Yesterday I was on a webinar with a group of community workers and counsellors who were sharing their experiences around the unique and unexpected challenges Covid-19 was bringing to their work within their communities.
One of the common themes we identified is that, despite the collective “sameness” of our experiences as a nation, we all make meaning of these in our own unique ways. No two narratives were the same – the sense of loss, isolation, distress and concern for the future is both distinctive and different in each conversation.
It struck me that perhaps one of the reasons we may be noticing this is because of the sense of communal shock and grief that we as workers are experiencing alongside the communities we serve. Perhaps our ability to adopt a “riverbank” position in our work (where we are able to take a different perspective for our clients, and scaffold conversations focusing on unique outcomes and moments of success despite the problems) has been impacted by the fact that we too are navigating the same unknown murky future with our clients.
When we feel disconnected or distant from the people we are close to it can feel like our whole world has turned on its head.
Whether a loved one has passed, a family has broken down, or we’ve been separated from those close to us due to Covid-19, it can sometimes feel like a hole has been left in our lives. For many of us, this hole can create a real sense of isolation and loneliness. And that’s just one facet of the Covid-19 story.
Loneliness and isolation is nonetheless a topic that comes up a lot in our work at SKATTLE. Through our conversations with clients, colleagues and peers, we have learned a lot of really useful skills that others are using in their conversations to support clients to hold onto what matters most to them.
Here are some of the ideas offered by others:
- Choosing our words really carefully – as helpers who use language every day to connect and support others, it is important to remember that words have power- I no longer use “social distancing” choosing to use “physical distancing” instead, and I intentionally avoid catastrophising language while deliberately focussing on positive news stories and instances of kindness to balance out the negative.
- Encouraging a sense of community – in our work at SKATTLE, our focus is always on exploring ways for individuals to feel connected to a community that reflects their hopes and values – in this context, encouraging people to stay connected via blogs, social media, book clubs, YouTube etc. reminds people that there are many ways to feel connected to something bigger than their own experience.
- Using self-disclosure – when the opportunities present themselves, consider how deliberately and intentionally sharing something of our own experience may facilitate a sense of connection, while acknowledging, normalising and validating the other’s experience. Perhaps self-disclosure in this sense can be a way for us to bridge the gap in meaningful ways.
- Working mindfully – not mindlessly – remembering that we are only truly effective when we are fully present ourselves – and this is when we can empathise and connect with their truth and their hopes for their future.
- Holding our “resource toolboxes” lightly – because clients who identify and acknowledge their own strengths and knowledge are in a much better position to act on them than anything that we can offer them.
- Strengths based language – identifying strengths, resources, skills and tools that people have used in the past or learnt from others that they can use again. When the “problem story” becomes too big people can lose their ability to locate and identify their own coping strategies and this is where we come in.
I hope that these ideas spark a sense of purpose and confidence in the work that lies ahead for us – please feel welcome to share your ideas and thoughts with us too!
Article written by SKATTLE counsellor Michelle Fairbrother