NEW REASON Issue No. 3
Spring Edition 2016
THE STEPPING STONES WAY FOR EMOTIONAL WELLBEING & SUPPORT
Creating opportunities for people to express themselves through music
BUSINESS AWARD WINNER 2015
Stepping Stones delivering support for vulnerable people since 2010.
Stepping Stones Community is the Hub that houses all of the Stepping Stones individual companies and services.
SUPPORTED HOUSING provides accommodation and support for people with mental health distress and/or a learning disability, as well as people who have complex issues that require support.
COMMUNITY OUTREACH providing a range of services to help people living in their own homes. Including our CQC registered service that utilises qualified nurses to provide expert help for people experiencing emotional distress, Help in Cluttered Homes, Academic Mentoring and Training.
IT SERVICES provides a comprehensive IT and marketing service for the Stepping Stones Groups as well as providing a hardware & software development service for external customers. 2
What makes us different? We offer a wide range of flexible support packages. All tailored to the individuals need. We are flexible in the way that we support people, flexible in the way that we manage our staff teams and flexible in the use of and access to accommodation.
Contact us Stepping Stones Community Sproughton House, Sproughton, Ipswich, IP8 3AP Freephone on: Telephone No:
0800 1337 355 01473 487373
Email: info@SteppingStonesCommunity.com website: www.SteppingStonesCommunity.com
Our Reason We are delighted that the focus of New Reason’s third edition is creativity and wellbeing, and to also highlight the work of Noise Solution. Noise Solution is an Ipswich based organisation who we in Suffolk should be enormously proud of. The work that they do is truly inspiring. They inspire us all in the creative way they provide opportunities for people to express themselves and engage in activities that improve wellbeing through involvement in music.
Matthew Morris Director of Operations Stepping Stones Community Outreach
This service utilises music to enable people to improve their self-esteem, to communicate, achieve the recognition of family and friends and also qualifications, and of course to have fun. When we look to the future in all that we do, creativity and the ability and confidence to express ourselves, to have new ideas, to communicate, challenge, create laughter and a whole range of other emotions are the gifts, that we as human beings, can harness to heal and to change the world. It is creativity that has the potential to solve the issues that we face individually and globally. It is creativity that, with support, nurture and encouragement challenges the status quo and enables growth. There is a great story in a TED lecture by Sir Ken Robinson about a small girl of around 5 years old, who in school had a reputation for lacking concentration and being easily distracted. In an art lesson the teacher is impressed by her focus and is curious to find out what she is doing. She goes to her and asks what she is doing. The girl replies that she is drawing a picture of God. The teacher replies “that is interesting because no one knows what God looks like!” To which the girl replies “Well they will in a minute!” In his lecture Ken Robinson argues that it is this creative energy and spirit in children that needs to be encouraged and nurtured. That this creativity is, in our current systems, educated out of people, and the focus upon academic achievement could take us down a road that stifles innovation and genius. Maybe as we all look ahead to 2016 we can explore what can be created for the future. We hope that whatever creative things you do, you will discover new possibilities, take on new challenges and be truly inspired and fulfilled. 3
CONTENTS Spring 2016
FRONT COVER 18 NOISE SOLUTION 2015 EADT Business award winner Creating opportunities for people to express themselves through music.
REGULARS 5 3 6 14 30 34
CONTRIBUTORS OUR REASON OPEN LETTER BEAUTIFUL YOU NEW REASON, NEW THINKING HELPFUL CONTACT NO’S
FEATURES 2 WHO ARE WE? and what makes us different.
7 INTERVOICE “Building on our common experience, building a world in common’.
24 HELPING CLAIRE New Training dates available for the Autumn session
s r o t u b i r t Con Meet the people who have taken part in the creation of
New Reason. Matthew Morris Director of Operations Stepping Stones Community Outreach Matthew Morris is our Operational Director for Community Outreach. Having worked within the NHS, Voluntary and Independent Sector, for a combined 30 years, Matthew has a particular interest in developing services that see difficult feelings and unusual experiences as being understandable in the context of peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s lives. Services where people can be helped through relationships that build on strengths and are based on people living the life they choose for themselves.
