Collaboration without collusion: how to create and maintain professional relationships with complex service users


14 November

Resource for London, N7


Felicity Reed photo
Felicity Reed
PAUSE Southwark
Nathan Glew Photo
Nathan Glew
London Borough of Southwark


November 14, 2017 - 10:00 am


November 14, 2017 - 3:45 pm


Resource for London, 356 Holloway Road, London, N7 6PA   View map

southwark council

The professional’s toughest challenge

One of the toughest challenges for professionals can be managing the relationship with the people they support, whether adult or young person, and their families.

Experiences of complex difficulties may lead to people presenting as aggressive, resistant, deceptive, or fluctuating in motivation. Professionals may find themselves assuming a ‘nagging’ or ‘collusive’ role, or simply feeling stuck, cynical or hopeless. They may find themselves moving between hopefulness and belief in the client’s narrative, to cynicism and disbelief in the client’s potential for change.

The language and labels that surround the most complex clients often seems to offer only a binary choice: victim or perpetrator. Professionals may focus on positive qualities in the client, leading them to miss important risk indicators. Conversely, it may prove difficult to recognise positive qualities which hold possibilities for change, learning and growth.

Consequently, there are multiple points at which the effectiveness of the service provider/service user relationship may founder.

What kind of professional relationship problems can develop?

  • The phenomenon sometimes referred to as ‘False’ or ‘disguised’ compliance – Serious Case Reviews regularly highlight professionals uncritically believing inaccurate accounts as a contributory factor to poor outcomes. We may at times find ourselves having an unrealistic idea of clients’ progress, and being persuaded that people are achieving changes that are not in fact occurring.
  • ‘Start again syndrome’– The people we support may have made repeated attempts to change their lives for the better or avoid negative consequences, and this may include frequent moves, each move creating a new transition. Professionals can find themselves giving the family a fresh start and ignoring risks which may have been identified in the past. Equally, we can find ourselves engaging with enthusiasm in each new start, only to mirror the client’s sense of failure and hopelessness when new starts do not progress – thus consolidating the clients’ sense of failure. This course will support you to respond to these difficulties not as failures but as necessary events, and assist you in using these moments to understand and support long term change.
  • ‘Bessie mates syndrome’ – professionals become imbued with the client’s perception of the world. Other systems and professionals can be seen as carrying culpability and blame for a client’s situation. We can fall into becoming friends rather than advisors or mentors, and lose the ability to support the client in facing their difficulties with courage.
  • Karpman’s drama triangle – this approach looks at the three roles of victim, persecutor and rescuer. Service providers may see themselves as rescuers, but this can reinforce the service user’s role of victim.

Despite these difficulties, collaboration with the service user is the essence of social care and other services such as youth work, youth justice, probation, teaching, and a range of other support work with families and individuals.

So what can be done to prevent those risky ‘syndromes’ from developing?

And how can professionals recognise when things are starting to go wrong, and use what is happening as an opportunity for growth?

Collaboration without collusion is a learning day designed to answer these questions.

Who is facilitating the learning day?

  • Felicity Reed, Adult Psychotherapist and UKCP accredited Supervisor. She currently leads Pause Southwark.
  • Nathan Glew, ‎Principal Child and Family Social Worker at the London Borough of Southwark.

Summary of the learning day

  • the nature of the relationship between professional and service user, including the role of their families
  • understanding challenging behaviour and the implications for support services
    • the role of developmental trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences in challenging behaviour
    • understanding it compassionately and from a psychologically-informed perspective
  • points at which professional/service user relationships are most likely to start to go wrong
    • high support/low challenge and low support/high challenge
  • introducing a practice framework – restorative practice, attachment and systemic thinking underpinned by therapeutic use of the self
  • practice-based approaches and handy tools to avoiding pitfalls, and rebalancing professional/service user relationships
  • case studies, research and references to landmark cases and Serious Case Reviews.

Agenda (subject to change)

9.30 – 10.00

Registration and Coffee

Lunch and refreshments will be provided.

The sessions will include:

  • Introducing a practice framework – restorative practice, attachment, and systemic thinking underpinned by therapeutic use of the self
  • Introduction of the role of developmental trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences in challenging behaviour – understanding it compassionately and from a psychologically-informed perspective
  • Situations of high support/low challenge and of low support/high challenge
  • Landmark casesreflecting difficult practice areas
  • Consequences of reaction to this – practice becomescritical, risk-focused and autocratic as anxiety rises
  • Handy tools (including the mentalising seesaw, coming back to the table, the Columbo approach, reframe)
  • Integrating tool and reflection on practice situations


Close of learning day

Delegate fee:

 £130 + VAT = £156

A discount is available when you book *3 or more places together:

*Team of 3 (3rd person attends for half price) £325 + VAT = £390

*Team of 5 (5th person attends for free) £520 + VAT = £624

ring 0115 916 3104 for details.

Included in the delegate package:

  • Delegate pack
  • Lunch
  • Refreshments available throughout the day

Booking Terms and Conditions

Cancellations received up to and including 24th October 2017 will be refunded in full less an administration fee of 25%. Cancellations received after this date will be liable for payment in full.

*Team bookings are non-cancellable but substitute delegates will always be accepted.

The full invoice amount will remain payable if you fail to attend the event, however, substitute delegates will be accepted up until, and including, the day of the event.


Confirmation of booking:

Your booking will be confirmed by email where possible (and by fax or post otherwise), and you will be provided with directions to the venue and details on nearby hotel accommodation. If you do not receive such acknowledgement, please contact Central Conference Consultants Ltd on 0115 916 3104.

  • social workers – children’s
  • social workers – adults’
  • parent and family support workers
  • health professionals working in the community
  • mental health professionals
  • criminal justice professionals
  • housing support staff

The learning day will take place in Holloway, London:

Resource For London
356 Holloway Road
N7 6PA

5 minutes from Holloway Road underground station (Piccadilly Line)

 For public transport information, go to this link:


Due to a lack of public car parking in the area, the use of public transport is strongly encouraged.

If you are a blue badge holder, please contact us on 0115 916 3104.


Details of nearby accommodation will be provided with confirmation of booking.