So why would I like you to consider I Matter Training? Because I believe it can help you whether you are a professional, a parent or a young person to get your bearings in very confusing times and around confusing challenging behaviours and experiences.
It is not that you HAVE to have a map, because as when you do a jigsaw puzzle, you still have to work things out yourself, but it often helps you to be a bit faster if you have a picture to look at on the box.
I Matter Training is not a treatment, it is a mental health education. It's intention is to help you become more competent more quickly. I want you to have this training because I know there are young people who for whom the only route to a better future is at least one adult who is not going to give up on them.
You could be that adult.
Or you could be a young person who wants help for yourself.
Don't hesitate! Get in touch!
I really love my logo! It was designed for me by Ronnie Mullin at Mullin Design in Kendal, UK and it just sums up perfectly what I Matter is all about. I get to use my logo lots on this site, or on letters and reports and each time I use it it feels good!
The logo shows adults and children with steps as in the way of ladders and this in essence is what I believe has to be the starting point in any work with complex children. Both adults and children are learning.
More than this, I believe that the logo represents the sense that the learning is in built to everything - it is not something separate that we move to and then come back to our ordinary lives. The opportunities for learning are literally everywhere in every moment.
I Matter is about bringing the learning into the day to day relationship experiences and processes. What that means is that this is a constant and active approach. We do not have therapeutic experiences just inside therapy offices, we have the opportunity in the everyday moments in which we tussle with our children as they grow up and we do our best to become the adults that they are needing us to be.
If you are open to learning and growing, do get in touch! There is a lot to learn but this learning can help increase your confidence and your clarity. And with more confidence and clarity the rewards increase too, even inside the most challenging experiences.
I have to admit it - one of the reasons that I have kept going with this project is that in the face of lots of reasons to stop, I am one of those people who still wants to believe that we could/can as a community more effectively address what is happening for children in our community if we worked together in our homes and schools to make a difference.
One of the things that I have loved about this project is that I get to meet a lot of remarkable people who also hold onto similar idealism and continue to work for positive change against apparently unstoppable odds.
Sometimes it really can seem that we are bonkers to keep going.... but when you look at how things could look if we dropped hope and a belief in a positive future, the picture is not very appealing. Think about what cynicism, despair and impatience do to your own well-being, let alone to those around you and you will soon discover why the term 'I Matter' refers to the difference that you make to your very immediate circle of family, friends, and colleagues by the attitudes you decide to adopt today.
Are you someone who wants to believe you could make a difference to the future for one or more children that you live or work with? If so, the I Matter Project is for you. Do get in touch, it is nice to meet with other other passionate people who sometimes believe in things that others consider to be impossible!
So in sum... take a look at my next blog..
I Matter Training aims to bring lots of complex ideas into a practical useable whole for those who live or work with complex children. One critically important idea that gets glossed over repeatedly in our educational and mental health practices is the issue of child development.
Children develop. The brain develops. Child brain development is impacted massively by experience as well as by genetics. However child development can be a very trusted guide if you are living or working with complex children.
What may shock you is that when you start to look at the challenges that your child is facing through the lens of child development is that i) your child may have some very significant gaps in their social development ii) YOU have a very important role to play that cannot be replaced by any distant expert.
There are a few interventions in the area of children with complex needs that take a developmental approach but not nearly enough. A much greater understanding of child social-emotional development needs to be embedded into our educational systems not as an added after thought but as central to the way in which we think and plan provision.
Social competence is one of the key factors in predicting a young person's success in work and adult relationships but we scoot over the fundamental skills involved and hope for the best.
If you are living or working with a complex child, you need to make sure you gain a much greater understanding of how development proceeds and your role in it!
Fortunately, it is really fascinating and helpful stuff!
So what is I Matter Training? I Matter Training is intended to provide you with a way of bringing a lot of complex ideas together into a useable and practical whole so that you can be more confident about how to help yourself and your complex child.
I Matter is built on 3 core foundations. Foundation 1 is a reminder that if you want to see positive change - you have to be willing to take some personal responsibility and you have to be willing to grow and change yourself.
Foundation 2 of I Matter is a reminder that if you want to help a complex child, you have to be willing to work with others. Working with others in partnership could be referring to your home-based relationships, with your child's other parent or grandparents for example. It also refers to the relationships you make with people at your child's school or in the community.
Your ability to build good relationships and your ability to motivate them to want to work with you, will be a key factor in your ability to help your child. No one can work completely alone with complex children. You will need support. Your child will need support.