Louise Rackstraw Creative Director Stepping Stones IT Company Photographer, Videographer & Creative Designer. Louise has established her creative skills within the Stepping Stones Community, sharing the companiesâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; vision of the Stepping Stones way of working with the public. Her work can be seen on our website; www.SteppingStonesCommunity.com From design layout, leaflets and video interviews.
Open Letter Welcome to the Spring edition of New Reason, the magazine from Stepping Stones Community. We hope that through our publication we can interest, surprise, inspire and inform, through the stories people have supplied as well as from the people we work for. With New Reason comes new hope, new opportunities and endless possibilities. For us these possibilities are created through skilful but simple human interactions and qualities such as; empathy, honesty, compassion and the belief in the innate human capacity to survive and thrive.
Share your Story We would love to hear from you about your own experiences, whether its of personal experiences or the support you gave a friend or family member. Sharing your experiences not only shows that we are not alone but also highlights problems that we all face in our day to day lives. Help us to promote a better understanding of the issues we all face and contribute to the development of better mental health focusing. We look forward to hearing from you. info@SteppingStonesCommunity.com 6
Who are Intervoice? Intervoice is the International Network for Training, Education and Research into Hearing Voices. The network focuses on facilitating relevant assistance and solutions that improve the life of voice hearers in the knowledge that these methods have been co-developed by voice hearers and professionals. Their aims: • show that hearing voices is a normal though unusual variation in human behaviour. • show that the problem is not hearing voices but the inability to cope with the experience. • educate society about the meaning of voices so as to reduce ignorance & anxiety and to ensure this innovative approach on voice hearing is better known by voice hearers, families, professionals and the general public.
• demonstrate the wide variety of voice hearing experiences and their origins, and peoples’ approaches to coping. • increase the quality and quantity of mutual support available to all people and organisations involved in hearing voices work across the world. • make helpers work more effective and develop more non-medical ways of helping voice hearers cope with their experiences.
‘Building on our common experience, building a world in common’
Alcalá de Henares university
On 6th & 7th November 2015 Intervoice, the International Network for Training, Education and Research into Hearing Voices arranged a Congress to build understanding. The Congress took place in Alcalá de Henares, a city located in the Community of Madrid, Spain. Famous for its university, which was founded in 1499, their motto is “City of Knowledge”. Its urban centre is particularly attractive, full of historic buildings and pedestrian streets. It is also the birthplace of Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, the writer who was able to criticize the society of his time through the clear certainties of the most famous literary madman, Don Quixote. Intervoice wanted to join this beautiful paradox, contributing to the understanding of mental suffering and critically examining the society in which we live.
The theme and title of the event “Building on our common experience, building a world in common.”
I was one of the lucky delegates, I say lucky as there were 400 places available and over 800 people had applied. People from countries all around the world wanted to come and share, listen and be part of creating an awareness and unity around the simple truth that hearing voices is a normal part of being human. A facet, a possibility an experience that all of us could have in certain situations. An experience that if associated with fear and stigma compounds people’s struggles in life and encourages them into a battle with their own mind and feelings. The event began for me with a day hearing about the work of Intervoice around the world. It was wonderful to hear about the work people were doing across Europe, North and South America, in Australia, Asia, Africa and smaller islands like Malta and Jersey. All of the people united in the effort to create safe spaces for people to talk about their experiences and to discover meaning and value in what was
happening to them.
For some people the voices that they hear are distressing, however we know that the majority of people in the world who hear voices are not distressed by them. Most research puts hearing voices regularly as being part of the lives of around 4% of the “normal” population. Estimates are that this equates to 250 million people worldwide. What we also know however is that many other people find themselves so distressed that they are not considered normal, and people point to the voices as being the reason.
If however there are 250 million voice hearers not needing to seek help and this number is greater than those receiving treatment for voices, we have to ask ourselves what is going on?
Don Quixote Statue
Exploring the history of psychiatry and the disorders/diagnoses that have come and gone over the years, there is a clear pattern of people that society consider different or who are discriminated against for having their own specific diagnoses. Being gay was until 1980 a symptom of mental illness and a disorder in its own right previously. Men were treated in psychiatric hospitals with practices which are shocking when we look back on them. If you explore why and the “symptoms” that led psychiatry to their diagnosis, you will see men describing the same feelings and fears, wanting to be “cured” of their sexuality and living lives of isolation and torment. Often exactly the same feelings and fears expressed by voice hearers. Could it be that these are the “symptoms” of discrimination, prejudice and alienation?
