Centre for Social Work Practice

The contribution of systems and object-relation theories to an understanding of the theraputic relationship in social work practice

Posted January 01, 2007

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Philippe Mandin – January 2007

This paper will describe a piece of social work practice from a systemic perspective before exploring in more depth the contribution of psychoanalysis to the relationship between professionals and service users. It will focus on the object-relation school and in particular Melanie Klein’s concepts of projective identification and splitting, together with ideas from Bion about containment. It will consider how these concepts, which have been developed to make sense of the inner world of infants, can be applied to the wider professional system and to organisations. It will then consider attempts at integrating systemic and psychodynamic approaches, and explore whether these two very different models which have developed in opposition to each other can be integrated to provide additional layers of meaning to the family’s position within the child protection system and the legal framework. Journal of Social Work Practice, Volume 21, Number 2

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