Your relationship skills can get stronger and as they do, you will be acting as a fantastic role model to your child and others about what good working relationships look like and about the effort and rewards involved.
Relationships take time and work! Have you noticed that to help your child, you must lead the way!
So what is I Matter Training? It is a psycho-educational project intended to provide you with a map that will support you in becoming more of an expert on the mental health or behaviour challenges you or your child are experiencing. I Matter training brings together complex ideas into a useable practical form so that you can decide which are important and relevant to you right now.
I Matter is not a therapy - but if you use it to guide your choices and decision making it will have therapeutic outcomes for you and for your child.
I Matter has three Foundations: Foundation 1: Personal Responsibility and Willingness to Grow emphasises that if you want to help a complex child, your skills and understanding matter. What you want matters. What you are willing to work for in your home or community setting matters.
We can spend a lot of time looking around for someone else who is going to take action to make a difference. The fact is, if you care about these things, YOU must take action.
Be warned: I Matter can take you on what can be a powerful and challenging journey!
Look out for more information about Foundations 2 and 3 of I Matter Training.
The sixth reason I decided to develop I Matter Training is that when it comes to living with or caring for children with complex needs, there is rarely a quick fix. Sorry!
When we are faced with really challenging situations - we have all been in the situation of just wanting someone or something to come and sort things out and make things better - More than that we often want something or someone to come and sort the child or other person out - right now! Unfortunately, this can rarely, if ever, happen, but the fantasy that it could perhaps happen can sometimes leave professionals and parents chasing for solutions, and not being willing to stick with approaches that deliver slower but firmer results.
The hard truth is that if we really want to bring about positive changes for children with complex needs, through our relationships, we have to be willing to commit to a path that demands stamina and patience. Real improvements in our relationships can rarely be delivered by drugs, but they can be delivered through improved understanding, improved communication, improved team work, improved personal effectiveness.
This is a challenging path but it is a rewarding path. Like any form of exercise we start to reap the benefits when we are willing to put good advice into practice in a determined way over weeks and months, not just hours and days. It is not enough just to hear good ideas, we have to take action and try things out, we have to be willing to learn from our mistakes and adjust and try again.
Because I Matter Training is based on giving you understanding before giving you strategies, it aims to give you the ability to figure out for yourself what is needed and why in a given challenging situation. It aims to give you language and ideas that you can share with others to think through your decisions together.
When you develop new understanding and skills you can take these with you for a life time.
So, now you have six reasons for the existence of this project, but the seventh reason I developed I Matter Training is that I am frankly a hopeless idealist. I believe in the capacity of human beings to work together for a better world. More on that in my next blog..
So the fifth reason I became interested in creating this training is that I became convinced that to make a difference to the numbers of children who were struggling, the answer was not just more therapists and more therapy. Therapists and therapy tend to work with an approach that is inevitably based on an individualised approach. That is great!
Yet we have so many children who are struggling and the work involved to help put a complex child back on track can often be so time consuming that it is difficult for me to see how an approach will ever be capable of reaching and addressing the scale of need we currently see.
Furthermore, because I was a teacher before I became a clinical psychologist, I am convinced that in the area of mental health and challenging behaviour, understanding can make a very real and significant difference to long-term outcomes for young people and for adults. Time and time again I have seen that when living or working with complex children it is very easy for adults to become very disorientated.
When disorientated, professionals and parents and young people can resort to using strategies that they heard about without really understanding what they are trying to do or why. In desperation, they may jump from one approach to another. They may turn to medication feeling mystified by how the child is behaving or by how they are feeling.
I believe that taking the time to understand what is happening at a deeper level, particularly when this is done in the context of supportive community based relationships can empower people to make better decisions and take more responsibility for their own choices.
Interestingly enough, when a wide number of well-established ideas in the literature are pulled together - the implications are quite obvious and in a curious way quite straightforward, though the changes required of people are sometimes pretty challenging.
I have seen that giving adults and young people time to understand what is happening improves their willingness to take the necessary steps and extends their ability to come up with unique and positive solutions to future challenges. Becoming informed is therefore the second and important step on the Five Steps to Success with Complex Children.
There are still more reasons for this training! The sixth reason I decided to develop I Matter Training was that when it comes to helping complex children, there is rarely a quick fix. Short-term interventions often miss the point of how complex the process of growing up and learning to parent really can be. Look out for Number 6!
The fourth reason I decided to develop this training was that as I studied all the research, it became very very clear that there were so many different approaches or models but to me, many of them were missing a key and fundamental issue, or adding it as an afterthought.
