This chapter will apply psychodynamic and systemic concepts to clarify dynamic processes in direct work between social workers and service-users. Dynamics, if not identified and understood, can be destructive since they are likely to be acted out rather than used as information on how to proceed. In a meeting to allocate places in an elderly persons’ home, a team leader had four urgent referrals for the one available place. Each social worker, on presenting their assessment, was heavily criticised for ineffective work: for failing to explore fully options other than residential care; for emphasising a user’s wishes above needs, or both above available resources; for overinvolvement rather than dispassionate evaluation. The workers felt angry, confused, distressed and de-skilled. What were the dynamics being dramatised here? Confronted with an impossible task and feeling unable to leave the field by communicating the difficulties to senior managers, the team leader used denial and projection as defences: denial of the anxieties evoked by the situation, and projection of ‘bad’ feelings about the task on to social workers where the ‘badness’, in the form of inadequate assessments, could be more safely challenged. The team leader thereby accomplished the task of allocating the one available place by accommodating to the situation and identifying with senior managers such that he was more aggressor than victim.
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