Where endings begin

How you end any one to one relationship is just as important as how you start it. We will assume for this blog that the relationship you have had with the young person has been positive and that there has been the desired change within the young person.

I’ve blogged about beginnings before where I wrote about 10 things that you should know about starting intentional relationships In it I said:

Work Towards an Ending in Day 1:
One of the worst things is coldly letting a young person know that they are in their last week, not having prepped them for the ending. That’s why if I know I will be working with a young person for 10 weeks we start talking about that in day one. They know it will be ending.

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Youth Workers, the church and supervision

In the last couple of days I’ve been considering the importance of supervision. Why we get effected, what to do about it and ultimately the importance that supervision plays in our practice when working with young people.

This has led to me to be a bit reflective about the times when I haven’t had supervision, the consequences of that and therefore ultimately when I really did need it. Of course hindsight is a luxury that no one has, which is why considering the question, “Do I need or should I have supervision?” is such an important question to ask right now.

One of the most pressured jobs, I have ever had, was that of a church youth worker. Working in a church meant that you played a multifaceted role in the lives of young people. I found myself being a guidance- counsellor, mentor, counsellor, leader, statutory youth worker, events co-ordinator, worship leader, technician, spiritual advisor, trainer, volunteer manager, preacher, life and soul of the party (not a role I am very good at, at all), I could go on and on.

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More thoughts on Supervision

It is often worth while stopping and reflecting on the work we do, what it means to us, how we view it and assess its affect on us, both positively and negatively. All too often, without much thought, we can be deeply drawn into our work through the pressures that are placed upon us from others or those we place on ourselves. Before we are aware of it, we are knee deep and struggling to stop ourselves from sinking.

This is something that I see often especially with those people whose primary focus is upon the emotional needs of others. For me, this means mentoring, counselling and something that lies in a delicate balancing act between the two of these.

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3 steps to working effectively with young people through your distractions

Following on from my post yesterday about the importance of supervision, I thought it would be useful to have a really quick and simple look at what to do when you have so much going on in your own life yet you still have to work with young people.

We can’t stop personal life happening, stresses at home, with family etc. Personal issues happen and cause anxiety, worry, anger, concern and sadness. However, if we acknowledge that our primary roll when being with a young person is to wholeheartedly be there for them we need to somehow deal with the stuff going on. That is where supervision comes in. It helps us to explore these emotions and to develop strategies and even process and deal with some of the things going on with someone who is external to our work and family life. (this is why an independent clinical supervisor is so important)

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The importance of clinical supervision

Last night I met with my clinical supervisor. It is quite possibly the most important 1 and 1/2 hours of my professional working month. In fact this month I have seen him twice.

The last 4 weeks have been, for a multiple of reasons, some of the toughest weeks for me professionally and personally and the longer I work supporting the emotional needs of people, I become acutely aware that these two areas of my life are intrinsically linked.

It is so important that we recognise this truth; that in supporting others emotional need there is a direct link to our own mental health. There is such potential for taking on the pain and story of those we work with and as a result there is a huge risk and we must guard ourselves. Inversely, we also need to recognise the effect that our personal lives have on our professional practice. To acknowledge this and to do something about it is really important. It’s in this space that we invite a third person to help us process our “stuff”. That third person is a clinical supervisor.

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For me, working in one to one relationships I have a tricky balance of how much do I share about myself and my own story. I am not alone either. When I have delivered training on intentional one to one relationship, bereavement and loss and on Self Harm a question I have been asked consistently is: “what is too much information? How much should I share about myself or my story”

Self disclosure is an incredibly useful tool which when used correctly can be powerful, yet when used incorrectly can have negative outcomes.

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Building a relationship and developing a language

As I have said before, it is important to build a meaningful relationship with a young person that centres on trust. This may seem an obvious statement to make, however trust is vital so that the therapeutic process has any chance of being successful. Without a relationship, based on trust, no significant work can be done.

Think of it from your own perspective for a moment. If you were in a period in your life where you engaged with negative thinking or negative behaviour and you knew you needed help, would you willingly listen to a stranger who just sat you down and told you what you needed to do? I suspect not. I’ve had this happen myself and it was most unwelcome.

As I start work with any new school I help them to understand this fundamental truth: to trust the process. If we get the process right the change will follow. So we slow down and don’t focus on the end result.

In this time of building the relationship I still like to create an environment which supports the young person to be learning strategies about life and that which helps to create a language of emotional learning and process.

There are so many things that I use and I plan to show some of theme here in the blog. There is a mix of  games and activities that really do help this process and some I use that really work well. For me it is important that anything I use, be it a game or activity, is easy to understand, simple to learn and fun to engage with.

I have found that for many of the children and young people that I work with, board games are a real novelty. So much is done on computer, tablet and phone, that the idea of taking 1/2 an hour on one game without a screen is new to some. I know that this is not a universal truth, but for the children I work with this is often the reality.

Therefore, these activities themselves create a new shared experience in which you are a fundamental part of. This in itself is perfect. A shared experience is important for the relationship with the young person to develop.

For me it’s always worth remembering this at the beginning of every relationship. To follow will be some of the ways I use activities to help this process work.