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  • Writer's pictureThe Peer Support Team

A patient pounce .......

Updated: Nov 22, 2019

I've been waiting patiently for over 6 months to offer a Co-Counselling Introduction to a London Probation Service. This morning Sasha and I pounced! We offered a small group of 3 Probation Officers and a service admin. worker a two hour taster of peer supportive listening.

This introduction to Peer Support for the Workplace we've called "Real Listening". It's a very basic framework for people to learn how to collaborate with each other in times of stressful working conditions.

The framework is basically just a series of simple "Free Attention" exercises of paired, equal time talking and listening. There's a bit of background information to explain where the ideas come from. We clarified with them what they felt they would need as "Ground Rules" to be able to trust the process. We suggested that it was potentially something they could start for themselves by themselves. Free and effective!

They 'got it' pretty quickly although they struggled a bit with the concept of giving no advice! (In their jobs that's what they are being paid to do!) We listened carefully to their reservations and observations and asked them if they might be interested to learn more. They agreed that it might be useful to them and they would like their managers to hear about it too.

Apparently they are sometimes offered "Health and Wellbeing" Seminars and they thought that our Introduction to Peer Support Real Listening would fit under that umbrella. They agreed to take it forward to their colleagues and managers to suggest that our model was worth hearing more about.

The idea came to me when I met someone at a family party and got into conversation about 'stress' in the workplace. I listened to her carefully and heard a familiar story of people working in an underfunded over subscribed public service.

She described how she and her colleagues were feeling overwhelmed by a relentless stream of service users with social problems that were too big for them to solve. The cuts in the provision of social housing, benefits, health care were putting them all under a strain. Their case loads were getting bigger and there were less of them to cover the service effectively.

She felt that these factors were compromising their health and well-being.

I asked her what support there was for this situation and she said "None!". I was touched by the note of desperation in her voice.

So I came away from this conversation wanting to explore how learning the skills of CoCounselling might be used as a way for these workers to "take back control"!!!!

Oh what poetic justice it would be if we could subvert the oppression and exploitation of our precious public servants by offering them something that would counteract the stress of these toxic working conditions!

Afterwards Sasha and I went out to lunch to celebrate that we have made a connection where none existed before. We took the concepts of self-responsibility, self awareness and empowerment and encouraged 'stressed out' workers to experiment with giving themselves the opportunity to not "suffer in silence".

To take back control ......... Yea!!!!!!

Gilli Gladman

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