If you do an exercise that gives people a brief flavour of what it is to hear voices, then ask them to reflect on their thoughts, feelings and behaviours if that were their daily waking experience, it is fascinating to hear their responses. Groups most commonly report that they would feel suicidal, confused, angry, turn to drugs and alcohol, withdraw from social life, finding it hard to work or function normally, become paranoid, anxious, frightened, have a lack of self-worth and esteem, and most would behave unpredictably. These are almost universally the responses I have received from hundreds of participants, most of whom are professionals and workers in the field of mental health. What is fascinating is also what people report that they wouldn’t do. This is most importantly get help or tell someone else, they certainly do not say that they will see a psychiatrist or psychologists (even if they are one), they do not say that they will go to their GP, and they do not talk to parents or friends about what is happening. So what is happening? Why are people when exposed to the possibility of being a voice hearer reporting the same responses as were gay men in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s? And, why does no one ever say that they will go and talk to people and seek help? The answer that I come back to time and time again, is that this is because we are not talking about people’s responses to illness or disorder, we are talking about people’s reaction to stigma and discrimination. That people hearing voices are faced with the very real knowledge of the consequences should they tell and that this 10
compounds any issues that are going on for them, often issues which have created the conditions where for them the voices originate.
‘we are talking about people’s reaction to stigma and discrimination’ Nowhere is this more clear, and the very real alternatives made available to you, than the World Hearing Voices Congress. It is a space where voice hearers, their families, friends, professionals of all persuasions and anyone else who is interested come together as equals to talk. What I find is that in this environment the qualities that underpin all help for others flourish. Compassion, respect, honesty, bearing witness, love, learning and laughter. In this respect it is an event that is full of hope.
The work of the Voice Hearers Network across the 26 countries of the world serves as a beacon for us as we contemplate the future. The many people who have, through an acceptance of their experiences made sense of them, going on to lead the lives that they choose, still with the same voices but with less fear and a knowledge that they are part of them and sometimes a reflection of what has happened to them. The understanding of why the voices are there can be as diverse as there are people. The spiritual nature of the experience, that it could be related to trauma, feelings, religion, harnessing the capacity of the brain, related to sensory deprivation, past lives, future lives, communing with the spirit world, these are just a few of the possibilities and everybodyâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s beliefs are equally respected within the Congress.
For us at Stepping Stones Community Outreach, the Congress has inspired us to offer more for people who hear voices locally. We have sponsored an open forum that took place in Ipswich on the 29th January, led by the wonderfully inspiring Rachel Waddingham we had 26 people attend and the people there who hear voices decided that they wanted to create a group.
The group for Ipswich has now started and meet every Thursday at St Augustineâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s church from 7pm till 8pm. Led by voice hearers for voice hearers with some allies to help whenever and wherever it is requested, it is great that Ipswich now has a space where people can talk about their experience, their feelings and beliefs without judgement, The distress we often witness in relation prejudice and fear alongside fellow voice to peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s understanding is when we hearers who understand, are kind, see the fear, confusion, sadness and all supportive and enthusiastic. those intense feelings that we experience when we are trapped and At Stepping Stones we will continue terrified. There are many also who are to develop and offer people who having to face the consequences of hear voices opportunities to learn traumas and life events that challenge and overcome distress and make their their whole sense of who they are, of own choices about how they live trust and survival. with their voices.
Enhancing Skills Building Confidence
For more information contact us: Stepping Stones Central Services, Sproughton House, Sproughton, Ipswich IP8 3AP
0800 133 7355 or 01473 487373 info@SteppingStonesCommunity.com 12
To help people within the community our Stepping Stones Community Outreach team set about asking the people that we are working with for feedback and to tell us what they wanted for the future. The main responses told us that people felt lonely and that they did not know where they could meet up with likeminded people as well as feel comfortable and confident in doing so. They had really enjoyed getting together with other people and staff at the Stepping Stones Christmas event and asked if we could do this regularly. The team racked their brains as to how they could accomplish thisâ&#x20AC;Ś. Then a chance encounter with Kie Humphreys at the Colours cafe on the waterfront led to an offer of a venue at the town hall cafe and after much discussions and planning T@3 was born!!!
