In this issue
Beyond the trauma
Professor Stephen Joseph explores how trauma can be a catalyst for change, growth and learning
Working on the edge
Fiona Dunkley outlines InterHealth Worldwide’s work of psychologically preparing, supporting and sustaining humanitarian and aid workers
Supervision: keeping head and heart
To adapt to the 21st century, supervision needs to change. Vicki Palmer outlines her perspective
Alison Paice reflects on her day’s CPD at the Practitioners’ Conference
Are you making the most out of your relationship with your EAP? Keith Baddeley offers some advice for boosting your business
The bigger picture
Lead Advisor Rick Hughes on the latest workplace news
Workplace matters (free article)
Dr Sandi Mann – visible talents/hidden disabilities
Cyberwork (free article)
Dr Kate Anthony – cyberslacking
Inside the organisation
Lindsey McManus of Allergy UK talks to Counselling at Work
Welcome to the post-conference issue of Counselling at Work. Our lead article ‘Beyond the trauma’, written by Professor Stephen Joseph, is on the concept of post-traumatic growth. In his keynote speech, he recalled how the Zeebrugge ferry disaster, back in 1987, which capsized, killing 200 people, had provided researchers with some new and unexpected information about our responses to trauma. When asked the question: ‘Has your life changed since the disaster?’ 43 per cent of survivors said that their lives since the disaster had changed for the better – they were not simply happier, but their lives had more meaning.
Looking at the traumatised faces of the rescued survivors nearly 30 years ago, this is testament to the resilience of the human spirit. Encouraging his audience to think about post-traumatic growth as if it were a shattered vase, Stephen asked us, ‘What do you do with a broken vase? Do you put it back together exactly as it was?’ If you do that, the vase will become vulnerable and weak to the possibility of future breakages in the same place. Instead, you need to rebuild it and create a new vase from the shattered pieces. And that – is post-traumatic growth.
One sector unlikely to avoid exposure to trauma, are the humanitarian aid workers offering help to those affected by natural disasters or fleeing from war zones. The day after the conference and while ensconced in my usual Saturday morning chores, I heard the tragic news of the earthquake that had struck Nepal. I listened that much more intently, as it was less than 24 hours after I’d heard Fiona Dunkley’s excellent presentation on the psychological support offered to aid workers to prepare and sustain them in their work.
Outlining the work of the charity InterHealth Wordwide, Fiona explains in her article the increasing demand for aid workers who face a real danger of being wounded, kidnapped or killed in unstable environments where logistics are so complicated. The potential for exhaustion and burnout is unquestionable and yet, as one nurse put it: ‘I’d return in a heartbeat’. The programme of support that Interhealth Worldwide provides encourages aid workers to think seriously about their resilience levels and their self-care.
Quality supervision is, I know, an essential component to staying both healthy and resilient as a practitioner, but the incessant demands being placed on supervisors to keep up with a world that’s changing so rapidly, and at so many levels, poses challenges. Presenting in the Healthcare strand of the conference, Vicki Palmer delivered a workshop on ‘Keeping head and heart in 21st century supervision’, drawing on her particular experience in the NHS. She argues that as a profession we need to address and change how supervision is delivered in the third millennium, to take account of the changing world that we, our clients and our organisations are all inhabiting. It requires our attention because continuing with the same kind of supervision in organisational settings is not an option.
If you’re engaged by an EAP and want to develop this aspect of your practice, Keith Baddeley offers a practical approach for counsellors on how to build your relationship with your EAP and boost your income in ‘EAP matters’. Keith’s engaging workshop proved to be a good opportunity for practitioners to share their experiences of EAP work and ask questions.
And finally, thank you to Anne Scoging, who steps in to cover for our Chair, Tina Abbott, who is taking a break this issue. Anne gave her own presentation on responding to complicated trauma in the emergency services which you can read in ‘On reflection’ by our Conference Liaison, Alison Paice. Anne and Alison’s thoughtful reflections on the conference and its relevance to their own practice, speak volumes about what we can take with us from a good day’s CPD.
While thinking about the articles featured in this issue, I’m left with a striking image from Fiona Dunkley’s article. She describes how the aid workers returning home from West Africa repeatedly spoke to her of the tree of hands that grew, as the children who’d survived Ebola left the clinic, having been given the all clear (many having lost members of their family). As they left, their ritual was to paint their hands and leave their handprints on the survivors’ tree. What we witness in our work is so often beyond words.
If you feel inclined to get in touch and share your thoughts on any of the articles you’ve read in this issue, I’d encourage you to do so. I’d love to hear your feedback. If you’re interested in reviewing any of the books mentioned or, perhaps if you have a potential idea for an article of your own, please do drop me a line.