I moved into the house on the 31st July this year to take over from Paul Baker (see previous blog) by this time temperatures' had reached the high 30 degrees centigrade and it was truly hot. All of our meetings, meals, one to one sessions and family meetings were being held under the tree in the garden. The meetings were also heating up as we realized that time was catching up on us and there was still a lot of work that needed done. Having met most of the clients before the project, I was amazed at how far some of them had moved forward, and at the same time was dismayed by the lack of progress of others.
Having fresh eyes come into the project each month has both good and bad aspects to it. One of the better things I believe is that the new eyes can sometimes see things that are being missed, as the group settle into a working routine. One of the things I saw was how some guys who weren't doing as well as expected had this uncanny ability to make themselves invisible, even when they were in groups - you could not see them. They had this chameleon like quality that let them blend into the background. On the other side of the coin, we had a couple of people who were not moving on, who managed to avoid working on anything, by getting right in your face and confronting you through their behaviours. In total we had four people who were not moving forward or were moving at a really slow pace - the rest of the clients were moving on.
I want to use this blog to explore how all the clients have in many ways helped us shape the future direction of the program.
One of the things that I learnt during the month at the house was that many truisms are true, but some still don't make the grade. So here we go:
- You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink. This one is definitely true. The sooner we learn that we cannot force someone onto their recovery journey, the sooner the person will start on their recovery journey.
- Mother knows best. This is most certainly not true when it comes to recovery, I'm sorry to say. Having run a recovery house in Scotland and now the project in Italy, it has become clear that many families have pushed the person into the projects and that the people have come to the program for their families, not for themselves. A person needs to recover firstly for their self, then perhaps for others - has been the clear learning for us during the program.
- Honesty is the best policy. I am going to surprise many here, by saying, this is not true. For recovery to really work, honesty cannot be the best policy, it has to be the only policy. It was quickly clear that if staff were not honest about their feelings, then clients could not be honest about theirs and once again a recovery journey was slowed down.
- We are all in it together. This sounds really recovery orientated and at the start of the month, I would have been right on board with this idea - said it was totally true, and not realized how patronizing that this is. We are all in together between 9am and 5pm is much more like it. I had forgotten how long a day really is and how as a worker, I am around for about a third of a day and normally five days a week. Staying at the project, 7 days a week, 24 hours a day - opened my eye to a new truism that is: "a day is at least three times as long for a client than a worker. A week for a worker is 40 hours, for the client a week is 168 hours, which is four times longer".
Back to the project - the last month was one of great activity, stress, tears, joy, laughter, anger, success, failures, and yet ending with lots of hope.
But for me, the best moment, was the final evening when rejoined by Karen - we had our graduation ceremony and also presentations to the staff and volunteers. I must confess, I cried often that evening, but in main they were tears of joy.
Ron Coleman and Karen Taylor have an international reputation as speakers and authors. They are the directors of ‘Working to Recovery Limited’ an innovative international consultancy, training and publishing company with a cutting edge approach to supporting and improving mental health provision.