“Sometimes I fail. Sometimes I’m like ‘oh my god, what do I do? How do I help?’ Then I end up trying to fixing things. It never ends well.”
Practitioners explained that often the people they worked with had an expectation that they would do things for them and ‘fix’ situations. Having strength-based conversations that focused on the person’s ability to do things for themselves were hard because it went against people’s previous experiences of services.
“Sometimes people have been in the system for quite a while. And this is what they’re used to… This is what they want, they want you to make the phone calls, fill in the forms and write letters. And so yeah, I guess it’s about, having that that real-life conversation and explaining, you know, that this is going to benefit them in the long run, because they will have those skills too.”
Many practitioners felt that the system had created a dependency on services through the focus on ‘issues’ rather than people’s strengths. Changing this narrative and expectation was a really challenging part of their role as they worked with people so that they could value themselves, do things for themselves and see their own worth. Sometimes practitioners felt it was very difficult not to jump in to try and fix things for people and they needed to really learn to sit back and listen to people.
“Not fixing helped me a lot with other relationships. Like when I’m talking to my friends or my partner or whoever and they are telling me about how hard their day was. I’m so much better at just sitting back and listening and being there with them and the hard time. I’m not like have you thought about this? Have you thought about that? Have you tried that?”
In addition to the difficulty of resisting the urge to fix people’s problems or provide solutions, practitioners also shared how this fixing mentality could have a negative impact on their relationship with the people they work with. Often people would just want someone to listen and understand, not try and solve their problems.
“I meet with someone who was in a really low place. They would say… ‘I want this. I want that.’ I was like, ‘we could do this or why don’t we do that’… he was like ‘no no no…’ He shut down all my ideas and gloriously told me they were terrible. I knew I was wrong, but it was so hard to stop, even though I knew he really didn’t want solutions.”
Practitioners want to help, so they can end up taking over and ‘fixing’, focusing on the problem and not the person. People and services have grown to expect it to be that way, so when choice is introduced, or people are encouraged to lead on the solutions themselves, that can seem unfamiliar territory to everyone.