An anonymous diary entry by one of Circle’s family support workers, who has had a busy week supporting parents and their children.
Names have been changed
I am an Addictions Counsellor working within one of Circle’s services providing support to women and their families who are involved with criminal justice services.
My setting for providing counselling is different to most ‘traditional’ counselling services, as I see those I work alongside within their own home and within their communities. For example, we go out for walks, sit in a coffee shop or go shopping; anywhere that the women feel comfortable in meeting and where it is appropriate in affording them privacy.
The first thing I do is to check who I have arranged to visit for today and the rest of the week. I am meeting with three women today.
The first appointment I have is with a woman who lives with her son and has limited contact with her other two children. I have been working alongside the mum since before Christmas; she suffers from depression and anxiety. Andrea has historical substance use issues and is determined not to relapse back to her old ways. She has been coping well, but recent problems arising from her relationship with her ex-partner (who is the father of her youngest daughter) have been causing her stress and she is struggling to cope. We look at relapse prevention, which includes a list of people she can contact to talk to and activities that will take her mind off the substance. We talk about what her ex-partner is doing to make her feel stressed. Andrea is looking to stop responding negatively and not let him ‘push the button’. I discuss the benefit of doing relaxation which may help her stay more focused, and we agree to do some relaxation work in our next session.
My next appointment is with a young mum who is expecting her second child. She is struggling with her mental health and coping on her own due to the relationship with her partner breaking down.
I then travel to meet with a new referral. The mum has no contact with her child at present and has historic substance use issues, along with complex trauma.
My first meeting today is with Heather, a mum of four children ranging from new born to 11 years old. I support the mum with her historic substance use, anger management and anxiety. Heather has been coping very well over the last couple of months as a result of the work she has been doing with myself, for example recognising triggers, risky situations and conflict with others. Heather is working on how to relax and defuse her anger by concentrating on her breathing and removing herself from the situation as best as she can. Heather is doing all the baby’s day and night feeds due to her partner moving out of the family home. This has caused tension within the relationship and Heather is finding it difficult to get a routine in place so that she can get the kids to school and make meals. We chat about the existing support that she is receiving from my Family Support Worker colleague and explore any additional support that would make her current circumstances less stressful. Despite the challenges, mum is able to recognise that her baby is doing really well and the older three children are adapting to having a new sibling in the home.
My second appointment of the day is with a new self-referral. Kim and I discuss what her needs are and what support Circle can provide for herself, her daughter and her mum. At present Kim lives alone and her daughter resides with gran. Her daughter has epilepsy and struggles in mainstream schooling. Gran has health issues of her own and struggles with the stress and pressures in her life. Kim has historic alcohol issues and complex health needs. Since receiving her Community Payback Order Kim has refrained from alcohol, but is finding this difficult to maintain at times. We explore a plan for relapse prevention, motivators for staying alcohol-free and potential triggers of her alcohol use. Stress has been a major influence in her alcohol use and this is an area that we have agreed to work on over the coming sessions. We arrange a date for our next meeting and confirm that my Family Support Worker colleague will contact Kim to explore the whole family support that can be offered.
I attend Link Worker training today. This is a day-long course on what is involved in being a Link Worker, for example utilising an assessment framework to complete direct observations for social work students on placement with Circle. It is a very interesting course and a good learning experience for myself, since I am not from a social work background.
I arrive at the home of Rachael as arranged. I haven’t seen Rachael since before the Christmas break. Rachael’s behaviour before Christmas was a little concerning, as there had been a deterioration in her mental health and substance use. However, it is apparent when I meet with Rachael, and in discussion with her, that there has been some improvement in how she thinks and feels about herself. We talk about the choices she has made previously and the impact these have had on her well-being. Rachael acknowledges that her supervised contact with her two sons hasn’t been going well and we explore options to improve this current set of circumstances, including liaising with Children and Families Social Work. We have been working on Rachael’s confidence in being able to get out and about in the community and she is keen to enrol in a local gym and explore her options for going to college or work. Rachael is feeling more positive about developing a support plan focusing on what she wants and needs in life, and the steps to take that are realistic for her and her family.
In the afternoon I meet with my colleagues. We meet on a regular basis to discuss the service, referrals and development opportunities. Today we discuss the arrival of a new social work student who will be joining the team and how we will contribute towards their learning throughout their placement. It is a productive meeting and gives us a chance to sit down, which is rare due to the nature of our work!
Every second Friday I visit a local drop-in service for women who are completing unpaid hours as part of their Community Payback Order. I also meet with Criminal Justice Social Workers to update as to the work I am doing with the women we are working alongside. Today I am able to promote the service to some women who are not familiar with the service. I hand out leaflets and answer any questions that the women have. Even though some of the women don’t require the service, they state that it is a much needed service within the local area and the wider population. We have an open discussion about mental health and substance use and the impact it has had on them and society in general.