Violent states and traumatised organisations: Working with disappointed people in disappointing places

Scanlon, Christopher and Adlam, John (2018) Violent states and traumatised organisations: Working with disappointed people in disappointing places. Psychotherapy Section Review (61). pp. 16-23. ISSN Print: 1747-1761; Online: 2396-958X

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In this article, we build on our previous work to examine how staff teams working with 'un-housed minds' in health and social care settings can become (dis)stressed, dis-organised, disappointed and potentially traumatised. We will argue that this happens irrespective of whether the (dis)stressing experience seems to come from the work with clients or from the dis-orienting effects of organisational and social change processes. Using a psychosocial, group-analytically informed systems-psychodynamic approach we explore the complexity of the reciprocal relationships and the social and organisational parallel processes played out between those who provide these kinds of services and those who use them; also between those are employed and those who employ them, as well as between those who commission such services and those who must manage them. We suggest that, in the current socio-economic climate, dominated by neo-liberal discourses around austerity and the 'undeserving poor' of the homeless, the workless and the 'worth-less', all staff teams concerned with the provision of different kinds of accommodation, care and support will become increasingly (dis)stressed and dysfunctional as they find themselves squeezed between the dis-organisation of the systems they work in and the distressing nature of working with the clients they notionally serve: between the ‘rock’ of increasing demand and dependent need and the ‘hard place’ of apparently decreasing resources. Whether this is simply because there is just too much damage and dis-orderand not enough resources or whether it is because we do not care enough about the plight of our fellow citizens to organise ourselves better to think about how better to (re-)distribute the resources is a moot point. But in either case, in order to continue to practice ethically and to minimise the damage to all, we suggest that it is vital that teams can think together about the importance of opening up reflective spaces for structured conversations, within the wider cultures of psychologically informed environments (PIEs), where these issues can be meaningfully thought about. We will conclude by re-stating our view that, in order to be able to continue to work in these dis-appointing environments, it is imperative that we open up reflective spaces for team development, within which we can struggle together to make sense of these painful and potentially compromising personal, professional, organisational and socio-political challenges.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: Groups & Organisations > Groups/Institutions/Organisations
Human Psychological Processes > Strange Environment/Situation
Human Psychological Processes > Stress
Department/People: Department of Education and Training

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