The Write Stuff: Personal narratives in mental health social work group practice

Today we have our first blog post of 2017 from our newly qualified social worker, Daniel! In this post Daniel explores using personal identity as a tool in social care practice. Make sure to read, comment and most importantly, enjoy! 

As a social worker and community mental health practitioner, I co-facilitate and co-lead (Benson, 2010:29) a weekly two-hour creative writing group for people recovering from schizophrenia alongside two of our team’s support time recovery workers in a board room facility owned by a registered charity in Plymouth, United Kingdom. Bamberg (2007 cited in Quinn et al, 2011:207) acknowledged that personal narratives are often used in mental health practice within both therapy and research contexts. Quinn et al (2011:207) define a personal narrative as ‘a story told by someone about his or her own life’. Therefore, I decided to apply this approach to plan, form and run a creative writing group which fits alongside the others offered by our service namely cooking, cinema, conservation, women’s, and allotment groups.  The creative writing group is underpinned using personal narratives in mental health practice with the goal of challenging the fluid nature of the four participants’ identities as only users of our service. Maclean (2016:28-29) asks what are my goals and others in this practice. My goals are to provide a group in which participants can explore other aspects of their identities such as loving sons, parents and creative writers by the nature and purpose of the group (Quinn et al, 2011:213).

Participating in the group four male service users are provided with the opportunities of personal growth, imparting hope and opportunity to live a meaningful life with a positive sense of self (Quinn et al, 2011:214; Andresen et al, 2003 cited in Fox, 2013:60). Pioneering this group, the first in our service’s history, it was my aim to provide a time and space within the group for the narrators to develop the multiple and fluid nature of their individual identities. For example, aside from each group member being a service user of our Assertive Outreach Service (AOS), through the process of their own creative writing in the forms of poetry, novel and short story participants explore other aspects of their identities such as loving son, parents, and creative writers. Within the three sessions run to date, we have seen the group grow in number of participants from two to four. Furthermore, the group develops participants’ confidence and skills in creative writing through the written word, ‘re-membering conversations’ (Megele, 2015:128) and discussions within the group facilitated by the support time recovery workers and I in a relaxed but purposeful atmosphere. Such an approach, intervention and style of leadership has resulted in one group member wanting to engage with and in the group in all three sessions run to date. Two participants have engaged in two of four sessions. Therefore, it can be seen how I and we have effectively built the use of narratives into my social work role (Quinn et al, 2011:214).

Lastly, as service users’ confidence in their own writing ability grows I am confident one if not all will feel comfortable enough to consent for an excerpt of writing to be published in this blog in the future.

References

Benson, J. F. (2010) Working More Creatively with Groups. (3rd edn). Oxon: Routledge.

Fox, J. (2013) ‘The Recovery Concept: The Importance of the Recovery Story’, in Walker, S. (ed.) Modern Mental Health: Critical Perspectives on Psychiatric Practice. St Albans: Critical Publishing, pp. 110-133.

Maclean, S. (2016) ‘Whatever the weather’, Professional Social Work (March), pp. 28-29.

Megele, C. (2015) Psychosocial and Relationship-based Practice. Northwich: Critical Publishing.

Quinn, N., Knifton, L. and Donald, J. (2011) ‘The Role of Personal Narratives in Addressing Stigma in Mental Health’, in Taylor, R. Hill, M. and McNeill, F. (eds.) Early Professional Development for Social Workers. Birmingham: Venture Press, pp. 207-218.

If you have any questions, you can reach me at keisha@criticalpublishing.com – as always, we would love to hear from you!

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GREAT EXPECTATIONS – WHAT DO MENTEES WANT FROM THEIR MENTORS AND THEIR SCHOOL?

Today we have a new blog post from one of our fantastic authors, Jonathan Gravells, author of Mentoring: Getting it Right in a Week. Here he explores what exactly mentees want from their mentors and their schools.

Agreeing clear expectations, at both and individual and school level, is one of the proven ingredients of successful mentoring. Here are some expectations that would come at the top of our list.

