At the age of 18 or even before, I always knew that I wanted to work within the social sector. Volunteering at my local Youth Centre meant that I was able to contribute and give something back. It was a real eye opener. The young people were aged 10 to 17, roughly the same age as myself.
The youth centre was on a large council estate, notorious in the 80’s for Twoking (Taking without consent). Rover Coupe’s and Ford Escorts were set alight and rubber was burnt. Young people spent their time rebelling and searching for the next thrill.
Youth club was a place where they could come together enjoy each other’s company, be themselves. Being themselves often meant fights erupted, tantrums were thrown and teenage love blossomed. I took a lot of pride in being their shoulder to cry on, a support mechanism in their chaotic lives.
This was the start of my 14-year career, having worked for Youth Offending Teams, Social Services, Pupil Referral Units just to name a few. I have come across many troubled individuals. Children, adults and even toddlers who were confused, un-cared for and often blamed for their bad behaviours. As an outsider looking in I always felt that their behaviours were not their fault and there was more to their struggles.
I knew I wanted to help them to make sense of their situation and support them to go on to live happy autonomous life. I knew this would require a huge level of professionalism and training. I graduated with a BA HONS in Youth and Community Education.
Throughout my career for Statutory or voluntary organisations there was always a certain amount of training required to help you fulfill your job requirements. Many times I was subject to death by power point or over whelmed with policies and procedures. However, I was always successful in engaging with and helping clients to overcome barriers or difficult times. None of the training that I had received helped me to do this.
Colleagues would ask me how I had so many successes, schools would question “what are you doing with him, he like a different boy after he’s been with you”? To me it was simple, I respected them and didn’t focus on their bad behaviours, I gave them space to grow and they were at the centre of everything that we did together.
I often felt that local government or company money was wasted on training that had no impact on my day to day role. Confusing and forgetting the importance of human to human connection. No amount tools, games, or computer system that would help me.
A couple of years ago whilst working for a local authority, I asked to attend another training course. My working week was very chaotic and I often felt like I was fire fighting for service users. They were consumed by chaos, living very hectic lives. Crisis after crisis meant exclusions, arrests and heated emotions. This was very draining for both client and myself. The saying “banging your head against a brick wall” comes to mind.
One day I was asked to attend training, this meant a day away from the office and the chaos. Hopefully I could zone out and catch up on vital paper work. This particular training was different – Train 2 Change.
Train 2 Change made sense to me, it brought everything together. Everything that I believed in, making connections to the past, emotions and behaviours. The importance of connecting with a client and making them feel safe amongst their chaos, this in turn will help clients to effect real sustained change.
It helped me to understand the importance of working therapeutically, the importance of emotional intelligence and I was able to use my new found skills with my clients instantly. The training gives an insight into different therapeutic practices such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), or TA (Transactional Analyst). I was able to connect the training to my past successes; I was working therapeutically with the client – and it worked!
The training helped me to develop my own practice. It encourages the importance of relationships and trust when working with hard to reach client groups. Usually these client groups have had bad experiences with family or Services. We need to build their trust by working at a therapeutic level. When working at a therapeutic level clients have the space to understand and read their emotions; and how they have impacted on their behaviour and life opportunity. People that are caught up in negative emotions are always caught up in negative behaviours, crime, substance misuse, self-harm?
Working therapeutically helps people to overcome barriers that are preventing them from moving forward, this training taught me that emotional intelligence is just as important as academic ability.