Working relationally with looked after children: the role of residential therapeutic carers

PhD Thesis

Ferris, E. 2013. Working relationally with looked after children: the role of residential therapeutic carers. PhD Thesis Canterbury Christ Church University Salomons Centre for Applied Psychology
AuthorsFerris, E.
TypePhD Thesis
Qualification nameDClinPsychol

Section A is a literature review evaluating the role of Therapetuic Care Workers (TCWs) and Therapeutic Foster Carers (TFCs) working relationally with a sub-group of Looked After Children (LAC) who are highlighted as having intense emotional and behavioural needs. These LAC are thought to benefit from living in specialist, therapeutic placements where carers work relationally. However, to date, there is no known review evaluating relational residential interventions or the role of TCWs and TFCs. Therefore, literature exploring the theoretical underpinnings of the work, and the emotional impact and protective factors involved in the carer role is considered. Implications for future research and clinical practice are suggested.
Section B describes a qualitative study which explores how TCWs experience their role and their perceptions of the potential benefits for LAC. A qualitative design using Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA; Smith, Flowers & Larkin, 2009) was applied.
Methods. Nine TCWs currently working in one of two therapeutic communities were interviewed.
Results. Five master themes were identified: ‘Therapeutic group living’; ‘Importance of carer-child relationships’; ‘Working with the unconscious’; ‘Personal meaning of professional role’, and ‘Children’s progress’. Participants considered that forums for reflection were crucial to their ability to think clearly and analytically about the children, and utilised psychodynamic concepts to gain insight into the children’s inner worlds. TCWs’ increased self-awareness was central to this process. Participants also reported experiencing their role as emotionally challenging. One focus of reflection was on the small steps of progress the children were perceived to achieve.
Conclusions. Overall, the findings suggested a synergy between relevant theory, descriptive accounts of therapeutic childcare, and TCWs’ perceptions of their role. New information regarding the personal investment of TCWs and internalisation of the framework of practice was identified. Further research is needed to extend the evidence-base. The clinical implications of the findings are discussed.

Keywordslooked after children; therapeutic communities; attachment; relational approaches; therapeutic care workers
Publication process dates
Deposited01 Oct 2013
SubmittedMar 2013
Output statusUnpublished
Accepted author manuscript
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