6 things you should expect from your mentor

  1. Credibility & competence – There are skills and knowledge associated with being a good mentor and you should expect your mentor to have taken the trouble to acquire these. Do they have to have more experience than you as a teacher? Well not necessarily, as plenty of successful peer mentoring partnerships can demonstrate. However, mentoring partnerships often benefit from mentors having different experience, as this enriches the learning.
  2. Willingness to learn – Competence does not mean your mentor knows it all. We can all get better at what we do and your mentor should role model this. Furthermore, in the best mentoring partnerships the mentor learns from exploring their mentee’s experiences too.
  3. Attention – Good listening is important of course, but great mentors do so much more than this. They give their full attention to their mentee, in an effort to really understand what motivates, frustrates or frightens them, and to find ways forward that will really suit them, rather than simply conform to some established formula or standard.
  4. Empathy – Because they have taken the trouble to really understand what makes you tick, great mentors will be able to put themselves in your shoes and realise why you respond to situations and events in a particular way. But they will also remain objective enough to help you question these responses.
  5. Challenge – So, empathy and supportiveness are key to good mentoring, but we also learn from having our assumptions and preconceptions challenged. The best mentors help us to tackle things we might not otherwise have had the confidence to address.
  6. Freedom to be your best self – Great mentors do not impose their strategies or recipes on you. They acknowledge that good teachers are not all stamped from the same mould, and the most successful ideas and improvements will be those that suit your personality and strengths.

6 things you should expect from your school

  1. Clear purpose for the mentoring – Unless your school is clear about what it wants to achieve from mentoring as an institution, then what kind of message is it sending mentors and mentees?
  2. Proper evaluation and improvement – Demonstrating the impact of mentoring, justifying the continued investment of time and money on this aspect of continuing professional development, and finding ways of making it work even better will reinforce everyone’s commitment to the process.
  3. Proper training and ongoing support – As the recent National Standards for ITT mentors rightly point out, mentors (and I would argue mentees) need not just adequate initial training in the skills and techniques of mentoring, but processes to ensure continued improvements in practice.
  4. Time – Unless schools find ways of allocating sufficient time to mentoring as part of staff development, the evidence suggests mentors and mentees will struggle to maintain commitment to the process.
  5. A positive environment – Another crucial observation from the National Standards is that mentoring can only thrive in the right environment. This means a sensible separation from performance assessment and monitoring , demonstrable support from the top, and respecting the need for mentoring to take place within a safe space.
  6. Agreed definition and ground rules – This positive environment will benefit significantly from clarity around mentoring roles and responsibilities and the basic ground rules governing these learning conversations.

Jonathan Gravells, Director of Fargo Associates, January 2017

If this blog post interests you, why not look a bit further? Details of Jonathan’s Mentoring: Getting it Right in a Week can be found on the Critical Publishing website. In addition, why not have a look at the other titles in the In a Week series; Lesson Planning: Getting it Right in a Week by Keith and Nancy Appleyard and Behaviour Management: Getting it Right in a Week by Susan Wallace.

If you have any questions, you can reach me at keisha@criticalpublishing.com – as always, we would love to hear from you!

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Who are you? The Power of Self in Newly Qualified Social Worker Practice

Today we have the second blog post from our NQSW, Daniel! Have a read to find out his thoughts on the importance of self as a Newly Qualified Social Worker.

Maclean (2016) argues consideration of self is a vital aspect of critically reflective practice. I am developing my sense of self as a mindful, reflective, and self-aware practitioner. I have reflected how I identify with the concept of the ‘wounded healer’ in my journey into social work education and post-qualifying practice (Brown et al, 2016:76). As a former user of secondary mental health services and practitioner with lived experiences of mental health problems, I bring several positive insights into my professional role. For example, experiential learning as a service user myself and the genuine rapport these experiences developed. Furthermore, as a man in social work I am in the minority. Several authors (Brown et al, 2016:83; Turner, 2016:18-19) acknowledge this gender imbalance, placing an emphasis on how men can make a positive and valid contribution encouraging the celebration of positive male identities in our profession.

