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Andrew Cooper Tavistock Centre and University of East London The Centre for Social Work Practice www.cfswp.org.

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Presentation on theme: "Andrew Cooper Tavistock Centre and University of East London The Centre for Social Work Practice www.cfswp.org."— Presentation transcript:

1 Andrew Cooper Tavistock Centre and University of East London The Centre for Social Work Practice

2 Scratch the surface of (almost) any front line practitioner or manager’s professional experience and… A burden of worry and anxiety A burden of ‘historic’ pain/self doubt Stories of immense professional /intellectual complexity – no certain/clear answers about the ‘right’ decisions “…they were also emotionally affected by the cases of sexual abuse they were managing and found high caseloads and managerial pressures ate into their own time for self- support.” (CC ) Anxiety and worry (sleeplessness) interfere with the capacity to ‘think’ and reason Sound reasoning is emotionally as well as cognitively based

3  Critical Reflection (Fook & Gardner)  Work Discussion (Tavistock)  Relationship Based (Ruch)  Systemic Models (Morning Lane/Frontline)  Online Reflective Groups (Baikie) (Jones 2014) A family of models - Some more directly experiential and ‘case’ or situation focussed, some more socio-cultural. All engage the practitioner or manager at the boundary between themselves and their experience of the work.

4 Professional Anxiety Rationing Anxiety Performance and Audit Anxiety The organisation as container of anxiety Coal Face Senior management Partnership Anxiety Survival anxiety …Austerity The task

5 Burnout Sickness and absence Retention difficulties In a context of… Cultures of blame and shame competing with ‘learning cultures’ The performance agenda – pressure to act, react, achieve, improve, but not to ‘stop and think’. Emotionally healthy and unhealthy organisations Potentially disabling anxiety affects all levels of modern organisations – the sources and effects are different, but they link up….

6 ‘Above the surface’ ‘Below the surface’ The nature of the work The worker The task The emotional impact of the work

7 ‘Above the surface’ ‘Below the surface’ The nature of the work The workerThe task The emotional impact of the work and the challenge of good assessment and decision making Experiential learning and reflection Deeping the capacity for sound thinking

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10 A recent review of literature on reflective practice groups identifies a real lack of good evaluations (Jones 2014) Warman and Jackson (2007) report on outcomes of a project providing RPGs in schools and a residential facility: High response rate to evaluation Significantly lower sickness absence rates over a 3 year period Very high staff satisfaction with groups 97% of staff said they’d been helped to persevere with challenging pupils when they’d previously felt like giving up, and 83% said they felt less stressed after talking about clients/students with whom they’d been struggling

11 Do we move towards or away from one another under conditions of tension, conflict and pressure? Reflective practice spaces enable us to keep moving towards one another – towards service users, towards colleagues and peers, across practitioner/ management lines, and across inter- agency boundaries. But – it is not easy to ‘move towards the pain and anxiety’. We would all rather steer clear of it… Which is why reflective supervision and space requires management authorisation and mandate.

12 Reflective practice spaces must be positioned as part of a learning and development culture – their boundaries need to be protected. Agency and Management authorisation are needed Good facilitation essential Facilitators need experience of membership of reflective practice groups– which is the only real form of ‘training’.

13 Jones, J. (2014) A Report for the Centre for Social Work Practice on Reflective Practice Group Models in Social Work, proposed Evaluation and Recommendations Ruch, G. (2007a) Reflective practice in contemporary child-care social work: the role of containment, British Journal of Social Work, 37, Ruch, G. (2007b) ‘Thoughtful’ practice: child care social work and the role of case discussion, Child and Family Social Work, 12, Ruch, G. (2009) Identifying ‘the critical’ in a relationship-based model of reflection, European Journal of Social Work, 12(3), Warman, A. and Jackson, E. (2007) Recruiting and retaining children and families’ social workers: the potential of work discussion groups. Journal of Social Work Practice, 21(1),


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