This research described the lived experience of counsellors working in Western Australian prisons and explored their understanding of their professional identity. Thematic analysis of interview data suggested that counsellors were embedded within a 'testing' system and environment , due primarily to the prisons' dual purposes of security and control, and treatment and rehabilitation. This tension created anxiety for some in terms of their being able to operationalise a remedial role. Some practitioners appeared better able than others to manage the stresses of the role. This ability related to personal existential/ experiential factors, and/or to structural and cultural influences within specific prisons.