Moreover, I am a practitioner with dyspraxia and Irlen Syndrome. Dyspraxia is a recognised disability and ‘a form of developmental co-ordination disorder, a life-long condition affecting the organisation of movement, perception and thought’ (Dyspraxia Foundation, 2016). Irlen Syndrome is a perceptual processing disorder which effects the brain’s ability to process visual information (Irlen, 2015).   My professional identity and sense of self consists of one that contains multiple differences and strengths.

            These differences bring with them several challenges and opportunities. There is the challenge of reasonable adjustments as outlined in section 20 duty to make adjustments of the Equality Act 2010. I have experience of the intrusion of assessment alongside the relief of appropriate and helpful intervention. I have been deemed eligible for several adjustments to be made to my work environment such as provision of a job coach, specialised computer speech-to-text software, a smart pen and coloured overlays. The opportunities this sense of self offers is abundant such as awareness raising of specific learning difficulties within social work, building on the work of charitable organisations (Dyspraxia Foundation, 2016). There are opportunities to feel more supported, comfortable, and competent in the workplace. These challenges make me seek opportunities to use my creativity and resilience to influence the workplace making a difference for myself and others (Adams and Sheard, 2013:54; Howe and Caldwell-McGee, 2016:93).

In her model of reflection, Maclean (2016) encourages consideration of goals in practice. My goals for this practice were to achieve the reasonable adjustments to my workplace which I am entitled to and eligible for. I acknowledge that others’ goals, specifically my assessor and line manager, aimed to facilitate and support me achieving these. Consequentially, this could lead to more efficacious support of and practice with the people I serve.

            Finally, the use of self in newly qualified social work practice is powerful. I believe if we combine the appropriate use of legislation with critical reflection, resilience, and self-awareness we can develop into confident and competent practitioners. I feel more help is needed for male practitioners in social work to do the work and continue to build gendered alliances with people in practice.

Daniel Wilding, Community Mental Health Practitioner/Social Worker, December 2016

References

Adams, J. and Sheard, A. (2013) Positive Social Work: The Essential Toolkit for NQSWs. Northwich: Critical Publishing.

Brown, P., Cook, M., Higgins, C., Matthews, D., Wilding, D. and Whiteford, A. (2016) ‘Men in social work education: building a gendered alliance’, in Bellinger, A. and Ford, D. (eds.) Practice placement in social work: Innovative approaches for effective teaching and learning. Bristol: Policy Press, pp. 71-87.

Dyspraxia Foundation (2016) Join the Foundation. Available at:  http://dyspraxiafoundation.org.uk/what-we-do/join-foundation/ (Accessed: 6 November 2016).

Equality Act 2010, c. 15. Available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2010/15/section/20 (Accessed: 6 November 2016).

Howe, K. and Caldwell-McGee, P. (2016) ‘Managing the personal: from surviving to thriving in social work’, in Keen, S. Parker, J., Brown, K. and Galpin, D. (eds.) Newly- Qualified Social Workers: A Practice Guide to the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment. 3rd edn. London and Califomia: Learning Matters/Sage, pp. 85-107.

Irlen (2015) What is Irlen Syndrome? Available at: http://irlen.com/what-is-irlen-syndrome/ (Accessed: 11 November 2016).

Maclean, S. (2016) ‘Whatever the weather’, Professional Social Work (March), pp. 28-29.

Turner, A. (2016) ‘The Great Divide’, Professional Social Work (July/August), pp. 18-19.

If this post interests you and makes you wonder about the thoughts of NQSWs, why not look a bit further? Starting Social Work: Reflections of a Newly Qualified Social Worker by Rebecca Novell offers a fantastic insight into the thoughts and feelings of NQSWs. More details about the books can be found on the Critical Publishing website.

If you have any questions, you can reach me at keisha@criticalpublishing.com – as always, we would love to hear from you!

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Invisible Educators or Connecting Professionals?

Today we have a new blog post from one of our lovely authors, Jim Crawley of Bath Spa University! Here he discusses teacher education in PCE.

Here are a few interesting things about Post Compulsory Education (PCE) you may not know.

