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Transcripts of Selected Group Discussions on CYC-Net

Since it's founding in 1997, the CYC-Net discussion group has been asked thousands of questions. These questions often generate many replies from people in all spheres of the Child and Youth Care profession and contain personal experiences, viewpoints, as well as recommended resources.

Below are some of the threads of discussions on varying Child and Youth Care related topics.

Questions and Responses have been reproduced verbatim.

ListenListen to this

Therapeutic use of self?


I am about to embark on a project – more of that later – on “therapeutic use of self” in residential and foster care. I’m interested in responses and recommendations re literature, both clinical and research. The project is a reflective and hopefully reflexive study and analysis of how I work, both in direct work with carers, child and participants on training courses. I can describe what I mean by use of self in terms of attentive listening – responding in a way that assists others be reflective and self-aware of thoughts, feelings and assumptions. Knowing when to keep mouth shut and say nothing is another example! In training use of self might help participants engage with ideas. Again attentive listening figures and applies. There are of course subtleties of non-verbal use of self. Description of use of self is not too difficult. Where I’d mostly appreciate help is how to lift description to the conceptual level. Apart from these beginning thoughts I’ve not yet started library research – I thought I’d start with a post here.

Kind regards
Johnnie (in Ireland)

Hi Johnnie,

I contributed a chapter on working in the life space to this book that may be of interest.

I tried to bring the holistic reflective process to life for the reader. I leave it to others to judge if I achieved this.
I would also point you in the direction of the which has a number of excellent reflective pieces.

Jeremy Millar

Hi Johnnie,
Denise Lyons from the Institute of Technology Blanchardstown (Dublin) has written about this topic in Lalor, K. and Share, P. (2013) Applied Social Care, An Introduction for Students in Ireland Volume 3, Dublin, Gill and Mc Millan.
The way that I explain the use of self in care practice to my students is by saying that 'we are all of the experiences that we have ever had'. That is not to say that we are defined by our past, but there is no getting away from the fact that our past plays a very significant role in shaping the choices that we make in the present. When we engage in a relationship with another human being we bring all of ourselves to that relationship. We bring our values, our prejudices and our emotional responses and they will shape and mold the manner in which we help (or not) our clients in the present. The challenge is to be aware of, and to use what is helpful and not to use what is not. That (in my view) is the essence of humanistic work!

John Byrne
(also in Ireland)


Two great resources I have found that speak really well to the use of self in Child and Youth Care work (with individuals and families) are;

1. Gharabaghi and Stuart; Right Here, Right Now: Exploring Life Space Interventions with Children and Youth (2013)
2. Garfat and Charles; A Guide to Developing Effective Child and Youth Care Practice with Families (2012).

Good luck!
Sue Hunt

Hello Johnnie,

I recently completed a 300 page research project on Conceptualizations of the Self in CYC. It is available – open access and creative commons – through the University of Victoria Library:

Good luck,
Scott Kouri

Dear Johnnie and others,

In addition to the excellent resources already mentioned by others, perhaps I can suggest a few more, as it's such an important theme? As usual, it's worth varying your search terms to get a wider range of results (e.g. try "conscious use of self" (including the quotation marks for the exact phrase).

Most of the following are from the social work literature, but there are many parallels in other professions (see below). After all, every professional arrives at work each day with a self – what they do with it when they get there is another matter!

First a few texts which are available online:

1. J Sudbery (2002) Key features of therapeutic social work: the use of relationship Journal of Social Work Practice; pdf downloadable here:

2. Reupert, Andrea (2007) Social Workers’ Use of Self (pdf downloadable direct from Google Scholar) Clinical Social Work Journal 35:107–116

3. Andrew Cooper: The self in social work practice – uses and abuses.
Downloadable here from the Centre for Social Work Practice:

N.B. This site, which focuses on 'relationship-based practice', especially from a psychoanalytic approach, also has other relevant papers by Andrew Cooper and others, on the ‘Education’ and ‘Publications’ pages.

4. A wonderful and deeply thoughtful piece of writing on this theme which influenced me many years ago is the chapter in Hugh England’s book. This is hard to get hold of now but you could probably find a second-hand copy online: England, H. (1986) Social work as art: Making sense for good practice. Chapter: The persistent mystery of the intuitive use of self. Harper Collins, London.

A few other publications I came across:

5. Harrison, K. & Ruch, G. (2007) ‘Social work and the use of self; on becoming and being a social worker’ In M. Lymbery and K. Postle (eds) Social Work: A Companion to Learning London: Sage

6. Mandell, D. (2008) ‘Power, care and vulnerability: considering the use of self in child welfare work’ Journal of Social Work Practice, 22, 2, pp. 235-248.

7. Mandell, D. (2007) Revisiting the Use of Self: Questioning Professional Identities. Toronto, Canadian Scholars Press.

8. Edwards, JK and Bess, JM (1998) Developing Effectiveness in the Therapeutic Use of Self, Clinical Social Work Journal 26 (1) 89-105.
From the abstract: ‘The authors of this paper offer the argument that the application of what you know as a psychotherapist (that is the accumulation of knowledge and techniques from professional education and training) can only be helpful and effective if you are aware of how who you are as a person in the room with the client (that is the accumulation of your own personality traits, personal belief systems, and psychology in the relational matrix with the client) is influencing the therapy.’

The ‘Therapeutic use of self’ theme also arises in several related professions, including counselling, psychotherapy, nursing and psychosocial care (of adults), and it is well worth searching across the various professional literatures. For example:

9. Griffiths, Peter, et al., (eds.) (1998) Face to face with distress: The professional use of self in psychosocial care. Elsevier Health Sciences.

Lastly a couple of my own papers on this theme:

10. Ward, A. (2010) Use of Self in Relationship-based Practice, in: Ruch et al (ed.) Relationship-based social work: getting to the heart of practice. London, Jessica Kingsley

11. Ward, A. (2008) Beyond the Instructional Mode: Creating a Holding Environment for Learning about the Use Of Self, Journal of Social Work Practice: 22 (1) 67-83

… and finally, bearing in mind that ‘use of self’ applies not only in front-line work but also in management and leadership:

12. Ward, A. (2014) ‘The Leader as a Person’, Chapter 7, in: Leadership in Residential Child Care. A Relationship-Based Approach. Smokehouse Press, Norwich UK.

I hope this helps!
With all best wishes.

Adrian Ward

Hi All,

Just want to express immediate gratitude for replies received – via the Network and off-line. Much appreciated. I'll respond individually to members who contacted me directly – it is encouraging to be part of such a generous sharing community.

Best wishes


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