6.1.4 – The use of psychological formulations to understand the function of offending behaviour in the individual.

Understanding the offender


Psychological formulations are defined as a way of looking back into a person’s history of relationships, biology, social circumstances, life events and how they have interpreted all of this.
It draws upon all available psychological theories.
Any psychological treatment is based on a formulation.
Forumations are not standardised, they can vary depending on the case and who is doing them. However, the BPS have released guidelines and the HCPC approve of these guidelines.
By looking into all of the factors leading up to the event, we can better understand its cause and this can be the first step towards prevention.


(+) Especially when in diagram form, they can help reduce complex information into an easy-to-understand format. This can greatly help with the decision making of the consequence for the individual, including the danger they pose.
(+) Very useful way of explaining exactly why someone commited an offense, which can help the person understand how to prevent similar situations in the future.
(-) It can be very difficult to gain all of the relevent information about the person. It relies on them remembering lots of information and also being willing to speak about it all.
(-) A formulation can include known medical illnesses, but if the person has an unknown illness which is influencing their behaviour, it wouldn’t be included.
(-) When using psychological formulations, we run the risk of being reductionist if we focus too much on one particular aspect, such as family history. We need to make sure to be holistic and consider all factors, (+) which a psychological formulation encourages.