An account of how I learned to be a helping professional – not an instruction manual, but a prompt for you to explore your own story .
The experience in Probation with young people and the thinking around it informed me when I moved to work in a voluntary sector organisation. Here people came for help entirely voluntarily – they would therefore only come back for a second or subsequent appointment if they felt you had something useful to offer. This underlined how easy it was in a setting where people were under compulsion to attend appointments, for importance to belong to the courts or the office (role) rather than to you as an individual worker. Staff could as a consequence behave in ways that undermined their potential value. For example, if a client re-offended, they might behave as if they no longer had importance to the offender. So they may write the client off as it were, adding to the offender’s sense of failure and worthlessness. The more effective worker would realise that what they think of the offender’s reoffending might matter to the offender – that they could still help the offender to retain some hope for positive change by showing a reaction that was individual and not just bureaucratic.
In the setting where people attended appointments voluntarily, it was therefore a bit easier to feel individually important to the client. It was of course also harder to evade a sense of responsibility when people did not attend their appointment.
Having begun to grasp that one could be important in someone else’s eyes, it was possible to start observing the different ways in which that importance was treated, and to start learning how this might shed light on the life choices the client was making.