“When you feel bad, you don’t need someone to confirm it. You need someone to see a glimmer of someone else or something else and you need to know they have seen it then you can start to see it yourself. That is strength-based working for me – making that glimmer shine a bit brighter.”
Practitioners were passionate that working in a strength-based way was the right thing to do and felt that this should be the approach adopted by everyone. However, some people felt that you had to be clearer regarding personal boundaries when you work this way to avoid being seen as a friend or confusing the relationship.
“If you work in a strength-based way…you need to be really strong on boundaries.”
When reflecting upon what strength-based working meant to practitioners, there were common themes such as not fixing, avoiding labels, and looking beyond risks. When practitioners spoke about their work directly with people there was a sense of pride and joy about the work that they did.
“Once you start working like this there’s no going back!”
Although practitioners said that working in a strength-based was challenging, there was also a sense that once you take this approach, there was no going back. This was a challenge in itself, as often people felt if they couldn’t continue to work in a strength-based way, they had no option but to move on from their jobs or out of the sector completely.
“For me it means that you are facilitating rather than fixing, you look at pointing that person towards good health rather than dysfunction, stop using labels, but instead look at whole person and well-being. You need to see beyond the risk.”
“Since I’ve been working with a strengths approach, I’ve changed the way I talk and act with people – I’m now focusing on each individual’s strengths instead of trying to get them to improve on their weaknesses as I did before. The results have been amazing. I also get much more enjoyment and satisfaction from my job.”
“It’s just so freakin cool to help someone figure out positive things about themselves. Be proud of something, be confident in social situations, whatever it might be.”
When practitioners talk about strength-based working, they could describe the specific ways they behave, they communicated an energy and a passion for that way of working, and also an inability to go back to the more traditional deficit-based ways. The agenda is purely led by what the person wants to work on or achieve, and they focus on building connections and positive networks within communities as opposed to within services.