In a task where the management of anxiety is an essential and core personal and institutional requirement and where emotional and physical tiredness are component parts of the work, the provision of a heavy theoretical training is likely to create as many problems as it might solve. The use of a regular time that provides protected space away from the demands of the work and allows time for thinking and reflection in a relaxed manner, will provide more appropriate conditions for the internalisation and processing of information. The use of experiential learning through live material and group exercises, allows for a sense of adult community to be re-established, reduces competitiveness which is powerfully played out through deprivation and provides the possibility of purposeful fun alongside deep learning about the self and the task.
In a group care setting where such personal growth and learning for all are the ultimate goals of people's efforts, the group can provide a supporting, containing and reflective function that is able to develop and improve its individual members and hence its therapeutic service in a manner that matches the most effective form of change, that of ‘always becoming’ (Bettelheim 1950), an organic progress whether in the maturation of the group itself, the individual, the educational area or the institution.
Such a training programme should be able to aid the development of a learning culture within the school, which provides a model of progressive development and which through the function of anxiety management (that converts unconscious anxiety into conscious communication) can challenge the defences, such as those identified by Menzies Lyth (1988) in her early papers, that hinder the development of task performance in therapeutic enterprises. Hawkins and Shohet also identify eleven key attributes of the learning/development culture. A broad description is as follows:
This is clearly the culture in which supervision most flourishes. It is built on a belief system that a great deal of social work and indeed counselling and therapy is about creating the environment and relationships in which clients learn about themselves and their environment, in a way that leaves them with more options than they arrived with. Further, it believes that social workers, counsellors and therapists, etc. are best able to facilitate others to learn if they are supported in constantly learning and developing themselves. An organisation that is learning and developing right from the top of the organisation to the bottom is far more likely to be meeting the needs of the clients, because it is also meeting the needs of the staff. – (Hawkins and Shohet 1989: 137)
Bettelheim, B. (1950). Love is not enough. New York: Free Press
Hawkins, P. and Shohet, R. (1989). Supervision in the helping professions. Milton Keynes: Open University
Menzies Lyth, I. (1988). Containing anxiety in institutions: Selected Essays, Vol.1. London: Free Association
Diamond, J. (1998) Using the situation: Management perspectives and their potential in staff development and training. In Ward, A. and McMahon, L. (Eds.) Intuition is not enough: Matching learning with practice in therapeutic child care. London: Routledge, pp.211-212