With the support of Kie and his lovely colleagues Paula Johns and Krystyna Antonczak we had our first get together on 21st January and it was fabulous! We had 4 lovely people attend and we had a good laugh, we played icebreaker games and chatted about everything from previous jobs to interesting facts about ourselves. At present the group is only open to people working with the Outreach Team but who knows what will happen in the future!
Born in 1944 Yvonne has lead a very full life from marrying her Loadmaster US Air Force sweetheart at the age of 18, living in Germany and the United States, finding religion and seeing Elvis live in concert, eventually she moved back to England, and was homeless for a while before finally having a home for a family to develop. She has just joined Stepping Stones and when she feels inspired she writes poetry.
The good old days Those were the good old days We are so often told But we had no central heating And our house was very cold. We used a tin bath by the fire Every Saturday night The toilet was in the garden And we had no electric light. Everything was rationed And we didn’t have much to eat We had trifle on a Sunday And chicken for Christmas was a treat. We didn’t have a microwave And we didn’t have a phone We didn’t have a television And we had a wind up gramophone. A lot of people rode a bicycle Because they didn’t have a car And if you couldn’t get a bus or a train You couldn’t travel very far. So who wants to live in the good old days I think I have to say With central heating and my toilet indoors I’m glad that I’m living today. By Yvonne Ferre
Is there somebody you would like to see on Beautiful You? then please contact us on
0800 133 7355 / 01473 487373
Good Thoughts for Life
Have pride in how far you have come Have faith in how far you can go 16
Foundation Housing and Tenancy support for vulnerable people
There is a distinct lack of housing options generally for people who experience or have experienced mental or emotional distress or any other sort of ‘disability’ and who are ‘vulnerable’.
Help us make a difference call us on 0800 1337 355/01473 487373 Elaine.Thomas@SteppingStonesCommunity.com
Noise Solution delivers one-to-one training sessions using an innovative mix of music technology and social media to help people facing a wide variety of challenges. Working in mental health, offending and education, they are able to engage and motivate where other provisions have struggled. Creating a positive impact to the lives of many people and their families right across Suffolk. Noise Solution has made an outstanding contribution to raising educational attainment and aspiration across the county which saw them achieving the Raising the Bar Award in the 2015 EADT Business Awards.
What I was seeing in my work within the local authority was that often large organisations would come into people’s lives with an agenda that said “your broken and I’m going to fix you”, that doesn’t always work for everyone. Some people were getting stuck within services - the professionals didn’t feel that they could move them forward, the person themselves felt like they were unable to move forward. I am not saying that there wasn’t brilliant work being done, but some simply fell though the gaps and weren’t being engaged.
Director of Noise Solution Interview by Louise Rackstraw My background is in youth offending and connections programmes, I worked within local authority organisations for about 15 years. I was given a lot of freedom and it was great, loved it. I also have 20 years’ experience as a professional musician - I’ve been really fortunate and had 4 record contracts, toured everywhere from Iceland to Australia, and played all the major festivals. I feel very lucky to have had such great experiences in two very different worlds, and wanted to distil the best bits of each into something new. Noise solution was born.
