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What to expect from support at DAYS
I’m Helen and I’m a support worker for young people. I’ve been here for nearly 2 years but I’ve been helping children and young people for... lots of years.
Welcome to my first blog which will look at how the support workers here at Dundee and Angus Young Survivors help young people. We work with children as young as 10, and young people to 18 years or so. That’s a big age range. This explanation could seem quite simplistic, or maybe complicated. It’s hard to write something that suits everyone. But when it comes to working with young people, we don’t treat everyone the same. We adapt to suit you.
When people are ill they go to see the doctor so the doctor can work out what is wrong and tell you how to make things better. The doctor knows what to do. That’s not how things are when you see a support worker. It takes a little time to work out how you are feeling and for you to explore ways to feel better. When something has happened to you - or should I say, when someone did something to you - that makes you feel bad, or sad, or anxious, or wrong, or tired, or angry, or out of control, or hopeless... Whatever you are feeling you know you don’t want to feel like that.
Just so you know, not everyone needs the help we give to start to feel better. There are people around you that can help and you may already have learnt the skills that can help you to feel better. Some people don’t need help right now, but might in the future. You will know.
I like to call what happens in support a journey. So many things about a journey just seem to fit. We start by making sure that you are on a safe road in a safe vehicle. You need to feel safe to spend time with your support worker. You also need to feel safe in the place where you get support. Doing a bit of ‘getting to know you’ stuff helps with this. You might also have difficulty being safe with yourself. To help with this we might work on how you cope when you feel particularly anxious or scared, for example.
It helps to have a destination and a map for your journey. We call this the assessment and plan which helps me and you together to see where you are now and where you would like to be. We’ll also have a think about what it might feel like if things were better. We have forms to complete for this bit. We like to measure the journey with you to see how things are going.
This map of your journey is yours. You know ‘you’ best, so we won’t decide on the right route or method of transport. You may find that you sometimes go back when you think you should be going forward. And going in circles sometimes happens. Hills are hard to climb but a breeze to come down. Some people want us to drive and to let them off when they are all better. It doesn’t work that way – there isn’t a magic wand.
Vehicles have different ways of running and it helps to know why they break down and what to expect if they do. We call this psycho-education. That’s just a fancy way of saying that we can help you learn why you feel the way you do and how your brain is affected by what happens to you.
There are lots of ways to get to your destination - including talking, story-telling, sand tray, games and art work, for example. We know that having someone listen to you and support you to figure things out is helpful. For some young people, making a picture helps when words are hard to find. There are lots of ways to figure out how you feel, why you feel that way and how to manage those feelings.
You don’t need to be good at art to use creative methods to work through things. Did you see my self-portrait – I learnt how to draw a cartoon face from YouTube last week when I realised it’s a bit difficult to draw from a photograph. I’m not an artist but I like to do this kind of thing with the young people I work with, if that’s what they like to do.
It’s hard to tell you how amazing you are when you first start seeing me, but that’s what I’d like to say. When you feel rubbish you think you are rubbish. You probably won’t believe me until you start to feel better. And that’s what happens towards the end of your journey. You realise how good you’ve become at driving your ‘car’ and you know where the garages are. And that is my last job – to point out to you how you can use what you have learned in support to manage the challenges life throws up.
One last thing, when you’re young you might think you have no power and people seem to tell you what to do, what to choose. You may feel that nothing is secret and that the people in your life think they know best. It can be hard to believe your support worker is not like that. We really do mean it when we say that you are in charge, that you can decide what to do or say and that we will not tell anyone what you said unless we have absolutely no choice. Even if I am coming in to the school to meet with you I won’t talk to your Guidance Teacher or Social Worker about what you are telling me unless I think you are going to be in real danger, right now. And I’ll only tell them what they need to know to keep you safe.
Oh, one last, last thing. If you are worried that you will have to talk about what happened to you, please don’t. It’s up to you what you say about what happened – we don’t ask because we know it can be horrible reliving that experience. We’ll get there if and when it feels right for you.
I hope this has been helpful but if you still aren’t sure what it’s all about you are welcome to ask. I have ideas for more blogs like this but if you have an idea, get in touch.