Psychodynamics and work with offenders

The headline news concerned the abduction of a baby to Ireland. It emerged that the woman who had taken the baby, had recently been ‘under great stress’ because of the reception into care of her one year old twins. This piece of information struck home, I suppose, because of my own experience as the father of twins. The feeling of barely contained panic in coming to terms with their arrival is still not difficult to conjure up. The panic was a mixture of fear about their (mine, no doubt) ‘insatiable’ demands and about their fragility. The irrationality of these intense feelings borders on a kind of insanity. The fear of losing the twins was no less intense – it is a feeling that makes this kind of incident headline news, and ironically, the feeling that lies behind the abductor’s actions.

It was a week in which I had met a member of my staff who had now moved into professional training as a social worker. She spoke to me about some of the learning that was arising out of her training course. In passing, she referred to having started the course with some interest and belief in psychodynamic understanding, but was now increasingly rejecting that approach. Cognitive / behavioural approaches are now the orthodoxy and old ideas that change could come out of the client gaining insight into their past seemed inadequate to her.

Now of course, I don’t know to what extent the social workers involved with the ‘baby snatcher’ had an understanding of theories out of the psychodynamic tradition, concerning bereavement and attachment. It is difficult to be confident that social workers emerging in the current climate from training are well grounded in these theories, without which intervention in family relationships is irresponsible.

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