There are 773,000 16– 18- year- olds who study in colleges, compared with 442,000 in schools. A further 71,000 16- to 18- year- olds undertake apprenticeships through colleges and two million adults study or train in English colleges (AoC, 2015 ).

Even with the impact of austerity measures and budget cuts, over 30,000 PCE teachers still gained teaching qualifications in 2012/ 13 (ETF, 2015 ).

In the three decades up to the 2015 election there had been 61 Secretaries of State responsible for skills policy in Britain. Between them they produced 13 major Acts of Parliament and skills policy had flipped between government departments or been shared between departments on ten different occasions (City and Guilds, 2014, p 1).

All of these feature in a new book, the first of its kind, about Teacher Education in PCE.

The third of these ‘interesting things’ really emphasises the volatility and change (an almost incredible amount in the case of this example) which the PCE sector experiences. You would be forgiven for wondering how the first two were ever achieved. The ‘Cinderella sector’ is rightly proud of its achievements, but in a sector which is often almost invisible to governments and many of the public at large, finds it difficult to get its voice heard. Within this professional invisibility, one group of professionals is even more invisible than many of the others, and that is Post Compulsory Teacher Educators (TEds), despite the volume of teachers trained in the sector.

The UK Post Compulsory Education (PCE) sector and its community of TEds has experienced particularly difficult times over the recent period of austerity, even though the mainly workplace-based partnership model of PCE teacher education resonates well with key thinking and current developments in the broader field of teacher education.

The new book, ‘Post Compulsory Teacher Educators – Connecting professionals’ is about PCE teacher education and written by PCE TEds, and it aims to demonstrate that this particular group have much to be proud of, and that their work is one of the key connecting aspects of the development and improvement of teachers in this much under-rated sector.

The book’s authors, Jim Crawley (the editor), Carol Azumah Dennis, Vicky Duckworth, Rebecca Eliahoo, Lynn Machin, Kevin Orr, Denise Robinson and Nena Skrbic are all well-known and well-respected practitioners in PCE. They have produced eight lively, accessible and engaging chapters using their research, ideas and stories from their own work at the front line of training teachers for PCE.  The result is a book which is book is authoritative, critical, rooted in experience and thought provoking, making use of current research and newly-developing thinking. The book will appeal to and be enjoyed by academics and teaching professionals at all levels.

The chapters include an introduction to this group of ‘invisible educators’; how the work they do can be described as having an ‘even more’ quality; what the PCE sector is now, how it has arrived there and where it may go next; the history and development of PCE teacher education; enacting teacher education values; showing how PCE Teacher educators are ‘connecting professionals’; learning lessons from teacher education globally and looking at growing connections as the future for PCE teacher education.

This timely book calls together all those with an interest in PCE teacher education and encourages them to work together for a brighter future.

 

Dr Jim Crawley – Bath Spa University – November 2016

References: 

Association of Colleges, College Key Facts 2015/16. Available at: https://www.aoc.co.uk/sites/default/files/AoC%20College%20Key%20Facts%202015-16%20WEB.pdf 

Zaidi, A., Howat, C. et al., Initial Teacher Education (Provision in FE and Skills). Available at: https://www.aoc.co.uk/sites/default/files/AoC%20College%20Key%20Facts%202015-16%20WEB.pdf

City & Guilds – Sense & Instability: Three decades of skills and employment policy. Available at: http://www.cityandguilds.com/~/media/Documents/news-insight/oct-14/CGSkillsReport2014%20pdf.ashx

If this blog post interests you, why not look a little further? Details of Post Compulsory Teacher Educators: Connecting Professionals can be found at www.criticalpublishing.com.

If you have any questions, you can reach me at keisha@criticalpublishing.com – as always, we would love to hear from you!

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positive-social-work-nov-blog-post

Preceptorship as a viable alternative to the Assessed and Supported Year in Employment

Introducing our new social work blogger! Today we have a great post from our new social work blogger, Daniel Wilding. If you are a student or newly qualified social worker, this blog post is a great read for you!

Have a read and see why.

