Centre for Social Work Practice

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Preventing Breakdown: The dynamics of residential care for abused young children

June 29, 2017 in London

Tavistock Policy Seminars Connecting public policy and human relationships Preventing Breakdown: The dynamics of residential care for abused young children

Thursday 29 June 2017 (6pm - 8pm)
Venue: Lecture Theatre, The Tavistock Centre, 120 Belsize Lane, London NW3 5BA
Fee: Free
Speakers: Dr Heather Price and Caryn Onions
Chair: Andrew Cooper

For 70 years the Mulberry Bush School has provided therapeutic care for some our most troubled young children who have suffered extreme neglect, trauma and abuse. Today, most of the residents are from foster families who have reached the point of breakdown while caring for children who are themselves vulnerable to breakdown. The research based presentations in this seminar take us inside the work of this exemplary therapeutic community, exploring the dynamics of love and shame, aggression and fragility and how they are processed day to day by the staff group.

Heather Price will discuss the fi ndings of a recent psychoanalytic ethnographic study of the work of the school, showing how the continuous processing of intense relational and emotional pressures yields positive therapeutic outcomes. Caryn Onions’ research explores how the school works with carers and parents, and their experience of caring for a child moving between home and residential care. Recent policy trends have not favoured residential care options, but some children need to be cared for ‘beyond the family’. Other research by MBS shows that this model works. This seminar reveals how.


Dr Heather Price led the research team which studied MBS’s therapeutic work. She is senior lecturer in Psychosocial Studies at UEL.

Caryn Onions has worked as a child psychotherapist at The Mulberry Bush School since 2004. Her doctoral research focuses on the school’s work with parents and carers, particularly what it is like looking after a child who is also in a residential setting.


The seminar will begin at 6.00 pm with a short break for refreshments at 6.45, after which the seminar resumes with an open dialogue and ends with brief commentary from the speaker.

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