Touch, Physical Restraint and Therapeutic Containment in Residential Child Care

Abstract


By Laura Steckley, British Journal of Social Work, published July 7, 2011

The relationship between touch and physical restraint in residential
child care is not well understood. Theories of therapeutic containment
offer insight into the practice of physical restraint, the place of
touch in residential child care practice and the impact of wider fears
about touching between children and adults. Early experiences of
containment necessarily involve touch through feeding, holding and other
forms of soothing. Yet, for those who have not had ‘good enough’ early
experiences of containment, their need for containment (including
containing touch) may remain high. Physical restraint, a not uncommon
practice in residential child care, simultaneously embodies extremes of
both touch and containment. This paper, then, uses theories of
therapeutic containment to illuminate the relationship between touch and
physical restraint. It offers findings of a large-scale, qualitative
study that explored the experiences of physical restraint of children,
young people and staff in residential child care in Scotland. It
provides evidence that staff experience anxieties related to touching
young people, that some young people use physical restraint to meet
needs for touch, that touch is used to contain distress and avoid
restraint, and that touch-related fears may be limiting its ameliorating
use, thus potentially increasing the use of physical restraint.

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Touch, Physical Restraint and Therapeutic Containment in Residential Child Care

Published by Residential Forum

The Residential Forum is to promote the achievement of high standards of care and support for children and adults living in residential care and nursing homes, supported housing, residential schools and colleges, hospices and hostels. It contributes to improving the quality of service to the public. Members of the Forum are people of standing and experience drawn from the public, private and voluntary sectors, as well as some who can speak for service users and carers.

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