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Emotional influence and empathy in prison-based therapeutic communities

Niven, Karen, Holman, David and Totterdell, Peter (2010) Emotional influence and empathy in prison-based therapeutic communities. In: Shuker, Richard and Sullivan, Elizabeth, (eds.) Grendon and the emergence of forensic therapeutic communities: Developments in research and practice. Wiley-Blackwell , Chichester, UK , pp. 233-246. ISBN 9780470990551


In therapeutic communities (TCs), it is typical for individuals to spend a great deal of time in the company of fellow TC members. This is particularly true of prison-based TCs, where staff members and inmates work and live in close quarters. The amount of time spent with fellow TC members produces a large amount of interactions, which are often emotional in nature. As Crawley maintains in the quote above, emotional interactions and engagements are inevitable in such environments. An important type of emotional interaction that occurs between members of TCs is emotional influence. The term emotional influence describes the deliberate regulation of another person’s feelings. Extant research into emotional influence indicates that this process may be used constructively, for example to help oneself and others cope with strain and to build and maintain positive relationships (e.g., Francis, Monahan & Berger, 1999). Emotional influence may also be used in a more destructive manner, for instance acting as a source of strain and giving rise to poor quality relationships. However, the factors that affect how emotional influence is used have yet to be identified. This chapter argues that the individual characteristic of empathy may play a key role in terms of affecting individuals’ use of emotional influence in a TC. Empathy concerns the cognitive and emotional responses an individual has to another person’s experiences. Broadly speaking, it is proposed that individuals with higher levels of empathy are more likely to use emotional influence constructively. It is further proposed that an individual’s empathy will grow with time spent in a TC. These propositions were tested in a research study, which was conducted with the participation of staff members and prisoners from three of the TCs at Grendon prison.

Item Type: Book Section
Keywords: Interpersonal affect regulation, Emotion management, Emotional influence, Empathy, Perspective taking, Prison
Institution: The University of Sheffield
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > University of Sheffield Research Centres and Institutes > Institute of Work Psychology (Sheffield)
Funding Information:
FunderGrant number
Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)RES-060-25-0044
Depositing User: Dr Karen Niven
Date Deposited: 27 Jul 2011 16:06
Last Modified: 08 Feb 2013 17:32
Published Version: http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/9780470661444.ch14
Status: Published
Publisher: Wiley-Blackwell
Refereed: Yes
Identification Number: 10.1002/9780470661444.ch14
Related URLs:
URI: http://eprints.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/43130

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