Reflections from practitioners

On 9th October, we brought together the practitioners who have been testing the personal asset mapping tool together for the last time. At this session, we were keen to hear more about how they’d been getting on trialing the tool out in practice, as well as listening to their reflections on the process and being involved in the project overall.

Here are some of the things that practitioners said that they had learned in the project:

“How beneficial asset mapping can be to achieve individual goals”

“I’ve learned that I didn’t know some of my clients as well as I thought”

“How the tool can be used across the board, not just about mental health”

“Potential to use the maps with individuals and groups but needs buy-in from practitioners”

“That practitioners from different backgrounds are very skilled”

Similarly, we were aware that many of the practitioners involved in the project were very used to working within set-out processes, with validated tools and that working in an exploratory way would take them out of their comfort zone. We knew this might bring a number of challenges for the practitioners, which we were keen to understand better.

We asked practitioners about some of the fears that they’d overcome throughout the project process, and one of the clear themes was developing confidence – both in using the tool, but in their own skills as a practitioner. Some examples of other factors mentioned by the practitioners include:

“Overcame the people I support’s initial doubts about the project.”

“Overcome- lack of confidence in my knowledge.”

“Making something complex simple enough to explain.”

Practitioners were clear that there were still some barriers that would need to be overcome before the approach could be embedded in practice. These barriers included:

“The future. Where we go from here? Will the digital tool be used.? Selling asset mapping to staff.”

“Becoming more practiced in utilising the tool with others with different needs and support.”

“Follow up and engagement with people who use services”

“Adapting it so that it works for the majority or at least so they will try it.”

It was invaluable to get this feedback from the practitioners, and the project team will be considering these issues as we move the project forward – particularly that of ‘selling’ and communicating the goals and outcomes of the process to other practitioners working locally.

As part of the project evaluation, and understanding the worth of the process, we will, of course, be following up with individuals to find out how they felt about their experience of being involved in the project, to understand if they felt differently after having gone through the asset mapping process and to determine any changes they might have made as a result of this. A full report will be available in due course.

We are also working together with the Connections (The Richmond Fellowship) peer-support group to develop the next prototype of the digital tool, ensuring that people who use services are at the centre of the development process.

We’d like to thank all of the people who were involved in testing the tool and process in practice – your hard work, commitment and openness has made the project possible.

The assets of individuals

Many times in trying to solve a problem, we start with a ‘needs assessment’. This will generally identify the problem that exists and will set about a way to finding a route for which to meet the identified needs. Using this approach means that there is a tendency to focus on the shortcomings of individuals, since it identifies the problems before the strengths.

A needs focus can sometimes make us feel overwhelmed, resigned, hopeless. Focusing on the positive – on people’s strengths can allow us to feel energised and hopeful, even.

Over the course of the project we’ve been speaking to people who have experienced mental health problems on a 1-1* basis – asking them what exisits in their lives that helps their well-being. We did this because we wanted to help them to map the assets that they had within themselves, and within their networks that might help them to keep well.

We did this using many of the same techniques described in previous posts for community asset mapping – but with a definite focus on the individual, their likes and dislikes, their friends and family and their situation overall. This links very much into the Wellness and Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) idea of creating a ‘wellness toolkit’.

I was quite weary of undertaking these exercises at first, because I was worried that people might not be able to see the positive things that they had in their life, and that going through the process might be upsetting. I was wrong.

Having conducted 10 of these discussions with a range of different people, the view is that people found it overwhelmingly positive. There was nothing new to the types of conversations that the practitioner and I were having with them, but mapping things out in a visual way that could be recorded and considered had some really encouraging effects.

Practitioners were able to tackle problems that they’d been discussing for quite some time in a new way and were able to identify factors/issues that they could work on with the individuals quite readily. Service users noted that the process was useful in really thinking about what is important and recording it so that it could be reflected upon at a later date when they were feeling less well (or indeed more well). They were also clear that the visual aspect of it was really good – to be able to literally see what they have (and how much they have) was really powerful.

Here are some examples of the maps we created (highlighting the different methods that we used):

 

Reflections

This type of planning won’t be suitable for everyone, all of the time. For the use of the tool/process to be effective, it will need to be done when the person is feeling well.
What worked best was when there was a good relationship with the practitioner and the service user – it meant that people really thought through the process, rather than coming up with superficial answers.

It also worked well when we tried out these approaches in a group – people were able to spark ideas off of one another and to think about different areas of their lives by being prompted by their peers. Some people were quite overwhelmed by the experience, though, and it is important to ensure that people are comfortable and made aware of what the activity is and how it can help them.

All thoughts welcome.

*1-1 basis isn’t strictly true, because many of the discussions we had for the project were helpfully facilitated by trained practitioners. Many thanks to the staff who helped facilitate these discussions!