I’m Bernadette, the Health Advisor for Links to Work in West Dorset. I’m a qualified and experienced person centred counsellor.
My role within Links to Work begins when a personal consultant identifies that one of our customers has a mental health problem that is a barrier to getting a job and sustaining that job for a period of time.
A review takes place between me, the customer, and the personal consultant. This is called a ‘Triage’. Aims of this session are:
- Gain an understanding of what your mental health and wellbeing issues are.
- How they impact your life experience.
- How they affect opportunities to secure and sustain a job.
Questions from me may include:
What mental health and wellbeing problems can you experience?
How do these impact your day to day life?
During the session, you, the customer may disclose you have some mental health problems, for example, anxiety, depression, bipolar or OCD. As a health advisor, I find that customers open up to me about their health conditions much more, as I am a health professional.
It's good to have the personal consultant there because they get a much broader picture of who you are and your work capabilities, and secondly if there are mental health conditions I can explain to the personal consultant the likely impact this will have on your daily life, and possible jobs that should be avoided.
One to one
Next I'll book customers in for a one to one session which involves undertaking a full mental health and wellbeing assessment.
This is where me and the customer really pin down what the issues are. For example, if someone presents with anxiety, I often find there is much that underlies this statement.
I had a customer recently who said they had anxiety, and it got far worse when they were under pressure or in a stressful situation. In this instance it was a pending job interview. First I often ask:
If number one means this isn’t stressful, and number ten means it causes extreme anxiety, where do you currently sit on the scale?
In this case, she sat at a 4.
What enables your answer to be a 4, not a 3? What could move you to a 6?
Sometimes ‘scaling’ generates enough discussion for the customer to resolve or reduce how anxious they are.
With this particular customer we had to search a bit more deeply. I asked her:
What are your thoughts/perceptons about the interview, and the person interviewing you?
She believed the interviewer would think she isn’t ‘good enough’, ‘qualified enough’ and think she is ‘too old'.
I really enjoy this type of work with customers, it’s a great opportunity to explore belief systems, often ones that are outdated and unhelpful to confidence levels, especially when your put under pressure.
In this instance I wanted to encourage my client to evaluate her beliefs, to question if they hold true today or if they ever were. To explore if they are helpful and to go about establishing beliefs about herself that were more accurate. Beliefs that would empower progress, build confidence, worth and good self-esteem.
It is my experience that so much of depression and anxiety appear to relate to feelings and thoughts of not being ‘good enough’, ‘qualified enough’, ‘clever enough’ or just not like ‘other people’.
I see a huge disconnect between individuals, and their perceptions of themselves. We work together to realign the two. If it goes well this can lead to:
- Increased confidence.
- Defined aspirations and goals.
- Life becoming more enjoyable.
Sounds easy doesn’t it? It can be, when customers such as this one put the work in to achieve the results.
As I say a lot in Dorset, 'keep doing what you’re doing, and you’ll keep getting what you’re getting'.
I also encourage customers to attend some of my workshops.
Completely blowing my own trumpet, one customer recently described them as ‘beyond exceptional’. She said they empowered her to respond assertively to situations and to take control over her life and life choices.
As a flavour, customers on the programme are able to access workshops on topics such as:
- Stress management and coping strategies
- Developing assertiveness and achieving your potential.
After a few weeks of working with customers, I book the three of us back in for a ‘review’ appointment. Often, the mental health problem has reduced or there are new ways for the customer to manage their issues so those original barriers to employment have greatly reduced.
I carry on working with customers in groups and one to one sessions until they are in sustainable employment.
We also support customers once they're in work. they generally pop back in to let us know how it’s going.
We often link customers to ‘Access to Work’, an agency supporting people with disabilities within the workplace by suggesting and making necessary adaptations.
I also run a programme in the evenings, once a week, and this includes topics such as:
- Understanding your contract
- Communicating Effectively with your Manager and Peers
- How to handle challenging situations
I haven’t worked with a customer yet where working hasn’t been a significant factor in strengthening their mental health, reduce their social anxiety and provide a platform from which to build a more positive life.
In addition to providing internal support, the team in Dorset have set up strong links, and referral procedures with agencies. This is really useful for customers as we can refer to organisations that provide specialist support, for example Reach (drug and alcohol support), Livewell Dorset (smoking, weight loss, lifestyle) Narcotics Anonymous (drug use support) and Relate (relationship support), to name but a few.
Is your health and wellbeing preventing you from working? One of our health advisors can help, signup for our services today!