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Psychological and psychosocial interventions offered to forensic mental health inpatients: a systematic review
  1. Douglas MacInnes1,
  2. Serena Masino2
  1. 1 Faculty of Health and Wellbeing, Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury, UK
  2. 2 Department of Economics and Quantitative Methods, Westminster Business School, University of Westminster, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Douglas MacInnes; douglas.macinnes{at}


Objective To examine the evidence for the use of psychological and psychosocial interventions offered to forensic mental health inpatients.

Design CINAHL, MEDLINE, PsycINFO, ScienceDirect and Web of Science databases were searched for research published in English between 1 January 1990 and 31 May 2018.

Outcome measures Disturbance, mental well-being, quality of life, recovery, violence/risk, satisfaction, seclusion, symptoms, therapeutic relationship and ward environment. There were no limits on the length of follow-up.

Eligibility criteria We included randomised controlled trial (RCT) studies of any psychological or psychosocial intervention in an inpatient forensic setting. Pilot or feasibility studies were included if an RCT design was used.

We restricted our search criteria to inpatients in low, medium and high secure units aged over 18. We focused on interventions considered applicable to most patients residing in forensic mental health settings.

Data extraction and synthesis Two independent reviewers extracted data and assessed risk of bias.

Results 17 232 citations were identified with 195 full manuscripts examined in detail. Nine papers were included in the review. The heterogeneity of the identified studies meant that meta-analysis was inappropriate. The results were presented in table form together with a narrative synthesis. Only 7 out of 91 comparisons revealed statistically significant results with no consistent significant findings. The most frequently reported outcomes were violence/risk and symptoms. 61% of the violence/risk comparisons and 79% of the symptom comparisons reported improvements in the intervention groups compared with the control groups.

Conclusions Current practice is based on limited evidence with no consistent significant findings. This review suggests psychoeducational and psychosocial interventions did not reduce violence/risk, but there is tentative support they may improve symptoms. More RCTs are required with: larger sample sizes, representative populations, standardised outcomes and control group interventions similar in treatment intensity to the intervention.

PROSPERO registration number CRD42017067099.

  • forensic
  • mental health
  • psychological
  • psychosocial
  • systematic review

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  • Contributors The review was designed by DM. SM undertook the literature search. The risk of bias assessment, data extraction, analysis of the data and data interpretation were undertaken by SM and DM. DM wrote the first draft of the paper. Both authors reviewed successive drafts and approved the revised manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

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