The ACT of Being a Pre-doctoral Intern: A Personal Account of Navigating the Dynamics of the Federal Bureau of Prisons Using Acceptance and Commitment Therapy

Abby Jay, University of Denver


Correctional psychology became my passion while working on my master's degree. I was surprised to find that such a challenging environment brought me such personal fulfillment, interest, and purpose when I began. I pursued my degree in forensic psychology because I was looking for a career that would bring fascinating and unusual experiences not usually found in more mainstream psychological pursuits. Among the many options within forensic psychology, I had written off correctional psychology in the same way that many people write off the correctional population. At that time, I felt there was little to do for the correctional population and felt little obligation to the incarcerated population. I saw them as individuals who had been given and then discarded their opportunities in life. Upon reflection, I realized that my biases from years of success and privilege had made me disinterested in an entire population of people in need of services. This narrow view was quickly and forcefully broadened when, through circumstances, I found myself working in a local jail for a year. Initially, I had planned to gain the experience of working inside a correctional facility and then quickly redirect towards bigger and better things. However, my professional and personal life was changed when I saw, in person, the people that I had so quickly written off.