Containment and beneficence in psychoanalytically informed social work research


  • Philip John Archard Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust
  • Michelle O'Reilly University of Leicester and Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust



container-contained dynamics, containment, free association narrative interviews, practice-near research, psychoanalytically-informed interviewing, research beneficence


 This article adds to literature addressing research beneficence from a psychoanalytic perspective, providing reflections focussing on notions of containment and container-contained dynamics as derived from the Kleinian/post-Kleinian tradition of psychoanalysis. It does so by reference to the accounts of participants in a study which explored how professionals working in local authority children’s services in England experience the suffering of parents. In this research, a psychoanalytically informed interview approach was used, and space was provided for participants to reflect on the experience of participation. The variable representation of this experience is considered along with the experience of the researcher carrying out the interviews. Questions are raised about using the language of containment in the context of this research approach and whether this may say more about a researcher’s desire to be helpful to participants and less about participants’ actual experiences (and a genuinely psychoanalytically based understanding of them).

Author Biography

Michelle O'Reilly, University of Leicester and Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust

Associate Professor of Communication in Mental Health (UoL) 

Research Consultant and Quality Improvement Advisor for FYPC (LPT)

CPsychol (Chartered Psychologist in Health)

University of Leicester and Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust 


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How to Cite

Archard, P. J., & O’Reilly, M. (2022). Containment and beneficence in psychoanalytically informed social work research. Social Work and Social Sciences Review, 22(3), 28-47.