Providing Effective Treatment to People Just Released from Prison: A Case Study from the Nathaniel Clinic

When he was released from prison, Ryan wasn’t sure how well he would be able to integrate back into his community.

He had just spent the last seven years incarcerated. While in prison, for the first time in his life, Ryan was formally diagnosed with anxiety and depression and had regular access to behavioral health care services. After his release, however, Ryan did not know how he would get the mental health care he needed. He could no longer see the prison psychiatrist, and he had also run out of his medication and could not remember what he had been prescribed. Observing Ryan’s heightened symptoms, his parole officer referred him to CASES’ Nathaniel Clinic [1].

The Transition back to the Community

Upon his return home, Ryan felt like the world had changed significantly since he was last in the community. He expressed feelings similar to those he had experienced in a traumatic childhood event when a severe burn had left his upper body scarred and resulted in his being hospitalized and held back in school. Ryan said he felt behind and feared that he wouldn’t be able to catch up.

At his first assessment appointment at the Nathaniel Clinic, Ryan said he was interested in treatment to address the anxiety he experienced following his release from prison. He believed his anxiety was related to feeling like an outsider and his uncertainty, due to his recent incarceration, of available pathways to success in the community. Ryan and his therapist have been working to manage his feelings of anxiety regarding his adjustment back to the community, his expectations for his present and future, and the limited supports he has available.

Ryan has now been in treatment at the clinic for eight months. He continues to experience severe stress and feelings of inadequacy. Despite these obstacles, Ryan has remained committed to treatment, recognizing that his anxiety could potentially lead him to engage in self-destructive behaviors including substance use.

“The staff at the clinic are helping me to persevere and start to make up for lost time,” he says about the clinic’s help during his first year out of prison.

Located at 2090 Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard in Central Harlem, the Nathaniel Clinic is a State-licensed outpatient mental health clinic specializing in treatment for youth (age 13 and above) and adults who have current or recent involvement in the criminal justice system.