At Motherwell Child and Family Clinic, as well as Making a Team in general, we were using live team methods. We needed to describe and rationalise this broader use - that is, broader than just "family therapy" where the idea came from - for a comprehensive specialist (Tier 3, as we'd call it now) child and adolescent mental health service. The ideas here were, of course, developed as a team. At that time (1991) our team was three of us: Anne Hood (social worker then), Rachel Morley (clinical psychologist) and Nick Child (child and family psychiatrist). Updating and referencing this document might bring it up-to-date, but as usual I leave it as it was.
1. Working with people - especially family groups - is always liable to be complex. So two heads can be better than one. And this is about routine use of live teams by permanent staff, not just family therapy, or "once a week", or for demonstration, or supervision for trainees.
2. A systems or systemic framework naturally requires high quality feedback for worker and family. The team provides an "ecology of ideas" or a "mirroring" process. Or more straightforwardly, contributions are available about feelings and views not picked up by the interviewer, or about the worker keeping a balance between being over-energetic and underplaying what's happening.
3. The "helping" dynamic - inevitable for a helping professional - is best absorbed by colleagues helping and being helped by each other so the work with the client is clear of it.
4. Live team colleagues ensure that every family and appointment is taken seriously. Planning, consultation and review ensure that "every session counts".
5. While effective work is engaged in, live teams ensure that unproductive work is not even begun on. So diaries are not blocked by work that is getting nowhere - paradoxically, live teams are therefore economical.
6. Especially in multi-disciplinary teams, real sharing of skills and responsibilities is valuable.
7. The live team is a melting pot for new ideas, personal creativity or training to be stirred in.
8. Wider systems and social issues - local and referring agencies' involvement, gender, class, race, power etc - can be attended to better with a team's help.
9. Good non-live team work around the live work is necessary and stimulated by it. This, along with tackling personal and inter-personal issues that arise in the team, is good for the work with clients. It is also good for the worker's satisfaction, development, commitment and effectiveness in their job, raising morale and preventing "burn out".
10. Practical benefits include
help in composing letters and reports,
confidence in presenting views at case conferences,
effective holiday cover,
easy observation of work by trainees, visitors and managers,
flexibility for settings without one way screens and for
facilitating change to other kinds of work - e.g individual psychotherapy, marital co-therapy.
11. Finally, training of trainees. Note that often in Family Therapy, live teams are only used for supervision and demonstration in the service of training. Joining an established team where live team methods are simply part of their method is quite a different experience for a trainee. Learning on the job is exciting, effective and fast. Personal supervision sessions will not be filled with lengthy and perhaps selective reporting of sessions, freeing the time for more creative discussion and personal issues.
12. Why Not Live Teams?! Teams [live or not] can be terrible if not worked at properly - better to have no team than a half-hearted one. Teams can become closed and rigid "gangs" attached to one line or "school of thought". Some workers and trainees are just not able to work in the open setting of live teams - so selection of personnel has to be made with utmost care.