July 2017


On many kinds of strength.  

June’s newsletter was entirely given over to two central issues – the notion of 'scaffolding' as PIE practice, and an exciting 'new paradigm' for commissioning for complexity.   By contrast, July’s newsletter was going to revert to our more normal practice of covering a range of issues from recent publications. Except that, as so often, a core theme then emerges anyway: working with strengths.

The strengths model in action
Suzanne Quinney’s work in the Appreciative Inquiry approach (AI) is based in positive psychology and a strengths model, and an explicit critique of approaches that focus first and foremost on needs and vulnerabilities.  So this month we feature several examples of her work:

  • 'Appreciative Inquiry: the principles' spells out AI's interwoven core themes of social construction, simultaneity, anticipation, positivity – and 'poetry'. It's HERE
  • 'Where did it all go right?' is an account of a workshop Suzanne ran with health services staff, illustrating the value in 're-framing' approaches to risk in their work. It's HERE
  • We then have a paper (in two parts) in the Library on AI as applied in her work some years ago with King George’s hostel in Westminster: Part One, with the principles and pilot study, is HERE and Part Two, on the results and evaluation, is HERE
  • See also the video ‘Back on your feet; building resilience with hostel residents” HERE and 'Appreciative Inquiry and CBT', a short interview with one of the workers who had participated describing the after effects of that work, HERE.

Survival strengths
We need to bear in mind too, what real strength is needed just to survive on the streets; and this report from Crisis HERE on the violence many homeless people have encountered is salutary.

Emilie Smeaton's has written on the needs of “detached” young people - those who have runaway from home. In her commentary HERE on the PIEs guidance of 2012, she cautioned that services, In addition to highlighting their vulnerability, must also recognise such young people’s survival strategies, and the need in services to provide a social context that promotes such hard-won, still fragile resilience.

Strengths in their own eyes
As part of a recent training course on Pretreatment and PIEs, Jay Levy – using his customary narrative approach to teaching - describes how much he learned, as a newly qualified social worker, from understanding the importance of the strengths and the task, as he saw it, of one particular homeless individual – Old Man Ray – without which he could never have engaged Ray, when he DID need help. This is HERE.

Strength from others 
We tend to think of strength as a personal characteristic; but not all strength comes from within; we also all draw strength from each other. As Coral Westaway described in 'Developing best practice in Psychologically Informed Environments' (HERE)  which we featured last month, the real role of staff is often to 'hold the hope' for an individual, until they are strong enough to hold it themselves.

Alcoholics Anonymous used to suggest that we find strength in a belief in a higher power. Yet, as we argued in ‘Substance abuse, recovery and '"outer strength" ’, people can find strength in each other, as peers; and from a group or a community, which can 'hold the strength'.  NB: this was the linking editorial comment before Brian Morgan’s Building recovery communities,  in 'Complex Trauma and Its effects. - perspectives on creating an environment for recovery,' which talks of the strengths of autonomy in the economics of a funded group project. That whole chapter is HERE.

Moral strength
Feeling 'in the right' is a source of great moral strength for many. Yet it seems a debate has recently flared over where the moral high ground lies, in homelessness work, rather comparable to the discussions twenty years or more ago on harm reduction, needles exchange, pregnancy advice, dependency and other such areas.  

In 'How can we ethically respond to rough sleeping?", HERE, Beth Watts suggests that rather than falling into divisive positions, for and against any particular mode of provision, we might ask a number of key questions of all interventions over their purpose and effect.
(NB: This article is a blogpost summary of a much more in-depth and more academic discussion of legitimate purpose, voluntarism, and effects or outcomes, to be found HERE),