I am a newly qualified social worker employed as a community mental health practitioner in an assertive outreach service.  I am currently undertaking a preceptorship with the support of my preceptor and practice supervisor (Lalonde and McGillis Hall, 2016) because my employer does not support the optional Assessed and Supported Year in Employment (ASYE) (Kent, 2015).  The weather model of critical reflection (Maclean, 2016: 28-29) is useful for reflection. This model shall now be utilised in an exploration of how a social work preceptorship can be a useful alternative choice of employment and early professional development for student social workers on the cusp of qualification.

Maclean (2016) asserts that relationships are critical on which to reflect in practice. I have enjoyed the opportunities to build relationships with colleagues in my multi-disciplinary team of community psychiatric nurses, psychiatrists, an occupational therapist, art therapist and psychotherapist, a clinical psychologist, assistant practitioners and several support time recovery workers. We work with adults of working age who are recovering from schizophrenia in the community. I feel the relationships I have built with service users have impacted my practice in the following ways. I have seen how my support is valued and complimented by service users through significant life changes such as moving home and through a mental health crisis triggered by the stress of this transition. Elsewhere, I have seen how delivering support with activities of daily living is valued by a service user with chronic pain and schizoaffective disorder. Lastly, I have seen and heard how my knowledge and skills pertaining to section 42(1)(b)(c) enquiry by local authority of the Care Act 2014 has been sought from me by colleagues in psychiatry and the allied health professions in their work safeguarding clients.

Maclean (2016) encourages critical reflection upon organisation. In my view, there is a crucial organisational issue that impacts on my and our practice. My employer is an organisation that delivers health and social care from a primarily medical model. At a recent away day, our clinical psychologist delivered a presentation on the Recovery Star (Triangle Consulting Social Enterprise, 2015). Prior, she and I discussed the UnRecovery Star (Recovery in the Bin, 2015) as a counterpoint to the former because it is underpinned by the social model of disability. It was striking how my knowledge was shared within the team and the positive feedback this generated from colleagues. Reflecting this back to the organisation, I believe the recruitment of more student social workers and newly qualified social workers could benefit my organisation and improve the service because of our particular set of skills can help aid mental health recovery of service users.

In conclusion, it has been seen how a newly qualified social worker’s skills, experience and expertise can be a valuable addition to an organisation consisting of mainly nursing, medical and allied health professionals. A preceptorship programme can offer a stimulating and interesting career alternative worthy of consideration by student social workers seeking an alternative employment option to the ASYE.

References

Care Act 2014, c. 23. Available at: http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2014/23/section/42/enacted (Accessed: 26 October 2016).

Kent, S. (2015) Assessed and Supported Year of Employment – questions and answers. Available at: http://cdn.basw.co.uk/upload/basw_122527-3.pdf (Accessed: 30 October 2016).

Lalonde, M. and McGillis Hall, L. (2016) Preceptor characteristics and the socialization outcomes of new graduate nurses during a preceptorship programme. Nursing Open. doi:10.1002/nop2.58.

Maclean, S. (2016) ‘Whatever the weather’, Professional Social Work (March), pp. 28-29.

Recovery in the Bin (2015) ‘UnRecovery Star’, Recovery in the Bin, (no date). Available at: https://recoveryinthebin.org/unrecovery-star-2/ (Accessed: 26 October 2016).

Triangle Consulting Social Enterprise (2015) The Recovery Star. Available at: https://www.staronline.org.uk/star_mock_homepage.asp?section=152 (Accessed: 26 October 2016).

If this blog post is of interest to you, why not dig a little deeper? Positive Social Work – The Essential Toolkit for NQSWs by Julie Adams and Angie Sheard and Modern Mental Health – Critical Perspectives on Psychiatric Practice by Steven Walker et al. provide interesting and varied perspectives and opinions on the making of a newly qualified social worker. Further details of both books can be found on www.criticalpublishing.com.

If you have any questions, you can reach me at admin@criticalpublishing.com – as always, we would love to hear from you!

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Learning to be a Primary Teacher

The Carter Review for initial teacher training (DFE, 2015) identified the importance of core curriculum content for all teacher training programmes. The review highlighted the importance of all programmes embedding core content on aspects such as: subject-specific pedagogy, assessment, behaviour management, special educational needs and disability, planning, differentiation, child and adolescent development and professionalism. Carter also highlighted the critical role of the school-based mentor in ITE programmes and the need to improve the quality of mentoring.

