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Summer Institute Week 4: Making connections and talking to families

For our penultimate blog from the Summer Institute, we asked some of our practice tutors to write about the teaching in Week 4.

Chris Hemsley: The theme of last week was well-timed, as this is the point where participants are very conscious that, in a few short weeks, they will be out in practice. The week started with two days on motivational interviewing (MI). This is one of our key theories and a method of working which has a sound research base. Participants had the opportunity to learn about the principles of MI and practice the key skills that will enable them to help people find the internal motivation they need to change their behavior. On Tuesday, we practised how to manage the initial engagement with families who might not want social care involvement. We considered how resistance from families is a relational process, which we influence and can minimise by rolling with it. The great joy of the first two days, was having our fellows supporting in seminars and doing a live Q&A session to the whole cohort. Participants really appreciated their practice experience and hearing first-hand how MI had helped in their work with families. Fellows also said much how they had enjoyed being there and that the teaching had helped them think again about their own practice.

Lara Parish-Mackin: Wednesday saw us return to systemic ideas, with a focus on appreciative inquiry and change. We had Frontline staff spending the day with us, who got involved in the debates and discussions. I particularly enjoy this day as it as an opportunity for the participants to create their shared vision of how they want to work together as a unit. They considered what is already positive and working well, what they aspire to be, how they can achieve this and finally how they will sustain this. This is a really important tool for them as a unit, but the links made to working with families was seamlessly tied-in and understood. The afternoon saw us consider the history of systemic practice, our relationship to change and key ideas. An interactive lecture was followed by enthusiastic debate about how models of change are used in social work. The participants are eager to think of and apply these ideas in practice and we look forward to seeing them all in placement soon.

Some of the participants’ art, inspired by Friday’s teaching on mental health

Jo Williams and Henry Smith: Thursday and Friday brought the 2017 Cohort back to join us for their last teaching day before becoming qualified social workers! For practice tutors, this is a remarkable time in the year, where we witness ‘the returners’ a year on in their learning journey and take stock of their achievements. On Thursday evening, both cohorts were joined by women from Trevi House, who shared a screening of their Panorama documentary, held a Q&A session and joined us for dinner. We were struck by their confidence, courage and determination, as they shared their stories and reinforced the message that parents can change given the opportunity at the right time and within the right environment.

For the 2018 Cohort, Thursday mainly focused on statutory social work with vulnerable adults. We were joined by some fantastic outside speakers, who shared their knowledge and practice wisdom of the law, ethics and principles of good practice. The week ended on an energetic high, with the lecture becoming a live sculpt, illustrating the complexity of mental health. By far, the most powerful highlight of the week, was an emotional account of mental illness from Ian Lawrence (@PositiveSimply), who generously shared both his personal and professional perspective. Ian loves to dance and our lasting memory of Week 4 will be that of the lecture theatre erupting into a therapeutic disco!

Read Week 3’s blog, by some of our experts by experience.