From Past To Present
When we started this course in 2004 our target students were staff in residential child care centres who were seeking to work in a more therapeutic way with the children and young people in their care. We wanted to offer an alternative approach to the prevailing medical and behaviour modification models. However, over the subsequent twelve years of the course, and from responding to the needs of our students we have substantially adapted the course to accommodate a therapeutic approach to all social care clients. We are now effectively offering an applied masters course in therapeutic child and social care.
The Therapeutic Approach
The therapeutic approach we teach is based mostly but not exclusively on psychodynamic principles. It is a care and treatment model that principally seeks to understand what motivates the clients presenting troubling behaviour, rather than simply reacting to it. We can then encourage and enable the client to make sense of and change their unproductive behaviour to a positive and successful direction. The medium for this change process is a respectful professional relationship between the client and a social care worker, traditionally known as the therapeutic alliance.
Where It Works Now
The setting in which therapeutic work is done needs to be very supportive of this working relationship, and a community of carers and clients seems to work better than a setting based on a hierarchical structure. While retaining essential governance structures, many social care settings in Ireland have adapted the working environment to support the therapeutic task, either by transforming into therapeutic communities or by selectively adopting some of the principles that inform them.
How The Course Works
The course itself operates akin to a therapeutic community, a learning community made up of students and staff. We begin and end each Mondays work with a Community Meeting. All the teaching and learning is done in a seminar format, encouraging maximum participation and sharing of experience. The day to day work and experiences of the students in their agencies are the raw material for learning that they bring into the course community. Learning in groups also trains the students to work in and with groups. The staff are all current practitioners.
The Practical Details
Places are limited to 16. The course is run over two years every Monday during academic term time. In addition to these course days, there is a Residential Weekend in April in both years and a five-day Visit of Observation during the summer break at the end of first year.