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Support worker reflective practice: Yellow Brick Road

  • Publication Date:

    09 July 2024

  • Author:

    Meghan Parr

  • Area:

    Addiction, Disability, Mental Health
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We spoke with Yellow Brick Road NZ, a national organisation that provides mental health support for families who have a loved one experiencing mental health challenges.

Pātai for manager/team leader:

How many support kaimahi does your organisation employ?

Across Aotearoa Yellow Brick Road employs around 35 kaimahi, some working full time and others part-time.

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

At Yellow Brick Road we offer a few different reflective practices for our kaimahi. Firstly, each staff member has bi-monthly external supervision with someone outside of our organisation. We also have one-to-one monthly meetings between kaimahi and myself as manager which includes a case component. This is a space to talk through any cases where people feel stuck, want suggestions, or want to highlight the awesome work they’ve done! After all, reflective practice isn’t just about the negatives, we need to reflect on and highlight the positive work as well.

We also have peer case review meetings monthly. This is where kaimahi will discuss things that have popped up in their work and get their colleagues’ feedback. We have a roster for everyone to share a case study and get feedback and ideas. All our kaimahi come from different backgrounds and many have lived experience, so we love that everyone brings different perspectives to our work.

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

We value diversity in our staff, and this reflects our diverse communities. After all, mental illness doesn’t discriminate. This means we need to offer solutions that approach reflective practice in different ways. Some staff love their external supervision because it’s separate from the organisation, so they feel freer in that space to share their concerns. Others thrive with management supervision because issues can be dealt with quickly and organisational processes can be shared to support their work.

Our kaimahi work with families so the questions and situations they are supporting whānau with can be hugely varied. This can involve giving information about different diagnoses, sharing how the mental health system works, helping whānau to advocate for themselves or their family member in clinical meetings, and sharing practical skills like self-care for families, validation and healthy boundaries. With such a breadth of support topics being discussed, whānau support workers need their organisational support to reflect the diversity of their work.

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

I would absolutely encourage it. We have some incredibly skilled kaimahi working under the title of support worker and when we invest in their professional development, the whole sector thrives. Moreover, ensuring they feel valued and cared for means a happy and productive team.

Pātai for support worker

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

Reflective practice naturally develops through frequent opportunities to engage in peer case reviews.

How does reflective practice help your work?

As a longtime practitioner of reflective practice, I have been able to guide my own learning and enhance my professional growth. This approach has opened numerous opportunities for me over the years, bringing a great sense of achievement and enjoyment to my work.

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