Live work: The impact of direct encounters in statutory child and family social work

Noyes, Charlotte (2015) Live work: The impact of direct encounters in statutory child and family social work. Professional Doctorate thesis, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust. Full text available

PDF (Noyes (Live))
Noyes D60.pdf - Published Version

Download (2MB) | Preview


The aim of this research project was to examine the impact of direct work on practitioners in the field of statutory child protection. The author’s premise was that this work was anything but straightforward and that surprisingly, given the intense scrutiny on Children’s Services following a child death, there was little research into the day-to-day practice of front line staff. The aim was to explore whether psychoanalytic theory could be useful in understanding and making sense of the social work task. Data was collected through observation and semi-structured interviews in one Local Authority Child in Need team over a period of six months. The findings indicated that practitioners experienced direct work with some individuals and families as profoundly disturbing and that this affected them physiologically as well as psychologically. These effects persisted over time and appeared very difficult for the workers to process or articulate. This could be expressed through embodied or non-verbal communication in the interview. Practitioners appeared to be ‘inhabited’ by particular clients, suggesting phenomena such as projective identification were in operation. The intensity and persistence of the impact on the practitioners appears to be directly related to the quality, nature and intensity of the psychic defences functioning for the particular client. Significantly, the research indicated that when practitioners were dealing with the negative and disturbing projections from the (adult) clients it seemed from the data that the focus on the child would slip so that the child appeared to recede from view. Symptoms experienced by the practitioners were akin to trauma and research and theory on primary and secondary trauma were considered. Other issues raised included shame, which affects the clients, practitioners and the organisation and the meaning and implications of this are explored. Links between neuroscience and projective identification are addressed as well as the role of the organisation, particularly as a container for these toxic and disturbing encounters.

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Additional Information: Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the Professional Doctorate in Social Work awarded by the University of East London in collaboration with the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust
Uncontrolled Keywords: Professional Doctorate in Social Work, D60, Impact of Direct Work, Psychic Defences, Projective Identification, Focus on the Child, Trauma, Shame, Containment, Team and Organizational Issues
Subjects: Children, Young People and Developmental Pyschology > Child Protection
Children, Young People and Developmental Pyschology > Children and Families - Social Work
Social Welfare > Social Work
Department/People: Children, Young Adult and Family Services

Actions (Library Staff login required)

View Item View Item