My new book, entitled Learning to be a Primary Teacher: core knowledge and understanding, published by Critical Publishing in 2016, addresses much of the core content that Carter specified. It also provides a chapter on evidence-based teaching and provides ideas to trainees on how to access educational research. The theme of evidence-based teaching also runs throughout each chapter and trainees are introduced to some of the latest educational research which points to ‘what works’ in schools and classrooms.

Initial teacher training is currently experiencing a phase of transition. In addition to provider-led programmes, providers have in recent years accredited school-led models of training in collaboration with their partnerships, through the introduction of School Direct. Various models of School Direct exist and there is no one blueprint for how School Direct should operate. Postgraduate trainees now have more choice than ever before in relation to how they wish to train as a teacher. They might choose traditional university routes or School Direct routes. Some might choose to train through School-Centred Initial Teacher Training programmes (SCITT) and others might choose assessment-only routes. There is a highly prestigious Troops to Teachers programme as well as other routes such as Teach First.

The diversity of routes into teaching can cause confusion for potential trainees. They need clear, impartial advice on which route is best for them and trainees need to research what is available before they make an application. However, once they are on the programme trainees need similar core content, regardless of the route they have chosen. My book will provide them with the background knowledge that they need to start a career in teaching and it will raise questions for critical debate. The text is accessible and current and directly relevant to classroom practice.

Teaching is a challenging choice of profession.  Many teachers choose to exit the profession each year due to the demands of the role. Trainees will certainly experience stress and exhaustion during their training and may feel like they want to quit. However, it is important in times of stress to recall the reasons for entering the profession in the first place. Teacher make a real difference to the lives of children that they educate. Everyone remembers a good teacher. The best teachers motivate and inspire their learners. They change lives. This book will hopefully give you a step up into a deeply rewarding and interesting profession.

Is this acceptable?

Dr Jonathan Glazzard, EdD, MSc, MEd, MA, PGCert(HE), BEd(Hons)

Head of Academic Development

National Teaching Fellow. Leeds Trinity University

Social Work with Children with Disabilities

Active Social Work Children Disabilities.indd

Today we have a great entry from the authors of our new social work book ‘Active Social Work with Children with Disabilities‘. If you are a student or practising social worker working with or looking to work with children then this book is perfect for you!

Have a read to see why.

We have worked in the field of social work for many years with a large proportion of this working with children with disabilities.  We do not pretend that this is easy and do acknowledge in the book that like other areas of social work, working with children with disabilities is a demanding and at times a very stressful area of social work, particularly when you see children and young people with conditions that are life limiting and/or debilitating and the impact that this has upon not only their lives but the family as a whole.  However, on a brighter note, it is rewarding to work with such wonderful children who bring a smile to your face and who help you remember why we all do such difficult and challenging jobs, often for little or no recognition.  Those children and families that we support help put some of our own challenges into perspective and move onto the next situation that awaits us around each corner.

We hope our book, Active Social Work with Children with Disabilities will help students and newly qualified social workers who are at the beginning of their social work journey and who maybe unfamiliar working with children with disabilities; or for those who have perhaps been in social work for some time but have not worked in this field before and maybe a little ‘apprehensive.  We hope to allay any fears you may have and to introduce you to some of the themes you will come across such as supporting families who may have just received a diagnosis, working with grief and loss, completing your assessments, behaviour management, a family perspective and most importantly communicating with children who are non-verbal and those who use other methods of communication.  We give you some strategies to think about to help you capture the child’s voice.  We have also included a sneaky peak at how autism impacts upon communication.  There are numerous activities throughout the book to get you thinking about different situations and scenarios.   We also give some tips about other aspects of working in a social work team for children with disabilities, such as attending resource panels and working with other professionals from other disciplines.

We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed writing it.

Julie Adams & Diana Leshone

If you have any questions you can reach me at hannah@criticalpublishing.com – as always we’d love to hear from you.

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