Conversations in Custody: Shining Our Values in the Darkest Places

Ms Emma Burns1

1New Zealand Police, Wellington, New Zealand


The Solution Focused approach is an evidence-based approach to change. Developed in the therapy field, the approach is now widely used across a number of settings, including high performance sport and organizational change.

This presentation will outline the Conversations in Custody project, an innovative piece of work utilizing this approach to engage with persons in police custody. It will demonstrate how a radically different approach resulted in strong engagement and positive change for family harm offenders. Emma will speak about the project and share a number of case studies. She will also outline how this approach is perfectly aligned with Our Values and Our Priorities, how it leads to increased trust and confidence in Police, and creates creating stronger working relationships with our partner agencies.


Emma has been a registered psychologist since 1996, and has worked in mental health, education, and suicide postvention. She has been employed by NZ Police since 2010, initially working with child offenders, before moving into the Family Harm team in 2018. In May 2021 Emma commenced a one year acting role as Practice Lead for the Organisational Psychology Services group at Royal New Zealand Police College. Emma is the Vice President of the Australasian Solution Focused Association, and delivers suicide prevention workshops to professionals and the general public in her free time.