These three foundations stones of my understanding of how to work with people in distress and trouble were therefore:
- We are all growing and developing individuals, not passive recipients of service
- The function of helping work was to provide a facilitative environment which would enable that natural growth and development to proceed
- Loss is at the heart of all substantive human change and development, and this loss includes moments of raw despair which can in themselves be generators of change
So far, so neat. This account of change does not fully account for the helper’s experience in working towards a positive outcome. Although we may talk as if the change process can be calmly observed and facilitated by a concentration on some straightforward skills of listening and responsiveness, in fact my experience of change was usually uncomfortable and muddling. What I have discussed earlier regarding the emotional transactions between helped and helper is especially important. On the whole, I have found that if I want to make a difference in someone’s life, I have to get ‘in a mess’ with them.