Promoting systemic thinking, and therapeutic and relationship based approaches in social work


Promoting systemic thinking, and therapeutic and relationship-based approaches in Social Work

Professor Andrew Cooper – The Whole Picture: Being a Social Worker in the 21st Century (CfSWP AGM)


17th May 2019




4.30pm to 7pm




Andrew Cooper

Event Details

 The conditions in which most social work is now practised are extremely testing, as the impact of austerity and performance regimes on organisations intertwines with the increased complexity and intensity of the front line task. I will speak about using ideas from ‘complexity theory’ with practitioners to help them make sense of their practice circumstances. Altogether, modern practice conditions create new forms of anxiety, as responses to families and service users are rationed, and practitioners struggle to sustain space for thinking and reflection in risk averse and survivalist organisational cultures.

I argue that on the one hand these developments and their implications for the training and nurturing of staff at all levels, must be understood in terms of much wider forces shaping our society – Brexit included; on the other hand it remains vital that opportunities for local innovation and creativity are supported.

In my recent book, ‘Conjunctions: social work, psychoanalysis and society’ I developed an account of what the subjectivity of modern social work looks like, and how the use of self in these new and demanding circumstances remains central, but also not what it once was. Drawing on this, and my experience of two recent initiatives to ‘take on’ the potentially crushing impact of the forces impinging on our public services, one of which was sponsored by CfSWP itself and the other by an NHS acute sector trust, I want to show that faith in ‘reflective practice’ is still justified and possible but needs also to be reframed and re-contextualised. The ‘whole picture’ in which social work and reflective practice sit as professional activities is being redrawn around us, and we need to know this picture if we are not to lose sight of ourselves.
4.30pm Guest Speaker followed by refreshments
6.00pm – 7.00pm AGM including election of trustees and officers

All are very welcome at the talk and AGM but only members can become a trustee or vote.

If you are interested in attending or becoming a member prior to the AGM, please contact Lian Vanstone at

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Do you have an idea for a short article you could write for GAPS?  We warmly invite those involved in social work practice and educators to think about what they would like to say to an audience with an interest in systemic thinking and therapeutic and relationship-based social work practice.

Our aim is to bridge the gap between practice and academic writing whilst opening up spaces for contemplation and stimulating discussion.

We encourage practitioners, educators and researchers to propose articles of 1,000 words or more for publication on this site and for discussion among our community.

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