Gerry struggled with feelings of depression and with managing feelings of anger and distress. This made Gerry feel uncomfortable in group settings, causing him to withdraw and isolate himself. His Support Coordinator referred him to the Anchor. Following assessment, the Anchor provided weekly Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, followed by mindfulness and compassion focused therapy.
Gerry developed a positive rapport with the CBT practitioner, and he shared with us that he felt
comfortable and safe with them. When the Anchor’s support came ended, Gerry expressed sadness about this loss of support, but acknowledged that significant progress had been made.
Gerry reported feeling more self-confident after accessing this support. He had come to terms with his experiences in care and had been able to work through difficult feelings towards his family. Gerry learned about what triggered him and gained new skills to manage difficult feelings.
Accessing mental health support so swiftly also motivated Gerry to continue working on himself.
Gerry successfully applied for an apprenticeship. Whereas previously engaging with a group course would have been too challenging, Gerry could now apply the skills gained in therapy to meaningfully engage with his course and develop positive working relationships with others. This further increased Gerry’s confidence because he felt he could accomplish goals and be trusted by others. The work Gerry did with the Anchor also supported his other goals such as developing physical fitness and creating a supportive routine.
Gerry reviewed his support with his Support Coordinator. Together they agreed that Gerry had been able to achieve the goals he had set with Future Pathways, and Gerry felt able to move forwards, focusing on his apprenticeship, without Future Pathways support.
When I started working with Thom, he felt let down by statutory services and he did not have trusting relationships in his personal life. He often shouted at services over the phone, causing them to stop providing support. Thom felt that services used his anger as an excuse to disengage from him which reiterated his feelings of not being cared for.
Due to interruptions in Thom’s education, Thom has some literacy issues, which also made it difficult to engage with services which communicate via email, post, or text. When I started working with Thom, he came across as deeply mistrustful. His mindset was, “nobody is going to mess with me.” However, over time, I have observed a gradual evolution in Thom’s interactions with me and others.
I think listening to Thom and understanding where his anger stems from has contributed to this change. Thom and I had a phone conversation which he ended in a state of distress. I asked the police to complete a wellbeing check. Thom appreciated that I had followed up and he understood why I had been concerned. I think this demonstrated to Thom that I had heard him, I took him seriously and I cared about him. This experience seemed to cement our relationship.
Listening has also been important when adapting to Thom’s literacy needs which I approach by making suggestions which are always up for discussion. For example, because receiving text messages can be stressful for Thom, we speak on the phone, meet face-to-face, and we have also created a plan using visuals.
Following through consistently has also been important. For example, we spoke about what it would mean to Thom to take a break away, and we worked together to plan and book this. Acknowledging and moving on from mistakes has also developed the trust in our relationship. If I make a mistake in something that I say, I apologise and I model that it is okay to make mistakes. It has made the relationship feel less fragile. We both know we can get things wrong, and this is okay because we can also repair the relationship and move forward.
I have noticed that Thom is starting to express gratitude for the work we are doing together. Our relationship feels more relaxed, and I have noticed that he is more open to recognising people’s good intentions and repairing situations outwith Future Pathways. For example, Thom recently started working with an external service. Initially, he felt angry about a miscommunication. However, he then acknowledged the misunderstanding and the good intentions of the service involved and continued to engage with them. Similarly, when Thom went on his break away, a conflict arose with a service provider. Initially, this caused Thom some distress, but he was able to resolve this and move forward with his holiday.
I think of the relationship between Thom, myself, and Future Pathways as a safe space within which Thom can explore how to develop and maintain trusting relationships. My hope is that this will enable him to negotiate himself around his world without as much defensiveness. While it is early days, it feels like green shoots are starting to appear.
I would like to shine a spotlight on two delivery partners who have provided excellent, trauma-informed support to Callum, one of the survivors I work with. When I started working with Callum, one of his outcomes was to be a good role model for his daughter, Claire. Claire had been struggling at school due to her dyslexia and seeing Claire have difficulties at school caused Callum to reflect on his own experiences of education. He wanted to teach his daughter that education is important.
Together we explored some options and Callum decided that he wanted to work with Cellfield UK to address his literacy challenges while supporting Claire to do the same. The Cellfield programme usually involves daily computer-based sessions at the University of Stirling for two weeks, following by 10 weeks of planned reading.
Callum had been working with another delivery partner, the Community Brokerage Network, who helped him to explore the practicalities of Claire taking time away from school, as well as travel and expenses. The Community Brokerage Network then reached out to Cellfield UK to discuss Callum’s and Claire’s needs.
Both partners recognised that the distance that Callum and Claire needed to travel to attend the sessions was a significant barrier to them engaging with the service, so they worked together to mitigate this. Rather than delivering sessions over two weeks, they created a programme over one week and arranged to deliver the programme at Callum’s local library.
It took time for Callum to build trust in these partners, but the outcome of their work together has been inspiring. Having completed this course, Callum’s reading age has increased from 9 to 14 and he now feels more confident with identifying words. Perhaps most importantly, the experience has enabled Callum and Claire to develop their relationship, and has prompted Callum to consider longer term, aspirational goals such as attending college. This would not have been possible without these delivery partners recognising the importance of adjusting practice according to survivors’ needs, and taking the time to build a trsuting relationship with Callum.
As soon as I started working with Nancy, I could see that, like many survivors, she expected to be let down or rejected by me. I knew that we had to slowly build trust with one another and so we spent the first several meetings just talking and listening.
I had been under the impression she needed practical support from Future Pathways due to a health issue, but it became clear she was not quite sure what support she wanted or needed. We ended up talking about many other things other than her health issue, including her interests and ambitions.
I noticed that Nancy swore a lot, but this never phased me. This could sometimes create barriers for Nancy when she tried to communicate with other services, but it quickly became something
we joked about together. It was important that Nancy never felt judged by me, and this was part of us developing an equal relationship in which she felt comfortable expressing herself in her
After getting to know each other, Nancy told me about a dream that she had always wanted to accomplish, and I listened carefully to what it would mean for her to achieve this. I also connected personally to her goal, sharing my own experiences, which heightened her curiosity and may have helped her realise that her dream was more within reach than she had previously believed. We talked through what had been holding her back, and I took her worries seriously. It was important never to invalidate her concerns but to acknowledge them and encourage Nancy to consider how these could be overcome.
‘I encouraged Nancy to think of this goal as worthwhile even if she was the only one who ever knew about it.’
We talked about reducing some of the pressure around this goal and considering it to be worthwhile to try just for her, even if she was the only one who ever knew about it. Reducing the pressure around this dream made it possible to move away from thinking about it in ‘all or nothing’ terms and allowed Nancy to start taking steps towards her outcome.
This basis of trust, encouragement and equality which we developed gave us a good foundation for working on Nancy’s outcomes. When working with Nancy, and many other survivors, it was vital to ensure that decisions came from her, rather than from me, so that she never felt she was being pushed or told what to do. This is crucial to maintaining a dynamic in which we are working on survivors’ outcomes side by side, as a team. Taking an authoritarian approach can cause survivors to reject support, so I encouraged Nancy to make decisions for her so that she felt fully in control of this process.