I wanted to try using music as an engagement tool - it’s non threatening and you’re working with someone’s strengths and passions. When we meet people for the first time, the first thing we say is: “look I am not a mental health worker, I am not a social worker, I am not a youth offender worker, I’m not a counsellor - I’m a musician and we are here to make music. That’s the agenda”. This puts us on a very different playing field compared to a normal organisation coming into somebody’s life. We want to help make them good at something quickly. My experience within youth offending and connections has taught me that this is key - if you can make somebody feel that they are good at something, it has a massive effect on them. You are helping them grow in confidence, and someone who is more confident are much more likely to progress. Suddenly they are prepared to take a risk and believe in themselves. People who feel very negative about themselves are not going to try anything new, but if they can start thinking ‘well actually I can be good at something, maybe I will try something else’ you are much more likely to facilitate some kind of change. Confidence is the key thing 19
that we are trying to impact on - it’s a very difficult thing to capture, but if you can do it then you’re really improving the chance of helping somebody. We predominately use music technology to make really quick impacts - using computers to create everything from Hip-hop, Trance, Dub-step, Drum and bass, to Folk, Norwegian death metal, and even covers of My Little Pony! It doesn’t matter what the genre is, you can use modern technology to get results that sound amazing, really quickly. You don’t need a formal music education to make use of music technology, we come at it from completely the other end of the spectrum – as an informal, self-taught musician, I don’t read music, and never have done. It is perfectly possible to create music outside of the classic formal approach, and it’s just as powerful. I could be working with a lad who’s just come out of jail, maybe hasn’t been in education for a couple of years - he’ll come to the studio and I would say 20
“what are you into?” and he might say “I’m really into Hip-hop”, and within half-an-hour we’ll have created something which sounds authentic and they feel invested in, having created it themselves. Once we’ve copied it to their phone, they can walk out of that session and play their tune to their mates, and their mates are going to go “that sounds great”. Involving the people close to the person, and creating a positive conversation around them makes them feel good, and that is also key in the person’s development. Whether it’s the parents, carer, or other professional workers, they don’t exist in a bubble – these people’s opinions play a large part in their self-worth. When we started 6 years ago, we acknowledged this, and again we sought to use modern technology to assist, so we blog every session. When we are working with somebody on a one-to-one basis we capture pictures, video, audio - very carefully listening to what they say. Whenever they say something positive, that’s the thing we pull out and
publish on the blog, in bold letters. We also encourage key-allies to join the blog so they can track progress and contribute positive messages. So, every time they open up the blog they are having the message reinforced - that they are good at something. Weâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;ve done lots of impact reports and pilots for different organisations - 39 in the last 6 years, 92% of which have come back and re-engaged us to do more work with their client group if you want to call it that, I like to call them people. We did a pilot with CAMHS (Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services) team, working with young people which they identified as not interested in talking therapies. Imagine that, teenagers not wanting to talk to you! Yes, certainly these were young people with issues, anxiety, depression, etc., and nobody knew what to do with themâ&#x20AC;Ś Within that group we saw 94% attendance over a 3-month period, and all 7 achieved a nationally
recognized qualification. We saw 3 going into voluntary placements, 2 go into education, 1 went into employment. We saw a 71% increase in their perception of how confident they were, and a 69% increase on how good they felt about themselves (and this is all self-assessed by them). We also saw a 45% increase in their perception of how integrated into their local groupings, they were. Those are pretty good figures, I would say, and we have seen that replicated from mental health to offending, from young to old, we work across the spectrum. What we are doing is engaging people in a slightly different way, coming at it from a different angle rather than trying the same thing, and it not working. We make people good at something quickly, and we take the lead from them - what they are interested in doing. We facilitate their journey, making note of their success, and capturing the process so it can be shared with the people around them. Yeah, we find thatâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s a pretty effective model!
DWP advisor - Feedback 5 referrals to Noise Solution must be proof I strongly believe in their beliefs, theories and principles. Not being very academic myself I love new and innovative ways of education â&#x20AC;&#x201C; Noise Solution is just that. When I first heard about Noise Solution I thought you had to be good at music to enrol but after having a presentation from Simon it all began to make sense. Helping hard to reach people with progression to other opportunities, increasing their confidence and creating a positive learning experience is the way tutors support people to re-engage. Using knowledgeable, determined and understanding tutors is a must and I hear they all gain great satisfaction 22
from moving people forward. I feel privileged to work with local organisations such as Noise Solution and I feel proud to be part of the great results. The young people I have referred are overcoming difficulties and increasing their belief that they are capable of achieving. With the young people taking on board this new exciting challenge it means I am then able to engage with parents to help move them closer to employment and away from their chaotic lifestyles. I feel the collaboration with DWP has been successful and look forward to recommending the service to more claimants and other key partners within Suffolk Family Focus team.
If you think we can help you in any way â&#x20AC;&#x201C; or that you can help usplease call:
01284 361264 07949 977750 firstname.lastname@example.org www.noisesolution.org
g n i p l He e r i a l C
Claire has lived in her flat for 3 years. Most of her clutter came with her when she moved from her previous home, it is uncertain how long Claire has been collecting. Claire has been diagnosed with a personality disorder and becomes overwhelmed by negative feelings which can make it hard for her to get motivated. Claire also suffers from epilepsy, asthma and has Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, this is a heart condition which causes the heart to beat abnormally fast for periods of time which could be life threatening and can lead to a heart attack.
