them to show they have changed and will be an asset to society and stay out of the system.

I know the way the system or society sees them as felons, convicts, murderers who will never change.

We all make mistakes and someone or something guides us to become better.

Yet with this population, they are not given a chance. They have labels put on them and they cannot get a job and provide the basic needs for their families. So they return back to their old ways and end up back doing hard time.

Why? All we have to do is treat them as humans who have made mistakes and need a chance to make a difference once they return to the real world.

Craig Lacy of Kempner is a licensed professional counselor. He is working toward a second master’s degree in marriage and family therapy.

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