Reflections on the Therapeutic Specialist Forum

Last month, 40 Therapeutic Specialists from a range of organisation’s gathered in Sydney for the annual Intensive Therapeutic Care (ITC) Therapeutic Specialist Forum. Across two days participants engaged in workshops, listened to speakers on key issues facing young people in care and collaborated with peers.

  

A focus on networking and collaboration:

Relationship and connection are central to effective Intensive Therapeutic Care. In an industry known for the high risk of experiencing vicarious trauma, peer support, resourcing and training are key organisational protective factors (Cameron et al., 2020). The aim of the Therapeutic Specialist Forum was to allow Therapeutic Specialist’s across organsiations to connect, build relationships, and collectively innovate their practice on individual, organisational and systemic levels.

Of the two days, feedback consistently highlighted that the opportunity to gather together, share experiences and workshop challenges was of enormous benefit for workers and for the ongoing implementation of the ITC. As one Therapeutic Specialist wrote, “the networking and learning from others experience is EXTREMELY useful”.

  

Collaborative learning looked like:

Therapeutic Specialists were invited to join groups to explore particular issues of passion and/or concern within their work. Topics workshopped included:

  1. The intersection of trauma and disability; with discussion highlighting the prevalence of co-occurring and the resulting increased vulnerability within the OOHC system.
  2. Harmful sexual behaviours; with discussion focused on consent, young people’s access to and use of pornography, and the implications for vulnerability to abuse and healthy sexual development.
  3. Responding to child sexual exploitation; with participants focusing on supporting youth workers and the staff directly working with young people to differentiate between exploitative relationships and “loving” relationships. This discussion included focus on peer relationships, access to technology that assists in child sexual exploitation and brainstorming ideas and strategies for implementation in ITC’s.
  4. Compassion fatigue and secondary trauma; discussion explored the need for consistency in staffing and sustaining of youth workers for the young people and the success of implementing ITC. Participants also spoke about how work satisfaction is a protective factor against compassion fatigue, and brainstormed how therapeutic specialists can support and mitigate against compassion fatigue in ITC.
  5. Reflective practice; as a core element of ITC, participants discussed the challenges of running reflective practice sessions, sharing their organisational approaches, challenges and successes, and together identifying common themes across organisations and strategies to address these common challenges.
  6. The role of the therapeutic specialist; participants talked about the differences in the role across organisations. Despite the differences identified, participants related to similar challenges, struggles and hopes. Participants were enthused by the strategies shared, seeking to take away ideas and approaches from their peers to further strengthen their own roles.

 

What did Therapeutic Specialists say?

Therapeutic Specialists talked about how important opportunities for networking are to facilitate collaboration and innovation. Having the time and space to reflect on their role, the work and ongoing implementation of ITC, Therapeutic Specialists walked away reinvigorated, motivated, and resourced.

– “Great to get together and share ideas, experiences and connect. Also, wonderful to pause, reflect and slow down.”

– “Great to network and connect with different companies and learn some valuable information”

– “Fantastic discussion and great opportunity to share experience and knowledge, I really enjoyed being able to network with other TS.”

  

Where to next:

If you’re looking for networking, peer connection and reflection and professional development take a look at the opportunities below. If you work in ITC you can access our peer reflective practice groups for free:

 

References:

Cameron, N. A., McPherson, L. M., Gatwiri, K., & Parmenter, N. (2020). Research brief: vicarious trauma and secondary stress in therapeutic residential care. Southern Cross University.