Cluttered Homes interview with Claire and Emma Perrins (Domestic Support Team Leader) Interview by Louise Rackstraw What brought Community Outreach to you? Claire: I had a bloke come round who was checking out all the flats in my area and I said to him that I needed somebody to help me get rid of all the clothes in my bedroom. I think they either phoned Stepping Stones or phoned somebody and after a while Emma came round and did an assessment. She told me that she could help me. So when did all this start for you?
Claire: (Looks to Emma) I think it was in March?
Emma: Yes it was March time, we were pretty quick to get things moving for Claire once she decided to go ahead with us. We started within a couple of weeks of the agreement going through. And how have you found it? Claire: Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s been hard work knowing that I have to get rid of the stuff that I have got but as each week has gone by, it has gotten easier and easier for me and now I look forward to Emma coming round, donâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t know why. (She laughs). Emma: We get on really well and that really helps with everything that we need to do.
Claire: Yeah it does, I don’t feel so worried when she does come round and I don’t think “oh I have the woman from Stepping Stones coming”, I actually look forward to Wednesdays, I know that’s the day I can get things sorted out and help with the tidying up, it’s quite nice having a cleaner come round and not having to worry about doing it yourself (laughing again). Emma: (Grinning) you do help; we do it together. Claire: Yeah I do it as well. Emma: Claire has back problems so she can’t manoeuvre herself very easily, so I do the things that Claire can’t do (laughing) and we have a laugh while doing it, one-time I had to crawl under the bed to get the stuff out from under there, Claire just sat on the bed laughing at me (she grinned) but yeah a lot of it we do together as it is a joint thing, it’s not just me coming in and doing it all for her. It’s a lot of work for Claire and Claire is the one that has to make all the decisions at the end of the day. Before we started this interview you were telling me that you found it really difficult especially when there was a man helping. Claire: I don’t like men in my flat. I won’t have a man or men in my flat while I am on my own. If a man has to come round like when the RSPCA man came round to collect the bags for the charity, I had to have Emma here as well. Emma: I came round and supported Claire while he was removing the bags, he wasn’t here long and it gave Claire peace of mind.
Claire: There were quite a few bags into total. 78 went to charity, 44 bags were rubbish and 2 big bags of old medication which went back to the pharmacy. Emma: As you can imagine it was quite a big job and it should give you an idea of the work we had to do here. We tackled it on a weekly basis rather than just hit it all at once. I think it would have been too much for Claire to manage and to deal with in a week. We could have done it in a week but I don’t think it would have gone as well. Claire: No, I don’t think it would have. Emma: We did 3 hour sessions one day a week and we just worked through it, didn’t we Claire? (Claire nods). To begin with Claire still had a lot of clothes that she wanted to keep, so we put them into clear bags so Claire could see what was in them, we would then each week go through the bags and separated them out and Claire would decide what was going to a charity and what she wanted to hold onto. Ensuring that Claire could see what was in the bags gave her the security that she needed, to know that she was in charge. Over the weeks we just keep going through them and we condensed them down to the level that Claire is comfortable with and we are nearly there now. We only have a few more bags to go through. Claire: I just want to have the clothes that I need and that’s it, I know half of the stuff on the top bunk is clothes that I am not going to wear or use so it has to go. Emma: In the beginning you couldn’t see that could you Claire? 25
I think it is good that they are not being forced to remove sentimental items that clearly means so much to you.
Claire: No. Emma: That’s why it was so hard because she just wanted to keep them, she thought she would have a reason to wear everything. We worked through that with Claire. Claire: The hardest thing getting rid of was my boys stuff. I didn’t want to get rid of my boy’s stuff but because I had so much, some of it had to go. I have kept all his Thomas stuff, that I won’t get rid of and if somebody was to tell me that I had to get rid of that I would tell them they would have to hold a gun to my head because I won’t get rid of my boys’ stuff. Emma: We would never tell somebody ‘you have got to get rid of’ any items, it has to be the person’s choice; in this case it has to be Claire’s decision. Personal and sentimental things that Claire wants to keep then why not let her keep them? She has the room for them now. We have gotten rid of the stuff she doesn’t need. 26
Emma: We would never do that to anybody, we just help people understand that it’s not practical to keep everything. There are certain things that we all want to keep like personal belongings that are personally important to us, that is not an issue. It’s just the day to day stuff that people can form an attachment to that can cause problems and we needed Claire to understand the differences so that we could make room for Claire for the things that mattered the most to her. She wanted to be able to get into her bed, ‘you hadn’t slept in there for a while had you Claire? Claire: No. I had to sleep on the sofa. Emma: But now she can get in there, she can dance in there. Claire has all her clothes on hangers in the wardrobes, whereas before it was a big pile. Claire: A big pile, I had to climb up it all to get to the windows and then I would slide down the other side but it wasn’t practical because I was hurting myself trying to climb up the bags and all the rubbish that was in there. Emma: It wasn’t safe for you to be in there trying to find things. So before you moved here where were you before? Claire: Portman Rd. It was a one bedroom flat but I couldn’t live there because of my arthritis. I had to go up 2 flights of stairs, that’s why I had to move to this flat.
