Secondly, the caregiver’s task is crucially responsive. This seems to me to be of vital importance in the probation setting, and raises many complexities because of the nature of the task imposed by the legal framework and political context. Some aspects however are simple to state and apparently not controversial. For example, I would have thought that all probation officers would place a high value on ‘sensitivity to the client’s signals’. This should direct our attention to what it is that makes a good listener and how we reveal that sensitivity to our clients.

The complexities arise in a context where greater emphasis is placed on offering explicit ‘packages’ to the Courts, as where the probation officer tries to define a contract with the client as a basis for individual supervision. It is all too easy for these approaches to be a ‘doing to’ the client with disappointing results. Attachment theory’s emphasis on responsiveness suggests why the process of negotiation with the client is usually of greater importance than the particular model of work which results from that negotiation.  It is in the process of negotiation that the probation officer can respond to the client’s signals in sensitive ways.


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