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Support worker reflective practice: Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust

  • Publication Date:

    09 July 2024

  • Author:

    Meghan Parr

  • Area:

    Addiction, Disability, Mental Health
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We spoke with Life Matters Suicide Prevention Trust, a peer-governed and peer-led organisation striving to help members of our community who are at risk of, or affected by, suicide.

Pātai for manager/team leader

How many support kaimahi does your organisation employ?

21 kaimahi. 18 are employed peer supporters, team leaders, admin, and three are volunteer peer supporters. All are trained in Intentional Peer Support.

How do you provide opportunities for reflective practice for your support kaimahi?

There is reflection for kaimahi after each peer support session. This might last 10 minutes, or it might be longer if the sessions were difficult/complex and raised issues for the peer supporter. Monthly 90-minute co-reflection with a trained supervisor in Intentional Peer Supporter is also provided and is a requirement for staff to attend. This is done in a group of around 8 to 9 and peer supporters may attend in small groups at the Hope Centre or at home via their personal device.

Why do you think this way of providing reflective practice works well for your community/organisation?

Staff report that the reflections after each peer session are essential as these allow them to process and reflect immediately on a session and not carry thoughts with them through the day, overnight or the coming days, especially if it has sparked intense feelings for them. It also allows the team leaders and managers (doing the reflection) to get a sense of how the peer supporter is going and if they need support for themselves or in advocacy or suggestions for ongoing peer support.

The monthly co-reflection is an opportunity for peer supporters to share experiences and to reflect and improve on their own peer support practice.

What would you say to another organisation thinking about trying this kind of reflective practice for their support kaimahi?

Putting the effort into consistent reflective practice benefits the kaimahi in feeling supported and in the development of their own peer practice and gives team leaders/managers real-time insight into how the peer workforce is doing and identifying gaps and strengths in peer practice which benefits tāngata whaiora and the organisation overall.

Pātai for support worker:

What is good about the way your employer does reflective practice?

It's really important because it allows me to decompress and not carry the discussion with me during the day. And it makes me a more resilient peer supporter, because I'm able to have the capacity to support people because I know I will have the chance to reflect on the session afterwards.

During reflection I have a conversation about things that came up during a session, and together with the person reflecting with me, we figure out how we are feeling - whether there’s anything else that needs to be done and it’s like a mental check-in with yourself. The monthly reflection is done in a group with one facilitator. It's an opportunity to bring up things that come up in session, share with co-workers, brainstorm different approaches. Where other peer supporters have had a similar experience, they may share what has helped them in that situation.

It gives me a feeling of camaraderie. Seeing what others have experienced allows my peer practices to grow, and I learn things from listening to other experiences.

How often do you think it is good for support kaimahi to be able to access reflective practice?

Definitely after every peer session, for 10 to 15 minutes. If someone is in crisis it might require longer for the peer worker to be reflected with, depending how long the person is in crisis.

Monthly reflection with the bigger group is also essential for growth in peer practice and to know you’re not alone.

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