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Trelles-Fishman, A. (2019). Towards emotional containment for staff and patients: developing a Work Discussion group for play specialists in a paediatric ward. J. Child Psychother., 45(1):4-17.

(2019). Journal of Child Psychotherapy, 45(1):4-17


Towards emotional containment for staff and patients: developing a Work Discussion group for play specialists in a paediatric ward

Anggielina Trelles-Fishman

This paper describes the evolution of a staff Work Discussion group run by a child psychotherapist in a teaching hospital for more than 15 years. It offers insight into the emotional experience of both NHS staff and patients as seen through the lens of the discussion of the staff’s work. The author identifies three main stages in the evolution of this group, as trust and the feeling of a safe space gradually developed. The first stage was identifying and understanding the emotional experience of patients, through the use of observational skills and psychoanalytic concepts; the second emerged as staff began to include their own emotional experience in the narrative; the last stage saw a qualitative shift in the staff’s capacity to share the pain generated by the work, knowing about it through holding it in the group’s mind and being able to reflect on it, allowing them to process experience in a way that made the work more bearable – akin to Bion’s concept of ‘containment’. This evolution is illustrated with relevant vignettes in the light of some theoretical and historical considerations. The paper demonstrates the value of Work Discussion groups in terms of indirectly supporting hospitalised patients, as well as promoting staff’s resilience and professional capacities in difficult contexts.

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