Triggs, Suzanne (2019) From Transmission to Transformation: An Exploration of How Coaching is Experienced by Social Workers and Service Users. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

This ‘real world’ research aimed to explore children’s social workers’ experiences of delivering coaching to service users in a local authority family support and child protection service in the north of England, and service users’ experiences of receiving coaching from them. Seven social workers (who had been trained as accredited coaches) and six service users (parents and young people) took part in the study, which had two elements: focus groups followed by semi-structured interviews. The social work participants took part in nine focus groups over a ten-month period whilst coaching was taking place, which captured how they used coaching in their practice over time. Both social workers and service users took part in individual semi-structured interviews when the coaching was completed. Significant themes that arose from both sets of participants were derived using thematic analysis.

Themes presented and evaluated include ‘cultural blockers’ to coaching within the social workers’ turbulent local environment. The presence of and identification with a ubiquitous ‘fix it’ mindset and default social work practice habits based on ‘transmitting’ (advice giving, directing, telling people what to do) and agenda-led practice are prominent themes. The Infiltration of ‘tick-box’ social work processes into coaching delivery and the need to cede social power and control in order to coach others are also distinguished as themes. These are related to themes that reveal how social workers’ professional identifies initially became compartmentalised and conflicted through using coaching, before becoming customised to include elements of coaching attitudes and behaviours. Perceiving movement and change in others through coaching, re-energising the social workers’ desire to make a difference and reconnecting them with their vocational aspirations are strongly identified as themes that have the potential to reshape child protection practice.

Service user themes centre on the comparisons between the received experiences of social work and coaching. The separation of hostile associations towards social workers from the social work identity of their coach is a notable theme, which is linked to how service users recast social workers in the study as ‘coaches’. Other key themes centre on coaching as a disrupter of stagnant patterns in service users’ lives and its promotion of iterative steps towards small changes and transformation. The study proposes that coaching skills be integrated into future social work education and continuing professional development.

FINAL THESIS - Triggs.pdf - Accepted Version
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