Institution / Carlow College St Patricks
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Child Care - Therapeutic Child Care

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 client’s 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 Monday’s 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.

Entry requirements

Entry Requirements and Selection Criteria

In order to be eligible for this programme, applicants need:

1. An honours degree in Applied Social Studies or an equivalent academic/professional qualification to degree level in a relevant profession.

2. In very exceptional cases, a Diploma in Applied Social Studies or equivalent qualification will be considered.

3. To be currently working in a social care setting

4. To perform satisfactorily at interview.


2 Years

Further enquiries

For further information contact
Damien McLellan
Course Leader

Subjects taught

Master of Arts in Therapeutic Childcare Stages I and II

Stage I
Advanced Child Care Practice I
Professional Workshop
Philosophical and Ethical Issues
Experiential Group

Stage II
Advanced Child Care II
Management Issues in Therapeutic Child Care
Research / Dissertation
Experiential Group


How To Apply
Download the Application Form from the Carlow College website, print, complete and submit the application marked for the attention of the course leader, Damien McLellan. You need to have a primary degree at Honours level or equivalent professional qualifications. In some circumstances we make exceptions for students with significant experience. Interviews will next be held in the Spring of 2017.

Enrolment and start dates

The next year of intake is 2017

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