Live Work: The Impact of Direct Encounters in Statutory Child and Family Social Wor

Prof Doc Thesis

Noyes, Charlotte 2015. Live Work: The Impact of Direct Encounters in Statutory Child and Family Social Wor. Prof Doc Thesis University of East London Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation Trust
AuthorsNoyes, Charlotte
TypeProf Doc Thesis

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.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)
Publication dates
PrintNov 2015
Publication process dates
Deposited03 Aug 2016
Publisher's version
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