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Difficult Conversations on the Frontline

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Difficult Conversations on the Frontline – Managing the Tensions between Care and Control

What makes some conversations so difficult in social work and what strategies can we employ to help us stay on course?

People bring their own histories of trauma and disturbance which affect their personality development and their relationship with help. Some people feel compelled to deny or minimise their difficulties, resisting or repelling the very help they need. They may disrupt their own progress and the efforts of others, or feel driven to deceive or mislead those who are investigating the truth. These defensive processes can make it very hard to be empathic and to develop effective relationships with parents and carers in the interests of their children.

In this research-based workshop we will look at how these more tricky aspects of our clients’ behaviour can influence what happens during home visits and interviews:

  • How we can find ourselves manoeuvred into a corner or onto the back foot when talking with clients about serious matters.
  • How we can end up diverted from important issues or distracted from something (or someone) we were ‘not supposed to see’.
  • How time can pass too quickly or too slowly during a home visit leaving us feeling our task wasn’t done or we couldn’t get away.
  • How something about the home made it impossible for us to think
  • How we felt unable to mention the very thing we went there to say and we can’t understand why.

This highly interactive, powerpoint-free workshop draws on research with Children and Families work, but stimulates thoughts and discussion about what helps or hinders engagement with clients across the social work sphere. Please bring ongoing casework difficulties to spark ideas and active problem-solving with each other in a safe space.

Fiona Henderson is an experienced clinical psychologist and psychoanalytic psychotherapist. For many years she worked with families in care proceedings as Consultant Psychotherapist in the Monroe Family Assessment Service at the Tavistock Clinic, London. She has conducted research into home visits and written about social work supervision and disturbed parenting. She works in a family psychotherapy service in Shropshire and provides online training and therapeutic supervision to frontline practitioners.

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