The Facilitating Environment

I approach change as a psychological not political process therefore. There were a number of steps towards the ideas about change that inform my work as my career draws to a close. I started in a context where, certainly in the case of juvenile crime, the prevailing view was that most young people would grow out of crime, and efforts should be focussed on supporting and not creating barriers to the motivational process. In the work of the probation service, this involved taking a benevolent view of the offender and seeking tolerance from those around him or her.

A key influence in thinking about this notion of change as maturation was the idea of the ‘facilitating environment’. This harmonised with the recognition I discussed earlier that in working with people in difficulty, we are dealing with the clients’ active agendas. In this formulation, that agenda is in part the process of maturation, to which there are strong internal drivers. The worker’s task was to respect that healthy human process and concentrate on providing the kind of environment that would aide that development. This meant that many of the issues discussed in the previous section provided the essential basis for effective work, without having to look further. That is:

  • An awareness of the ‘map’ of maturation, evident in taking personal histories
  • Providing a confident and clear authority with consistent boundaries
  • Working constructively with the necessary tensions that come with maturation
  • Active listening that assures the client that they are the central focus for attention
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