How many can you list yourself? Here are a few: Behavioural approaches, Cognitive-Behavioural approaches, Play therapy, Family Therapies, Psycho-dynamic or Person-centred counselling, Solution-Focussed approches, Webster-Stratton Training, Solihull Approach, Narrative Therapies, Dyadic Developmental and Attachment Focussed Approaches. You may have come across ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis), Theraplay or Relationship Developmental Intervention or the Nurtured Heart Approach. There is some wonderful work going on, but what a confusing picture! I have often seen desperate parents and professionals floundering around trying to find 'something' - 'anything' that could be tried.
Yet something key that is often missing from my point of view is i) the clear understanding of the brain and the way it develops and functions and ii) the very close link between adult well-being and child well-being. Unfortunately this link is often not well reflected in the way our mental health services are organised or delivered, nor in the way professionals and parents are expected to work
In fact, I chose the title The Adult-Child Well-Being 'I Matter' Project because when it comes to working with children with complex social-emotional challenges, not only are adult well-being and child well-being closely linked, but ADULTS have more responsibility than children - a truth that too often seems to be neglected. For children to develop into mature adults, they have to have mature adult role models who can think and imagine and see the world as the child may be experiencing it. It is not possible otherwise for this positive emotional development to proceed. So, though there is no getting away from the fact that all of the research evidence suggests that parenting skills are hugely important for children's long-term outcomes on a wide variety of indicators, children with complex needs, need ideally to have parents and carers and teachers with advanced parenting and caring and teaching skills.
One of the key skills for an adult who cares for complex children. is the ability to care for themselves. Self-care enables adults to remain effective in tuning into children when in challenging times. This is good news really. Parenting and caring and teaching is very hard work, but fortunately, good long-term outcomes clearly depend upon the emotional well-being of child and adult being given a top priority.
The fifth reason I decided to develop I Matter Training was that as I teacher I knew that outcomes in the area of child and adult mental health are improved by understanding. More on that in my next blog.
The third reason I decided to develop I Matter Training was that I had become increasingly interested in the overlaps between the difficulties in the children I was seeing in schools and in clinics and the diagnostic categories that were being used to describe them.
Have you noticed how we are using more and more diagnostic terms to describe children? Look for example at the rise in the use of such terms as ADHD, ASD, ADD, PTSD, OCD, PDD, PDA - The list can go on and on. Elaborations can be found in the diagnostic manuals known as DSM IV and ICD-10. Diagnosis is essentially a search for distinctive conditions that can be distinguished reliably from other distinctive conditions so as to finding a useful drug or therapy as a treatment. This is a medical model approach. Diagnosis is sometimes also used as a doorway to funding or a doorway to support groups.
I am a psychologist though and what makes a child psychologist different from someone with a medical training is that I want to understand how difficulties develop, and why they stick around. And in my clinical work what I find most striking is that more often than not there are huge overlaps between the difficulties described using these different labels. We can often use a multitude of labels to describe a child and find none that quite fits. Most importantly therefore, I want to understand how these difficulties have emerged. To do this I have found it is important to have a strong understanding of how typical development proceeds and how typical relationship patterns operate. I find that when you use a good understanding of development a lot of apparently confusing issues start to seem a lot less confusing and it starts to be much easier to know where to head and why.
I have repeatedly seen that families and professionals can sometimes become very focussed on the search for the right diagnosis whilst missing the opportunity to understand what might really be happening for a child within his/her relationships. What is exciting in my view is that when you draw the evidence all together and introduce some basic understanding of the way in which the brain functions we can for the first time start to be much more confident about what is happening and why at a much deeper level. Diagnosis becomes much less important than the understanding that we can have at this deeper level.
This doesn't mean that there are quick fixes or easy answers. Instead the evidence from a developmental point of view points to several key conclusions. One is that though all children are complex, some are more complex than others, and another is that as children develop in the context of relationships, we must pay attention to the understanding and skill of adults. The evidence clearly suggests that some children are going to need adults with much more advanced caring and parenting skills. Helping adults to acquire these skills therefore should be a key part of any intervention or support package regardless of the specific diagnostic label.
Receiving a diagnosis should therefore not be an end in itself, it should open up opportunities to learn and grow, but for this learning to happen, a map that acknowledges overlaps between diagnostic labels and different approaches to intervention can be really useful.
Again, I am jumping ahead as the fourth reason I decided to develop I Matter Training was that there were so many different approaches to intervention - sometimes at loggerheads with one another! Read my next blog..
Dr Cathy Betoin
Dr Cathy Betoin
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