The container contained: Biography and role as factors in managing stress for secondary head-teachers

Eloquin, Xavier (2017) The container contained: Biography and role as factors in managing stress for secondary head-teachers. Professional Doctorate thesis, Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust / University of Essex. Full text available

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This research explored the experiences of three secondary headteachers and the way in which role conception, informed by unconscious processes, functions as a mechanism for managing the stresses and demands of said role. The research was underpinned by a psychosocial framework and used an explicitly psychoanalytic epistemology. The research used semi-structured interviews to explore influential biographical factors, which were then explored using a psychoanalytic lens. This produced a series of themes used to thematically analyse their accounts of their jobs and the stresses and strains within it. The ensuing analysis revealed that the unconscious patterns, implicit in their narratives, influenced both role conception and the way they perceived and related to the organisations they led. In discussing these findings, links were made to relevant psychoanalytic and systems-psychodynamic theory; especially Bion's work on containment and alpha function, as well as Rice's seminal thinking about the way in which the unconscious influences role acquisition and task engagement. Further applications to both theories are suggested. A central argument is that working with school leaders has a systemic impact on schools and school populations, something well within the remit and consultative skill-set of Educational Psychologists. This research concludes that unconscious patterns and processes are involved in the management of stress and anxiety and that this is done through unconsciously "shaping" the way headteachers conceive of the role and the schools they lead.

Item Type: Thesis (Professional Doctorate)
Additional Information: Thesis submitted in partial fulfilment of the requirements of the Professional Doctorate in Child and Educational Psychology awarded by the Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust in collaboration with the University of Essex
Uncontrolled Keywords: Professional Doctorate in Child and Educational Psychology, Leadership, Edpsych Updates
Subjects: Groups & Organisations > Occupational Groups
Human Psychological Processes > Stress
Learning & Education > Educational Psychology
Department/People: Children, Young Adult and Family Services

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