Emma: Did you have all that stuff when you were at the other place?
How do you see the future for yourself?
Claire: Yeah, but I had a big cupboard that I could hide it all in.
Claire: Well hopefully I won’t have to have Stepping Stones for years and years but they are really helping me out at the moment and until I can get back on my feet properly, hopefully I will be able to do this for myself, being able to do the tidying myself.
Emma: So before you came here 3 years ago all that stuff was at your place at Portman Rd? Claire: Yeah, most of it but I have also been buying stuff as well as having stuff. Emma: So the build-up wasn’t just from here it was from your old address as well, Did this all start from when you left home or when you have been living on your own? Claire: No it wasn’t; it was all at the other flat as well but you couldn’t see it because I had cupboards that I could hide it in as well as a wardrobe. So being moved to a smaller home made a difference to you and really highlighted what you had been gathering and collecting for yourself over the years.
Emma: That’s what we are aiming for and why we support the way that we do. We are not here to do all the work for Claire, it’s to help Claire to get back to doing things for herself with confidence and we are achieving that. Claire: If it weren’t for Stepping Stones I wouldn’t have been able to move forward the way that I have and I am grateful that Stepping Stones go out and help people that need the help. I would recommend them to other people.
Do you feel that you have been supported? Claire: Yes. Emma has been really good and we have built up a friend like relationship as well. When she comes round, I know when we are tidying up we can have a laugh and have a natter, Emma is really supportive. Would you have Stepping Stones again? Claire: Yep, I am continuing with them right now.
“Amazing changes and transformations are possible, if people are able to access the right help for them.”
Before the interview I was chatting with Emma and Claire and I was impressed by the relationship that Emma has built up with Claire, it was obvious that Claire trusts Emma and is very comfortable with her. It was a wonderful to see that good friendly interaction can create such a positive impact on a person’s life.
It has been great helping Claire. We get on really well and she has coped amazingly with all we have done.
Cleaning De-cluttering House maintenance Garden clearance Painting & decorating
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New Reason, New Thinking Finding Clarity Through Clutter by Matthew Morris For the last three years I have been working with people who have become overwhelmed by their possessions in their homes. This has been some of the most interesting, challenging and thought provoking work I have ever done. It is also an area that, I think, highlights all of the issues that challenge us in helping people who feel overwhelmed, for whatever reason.
The people I meet, who either they or somebody else has said that they have a problem with clutter in their homes mostly have one thing in common and this is not, as most people would assume, having a lot of clutter in their home! What they have in common is that they nearly all say to me “I have watched those hoarding programmes on the TV, and that is not me!” They are terrified of what they see on their screens, and the very thought of that process happening to them triggers many more overwhelming feelings. My experience is that they are of course always 100% right, and this is the key
issue. The people that are on the screen are not them. There is always, of course, a reality that centres on people’s relationships with possessions. Not always quantity, but the things that the person has become overwhelmed by. Being overwhelmed for some can be related to the sheer quantity of the possessions, and the dilemma that comes from fitting them all into their home. Overwhelm is however more often related to feelings of shame, embarrassment, guilt, frustration, anger and a profound loss of self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Feelings that relate to issues that have happened in their lives, issues that are then reflected in their homes or with specific feelings towards their things. The person’s story is always unique and there are always life issues, traumas and events that then relate to what is happening with their belongings. The people are unique, their situations unique and a failure to understand and
respond to people and situations as being unique is always failing to see them. To call them hoarders or suffering from a disorder is therefore alienating and reducing them to broad classifications that therefore do not require a narrative. When I meet professionals from a range of services they may tell me that they have a “hoarder” on their caseload, or that there is a problem with “hoarders”. I am told by experts in the field of “hoarding” that the fact that the DSM V (Diagnostic Statistical Manual 5) has recognised Compulsive Hoarding Disorder in its own right is a good thing as treatment can now be anticipated to follow. I am told that this is a chronic problem affecting up to as many as 5% of the population and that “hoarders” lack insight and are hard to engage, therefore making this specialist work. Having met many people now who would be talked about in this way, I wonder what their response to this might be, or any of us for that matter.
