From the Mouths of Mothers: Using drama and service user testimonies to facilitate reflective learning for qualified social workers who are working with children and families who are affected by child sexual abuse

Katherine Leonard, Anna Gupta, Amanda Stuart-Fisher, Katharine Lowe

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The paper will discuss the findings of an evaluation undertaken over three years where 87 post qualified children and family social workers on a graduate diploma in children and families social work, attended a one day workshop as part of a module. The five workshops each consist of verbatim theatre directly built on a verbatim theatre project which was initiated in 2007 as a collaboration between Royal Central School of Speech and Drama London, UK, and Mosac, a charity which provides support resources for protective parents whose children have been sexually abused. While verbatim theatre is unable to offer a guarantee of factual truth, what takes place is the opportunity for social workers to engage with a series of personal testimonies from service users, in this case the mothers and related practice scenarios. The evaluation identified a dominant theme for participants was the opportunity to engage with the emotional dimension of their role and two codes within this theme emerged related to social work practice and pedagogical approaches. The workshop provided a learning environment where the social workers affective experience of working with a family where there is suspected or known child sexual abuse could be explored in a contained and safe environment. This allowed the practitioner to explore feelings including uncertainty and anxiety. The impact on practice included the need to recognise and respect the often marginalised narratives voiced through the testimonies of the protective mothers. There was also recognition that the impact of child protection agencies can be be detrimental to supporting the protective mother. Implications for pedagogical approaches to teaching social workers assessment and decision making practices are discussed and consideration given to whether this learning episode provides a way to practice critical reflection.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEASSW - European Association of Schools of Social Work conference, Milan, Italy.
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2015

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