Over the weekend, we watched flood waters tearing through our town. So we called in at the Town Hall that was operating as an evacuation centre to see if we could help. The upshot of this was that we then got to spend an enjoyable evening with a refugee Mum and a delightful 3 year old who had come out shopping 36 hours earlier and still couldn't get home to Grange. They had not had their house destroyed but they were tired and weary and appreciative of some simple home pleasures.
Over the last few days we have heard lots of stories of deeper misery counteracted by people working together to help. However many questions are now being asked about what was really needed to stop the flooding? More flood defences? More climate change action? What actions are really needed? There are no easy answers.
Trying to figure out how to respond to a flood is a good metaphor for the starting points of the I Matter Project. In my practice as a Clinical Psychologist I have seen a constant flood of families feeling bewildered in the face of challenging behaviour. 8 month waiting lists have been a common feature of my last 15 years of practice. Many of the families on those lists face very similar challenges. I feel in a small way I have done my best to help. However, so very often it has felt like having a teaspoon under the Niagara Falls. Shifting challenging behaviour or addressing mental health needs doesn't usually happen without some careful upstream thought and planning about the reasons for the flooding.
Over the years, after much puzzling about how many complex ideas fitted together, I have come to the view that the brain science allows us to now be fairly clear about what contributes to the current flood of mental health and behavioural difficulties. We can also be quite clear about what is really needed, to make an impact. However because these contributing reasons are nonetheless complex, meaningful action to make a difference requires an upstream thoughtful early intervention rather than a reactive after the event approach. This upstream approach needs however to be based on careful evidence, a planned strategy and teamwork.
Tackling this issue has truthfully often seemed a little like being a tiny tug boat trying to shift the titanic or a tiny beaver trying to build a fragile bridge. It has often seemed crazy to even try, unlikely to be successful but nonetheless important to have a go. So I have wrestled and wrestled trying to find ideas, structures and processes that could be capable of enaging people in working together towards the types of upstream changes that in my view are needed. In this journey of trying to discover a meaningful response I went back to my roots as a teacher.
Having figured out how the basic psychological ideas could fit together I then realised - to my shock - that I was going to have to learn how to run a business to get the ideas out to others - and without the administrative logistics doing me in! There have been more hurdles and barriers than I ever imagined would be possible. Many will have heard me saying 'I haven't died yet...'.
The good news is that things have been moving slowly forward and there is now a manageable plan that my small team and I believe is capable of sharing ideas and engaging people in working together to take useful action Starting in january 2016, there will be a 3 term rolling program in place.
My key goal with this process is to see if there could be an alternative approach - and to see whether it is possible to engage adults of all levels of responsibility in taking a look at what they are seeing when they see child mental health needs and challenging behaviour with fresh eyes. The training and process provides a set of self-assessment measures for parents and professional services as well as guidance about the skills that adults must acquire to address these issues, and support and accountability systems to help those who are motivated to work with others to try to get there.
I know that changes in challenging behaviour can and do happen through this process. However there are no quick fixes. Adults have to commit to the inner and outer work involved and finding ways to build engagement and persistence really matter.
The very good news about the I Matter approach is that a synthesis of all the evidence strongly recommends that one of the first key steps involved in bringing about these shifts in challenging behaviour involves taking care of YOU - and investing in the development of your own understanding and leadership skills first (Hence 'I Matter'). Hooray! So this is a win-win approach. You get to learn lots of really interesting and useful things on the way. I certainly have had a lot of fun alongside the challenges, along the way.
Our key steps are as follows:
Step 1: An I Matter Q - a reflective questionnaire that will get you thinking
Step 2: Foundation Course Level 1 A and Level 1 B
Step 3: Intermediate Course Level 1 A and Level 1 B
Advanced courses and practitioner training.
These three steps are preceeded by some Taster Email Courses including the Five Steps to Success and the I Matter Essentials Course.
PPS: If you want to take a look at the courses available click here