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itself. Part of the creation of such safety refl ects the ability of the supervisor to share her or his own experiences when they are relevant to the work in hand. Some team members will be very comfortable engaging with and speaking to children, while others may be more reticent. I have sometimes been surprised when a team member experiences relatively high levels of anxiety in thinking about how to engage with children. It is helpful if this issue is discussed openly. If it can be discussed safely, the team’s sense of cohesion, of being held and being mindful of all of the clients is augmented. Each team will have something special to off er a family and


a unique mix from within which to off er therapy. Similarly, each family brings their own special blend of processes, expectations, beliefs and behaviours. T us, the ingredients for a ‘just right’ therapeutic porridge will vary from family to family and team to team. However, there are certain ingredients that might go into the mix. In addition to our previous professional knowledge and our systemic orientation, I believe it is our responsibility, as therapists, to bring the best of what is current and up-to-date knowledge in our fi eld and related fi elds. For me, although I am aware that not everyone would agree, this currently comprises the overlapping fi elds of at achment theory, neurobiology and embodiment. I will say more about these below. T erefore, a live supervisor of family work with children will


need something like the following. Supervising family work with children


Planning the session From behind the screen, the team has access to so much more


than it is possible to track as a single therapist or even for two therapists in the room. Where possible, planning should include as much specifi city as possible: • What does the team expect and want from the supervisor? • How many team interventions might be helpful during the session and who will make them?


• When a break will be taken. Flexibility is also important as children oſt en determine breaks through their behaviour. A sudden need for the toilet when discussions are get ing diffi cult oſt en gives parents an opportunity to cool down and the team a chance to put their heads together. Of course, the lead therapist and team should also be willing to


discard the plan if the session demands something diff erent. Having a plan helps the therapist and team to orient to the family and is useful as a starting place, especially in the middle phases of therapy, even if a completely diff erent direction is taken in the actual session. Behind- the-screen planning may include the allocation of positions of diff erent family members to team members so they can experience those perspectives, as well as having an awareness of the whole.


New(er) developments T e three related clusters of ideas I am most conscious of


drawing on in work with children are: • At achment as it relates to child development • Neurobiology as it relates to child development, communication and interpersonal processes in the room


• Embodiment and the physicality of experience in the therapy room and outside of it T ese are intertwined. Here, I at empt to separate them and


highlight the particular aspects I fi nd useful. Attachment


Byng-Hall (2008), Dallos & Vetere (2009) and others


A solid foundation of systemic skills and knowledge T ese are the basic ingredients I consider useful. T e mixture


may be varied and other ingredients added as necessary. T e work is underlined by a solid systemic orientation. Principles such as curiosity, transparency, refl ecting-team discussions and relational refl exivity require an adjustment in work with young children based on their needs, developmental maturity and understanding. Work with children oſt en generates strong emotions (Spellman & Smith, 2010) and the team will need to develop mechanisms for recognising and dealing with these.


Context February 2012


have shown the importance of an at achment perspective in understanding the complexity of family interactions. T e dynamic maturational model of at achment (Crit enden, 2007) relates the emergence of behavioural strategies in children to their developmental stage and the context in which they fi nd themselves. Crit enden breaks these down into helpful categories: infancy and toddlerhood, pre-school, school age, early adolescence and transition to adulthood. She emphasises several aspects of at achment: • Anxiety is the key to survival and at achment strategies, i.e. behaviours that keep a potential protector close, are activated by danger, or perceived danger. T is is a basic tenet of at achment theory but one that seems to be easily overlooked. Practitioners can sometimes think of at achment more simplistically as love relationships and may not recognise some of the more diffi cult strategies as the child’s way of keeping the parent close, i.e. a response to the child’s perception of danger.


• Rather than labelling the strategies as avoidant, secure and ambivalent as in other models of at achment, Crit enden sticks with Ainsworth’s and Bowlby’s original A,B,C. T is helps to avoid blame and the therapist and team to remain curious about how the behaviour refl ects relationship.


• ‘Secure’ is not necessarily best. A child’s strategy should be directly related to their context. Crit enden teaches that it is helpful to think of B as ‘balanced’ rather than ‘secure’. In


3


Too hot, too cold or just right? Supervising family work with young children


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