Please imagine someone comes to your home having received a referral as they are concerned with the state of your home. Imagine that they look around your home and ask you about your relationship with your possessions and then diagnose you with a Compulsive Hoarding Disorder. Much like the response from the TV shows you may (I know I would) either tell them (or believe) that they are wrong and that whilst you know things weren’t great that was not the problem. The professional may then tell you, or perhaps they would imply, that you therefore lack insight. Again, as is common and something I think I would do, is ask them to leave or perhaps never let them back in the house. If this should happen they can then confirm to themselves, and those around them, that “hoarders” are difficult, lack insight and are hard to engage! This is a professional set up that I have experienced many times throughout my career, most notably when working with people referred to Assertive Outreach as “hard to engage”. The people I met were not hard to engage if you had time to listen, understand and attempt to help in a meaningful way. However, if you ignore them and try to impose yourself and your opinions on them they resisted.
‘People are unique, their situations unique and a failure to understand and respond to people and situations as being unique is always failing to see them.’
So for people overwhelmed with their possessions in their homes, a familiar process has taken place that distorts what is really going on because the system lacks the ability, or the insight, to look only at the person, their unique situation and the relationship that they have with that person. A common irony is that this response often comes from professionals and services that promote themselves as “person centred”. It appears that this approach is so often conditional upon the person accepting the opinion of the worker first!
What I see is people trying desperately hard to survive the many difficulties that they are experiencing now, or which are legacies of events in their and their families’ lives. What is so often the case for the people I meet, as with people who are distressed by hearing voices and people who injure themselves or many of the other manifestations of distress, is that these crucial survival
strategies get attacked or medicalised, and that professionals are less interested in what has happened and more concerned with fixing the immediate concerns that may be distressing others. I do understand the argument and the feelings that make people want to classify others, and I understand that people will see someone overwhelmed by their possessions and think that the possessions are the problem. I know that people will meet people distressed by voices and will want to take the voices away, I can see that when someone you care about is injuring themselves you will want this to stop. Likewise, I can see that profound sadness and crippling worries and fears are tremendously difficult and we would all wish for this suffering to be gone. However, what I also see when I meet people experiencing all of these, is that the suffering is a related to what has happened to them, who they are, how they see their world and what resources they have to overcome what is happening.
That the belongings, the voices, the injury, sadness and worry are understandable responses and often desperate and successful attempts to survive. That the feelings that people have, whilst painful and difficult, are often the perfect response considering what is happening or has happened. That rather than anything being wrong with the person, everything about the way they feel is right given the circumstances. So perhaps if we can acknowledge that these are natural human responses and not symptoms of a disorder, we can just accept and support people, and not as we do now and call them names, then try to get them to accept the names
that we use and then reserving labels such as lacking insight and hard to engage for those who dare to disagree. If we can employ our natural human skills of love, compassion and empathy, if we listen, if we are curious, if we accept people and their stories as truly unique, complex and inspiring, if we can marvel at peopleâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s resilience, if we can truly accept difference and tolerate uncertainty, then maybe we can strip away the disorders, we can change the language of emotions to words that unite us as human beings, and perhaps then we can equip us all to be more helpful to ourselves and to others. Perhaps then we can see through the clutter, in whatever form it takes, and see a person.
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It Must Be Spring Hush, Can you hear it? The rustling in the grass, Bringing you the welcome news Winterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s day is past. Soft, Can you feel it? The warm caressing breeze, Telling you the sticky buds Are bursting on the trees. Look, Can you see them? The primrose in the lane, Now you must believe it Spring is here again. By May Fenn
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