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The Child Psychology Service is a Social Enterprise based in the Midlands. As the name suggests, we are a team mostly made up of Clinical/Counselling Psychologists. All TCPS Psychologists are trained at doctoral level, are HCPC registered and have a valid DBS check. We have expertise working with children and families who have experienced developmental trauma and all our work is grounded in attachment theory, to aid the understanding and support of young people who present with trauma-related behaviours.
Psychologists from TCPS are trained in Dyadic Developmental Psychotherapy (DDP, developed by Dr Daniel Hughes; https://ddpnetwork.org/) and Empathic Behaviour Management (EBM), holding attachment, connection and relationships at the forefront of all interventions.
Our aims are to understand the psychological and emotional needs of the children that we work with and to help residential homes explore the impact of early attachment experiences. It is really important for us to work collaboratively with residential teams to create a safe space where children can learn to trust and begin to feel secure enough to explore emotions and integrate previous experiences.
Residential childcare is unique in that it requires a collaborative ethos involving a team of people who are parenting young people. Our approach allows the team to develop a shared understanding of the young people in their care with the aim to help the team enrich relationships. This ethos encompasses all relationships and connections between the adults; the adults and young people and facilitating this between the young people. Staff develop an understanding of their own reactions and triggers so that they can remain reflective even when young people are in crisis. This provides the children with a consistent experience of reciprocity and being kept in mind. By incorporating the principles of DDP and EBM into daily interactions we help to build young people’s sense of self, lead them to develop a deeper understanding of their current and past experiences and, over time, aims to give them a more hopeful, positive future.
Our way of working places the system around the young person at the heart of the intervention, with the possibility for every interaction to be seen as therapeutic (Dr Karen Treisman). It is the residential staff who are seen as ‘therapeutic parents’ and those who are most able to affect change in the young person. This approach brings together an understanding of complex presentations and makes real and pragmatic links between theory and practice, offering interventions in a developmentally congruent way. This understanding, supported by psychologically informed formulations, then helps to inform appropriate interventions.
Activities and interventions may be different from one home to the next. As we know, two residential homes (even in the same company) are not the same. Therefore, they may be operating at different levels of the Pyramid of Need (see below). For example, if one home is managing multiple risky behaviours, regular missing episodes, possible placement breakdowns, fractious network relationships, lots of staff changes and high staff burnout rate, we may need to operate at the ‘Safety’ level, prioritising staff support and liaising at a senior management level to explore how we can contain and stabilise things in the home. However, if another home is more stable, with a consistent staff team, lots of containment and support, it may be more appropriate to operate at the higher levels where we can think more creatively about interventions. Movement between levels of the pyramid can be fluid depending on the needs of the home.
Our psychologists visit the homes on a weekly basis (either half a day a week, or a full day a week).
We offer Empathic Behaviour Management training (download our overview here) and the input can include the following;
We provide regular reflection opportunities for our colleagues to enable them to remain attuned and sensitive to the needs of the young people. We focus on being a therapeutic partner to allow a space for meaning making so that we are able to recognise the needs behind the behaviour. These conversations can help to inform risk assessments.
After a period of stabilisation, we assess the young person’s needs to develop a working formulation, the young person’s individual story, and a therapeutic plan. The formulation and plan are then regularly reviewed to ensure that any changes in need are recognised and the team are able to adapt practice to maintain connections and allow young people to succeed and achieve.