“I had to spend a long time listening to someone talk about what was wrong with them and didn’t know how I was going to turn it around. I listened and then each time reflected with them the skills they must have to get through that.”
Practitioners shared that the people they work with are often so used to talking about what is deemed to be ‘wrong with them’ that having a strength-based conversation was not always easy. Due to the expectations of the system to provide negative information about needs and issues in order to access support, many people felt that this negative image had started to become part of their identity.
By providing a safe space for people to explore and reflect upon this, people were able to change the narrative to one of resilience, strength and resourcefulness. In this way, strength-based working could challenge this identity and reframe self-perception to one that is more positive.
“What struck me the most… is how deeply people’s identities are shaped by the experiences of homelessness or substance misuse or the trauma they went through. And, often people just start telling you about all those negative experiences.”
“I was working with that man… he started telling me about all these kind of negative experiences in his life. And I kind of stopped him and said, I don’t need to know that. And he was speechless and didn’t know what to say.”
Through careful and thoughtful conversation, practitioners were able to work with people to start to see themselves in a more positive light, developing self-belief which led to strength-based conversations rather than defaulting to deficits. Once people see the difference it becomes obvious and they can’t go back, people start to believe in themselves and to build on successes, to shed the identity and failures they’ve acquired from the system, better able to cope with future tough times.