Through the eyes of a PTS Coach

By Meg Forader, a PTS Coach for Mayday Trust.

Working in a strengths-based way allows people I meet with to feel valued (because they ARE valuable!) even at what may be their lowest points, when a lot of society is treating them like they have no value at all. (For example – the narrative that people who claim benefits are lazy, when the majority of people claiming benefits work; the narrative that people that DON’T work are lazy; when it’s impossible to drink from an empty cup – maybe it’s a long term health condition, maybe it’s family, maybe it’s mental health or maybe it’s the fact that the only “unskilled” – what a word – jobs available are strict shift patterns, or 6am starts; don’t we all deserve either jobs we love [since as this is what we spend most of our time doing] or jobs that are well paid enough for us to enjoy life outside of work?)

It allows me to connect with people who have had diverse life experiences, making my work life very enriching; through listening and allowing people to be the experts (because they ARE the experts) – I have learned how to build a campfire, how to create bait for fishing, how to do several arts, several recipes/ cooking tips; just to name a few.

Without the pressures of needing people I meet with to achieve certain outcomes within set time periods; we have been able to allow things to happen organically – people have been the masters of their own decisions and it has been my experience that people achieve outcomes that are meaningful to them and gain a huge amount of confidence from this because the ideas have been generated by them.

I find a big part of the coaching role is role modelling. Talking to people in a way that we should all speak to ourselves; with understanding, acknowledgement and humor. Allowing people to feel validated in their experiences; having just one person on side. I always think; if (as an adult) my child found himself in this situation, how would I want him to be treated?

Supporting somebody by walking alongside them on a personal level can be challenging; there are no two ways about it. But more than that, I have found it to be ridiculously rewarding. Being around somebody that is really sad impacts on me as a professional, because I care. However; working in a strengths-based way aims to combat this; allowing the focus to be based on hopes for the future and strengths people have had in tricky situations makes it easier for both the people I meet with and myself to deal with set backs. It is not a problem or a person being fixed, but rather two people meeting and putting their joint focus on something the person would like to change or work on and crucially, having somebody there to rage with when it goes wrong and celebrate with when barriers are broken down.

When we introduce ourselves in a job interview; we aim to impress the employer by talking about things we are good at and positive experiences we have had. Imagine going into a job interview and only being allowed to talk about every time you made a mistake in your job and all the negative. If we talk about ourselves in this way enough, we can start to believe the messages. (Ever filled out a PIP form? Ever filled out a “move on” report from exempt accommodation? Take a gander at those forms and see how you feel after filling them out! It’s not nice for any of us to be debased in this way).

 A Note on Not Fixing

Not fixing – a key PTS principle that helps each individual feel more in control of their own situation. So, what is “fixing”? I see it as doing something without the individual’s input, on their behalf because as a professional, you deem it helpful. Things like referring people to services that they haven’t mentioned, putting people on courses that don’t interest them, and signposting people to different groups.

I recently met with a lady who had been put on a Princes Trust course which was supposed to increase her confidence, however, she reported hating every minute of it because she struggled to connect to others on the course and found the whole thing uncomfortable. What ACTUALLY helped this lady? She contacted a hockey club and got involved with that – she now is part of the team and plays for them twice a week.

This week I met with a gent who shared he just didn’t have it in him to call the Doctors to set himself up with an initial appointment to get some help with his mental health. He asked for support in making the phone call – is this fixing? Although, as his coach, I am doing a job for him without him present; the key element is that this person ASKED specifically for this support. I called the doctors at 8am on the dot (when it opened), was 21 in the queue and didn’t get through to a person until 8.50am. If you are not regularly up at this time, that alone is hard to motivate yourself to do – let alone having to contemplate what information you might need to share (making yourself vulnerable before you’ve even woken up) and whether you will be successful in getting an appointment; often this depends entirely on the practice (this particular practice was good – it took a while to get through but once I did the lady was extremely helpful, understanding and accommodating) and the person on the other end of the phone; often frustrated by what they are having to relay to patients based on the demands placed upon themselves.

Find out more about Meg’s work as a PTS Coach