Pratima has been a valuable member of the Evolve team for the past six months, working as a Psychological Wellbeing Therapist within our Health & Wellbeing Team. She collaborates closely with our Economic, Social Prescribing (ESP) coordinator to offer emotional and mental health support to customers who are actively seeking employment and educational opportunities. Pratima shared her insights into her role and how the ESP approach can effectively benefit our customers.
Q: Can you explain your role of psychological wellbeing therapist at Evolve? And especially in the context of ESP (Economic, Social Prescribing)?
A: Unlike many other organisations that focus on finding training and job opportunities, what sets ESP apart is its comprehensive approach. The emphasis on both health and wellbeing, in addition to job support, is what makes ESP unique. It’s about not only securing employment but also helping individuals maintain and succeed in their roles.
The goal is not just to get a job, but to ensure that customers are successful in their work endeavours. It’s about preventing them from falling into a pattern of self-doubt and feeling like failures, which can be triggered by their traumatic past experiences. This approach aims to break those patterns and empower customers to recognise that it’s not them but external factors that may be influencing their experiences. It’s about helping them build confidence and believing in their ability to succeed.
ESP, in simple terms, is the intersection of work and learning with health and wellbeing. One part of the team assists customers in finding employment and training opportunities, while the other part supports them in not only securing these opportunities but also succeeding and thriving in them. This holistic approach recognises that one without the other is not enough. We aim to break the cycle of unemployment and help our customers reintegrate into the workforce.
Q: How do you work with customers who are on the ESP programme?
A: In one-on-one sessions, we explore the barriers that prevent them from taking steps toward finding employment. Often, these barriers are rooted in intergenerational trauma patterns. For example, why do they struggle with motivation, even when they genuinely want to apply for jobs? They may continually procrastinate, and it’s essential to uncover the underlying, unexplored, unconscious cycles and patterns that contribute to this behaviour.
We work with them to understand that these challenges aren’t limited to their job search but may affect other areas of their life as well. By delving into the origins of these patterns and considering what was happening when they first emerged, they gain a better understanding of themselves and feel more empowered to address these issues.
Q: Do you have any techniques that you use?
A: Every person has a unique story and there is a different way of working with them. For some customers, talking comes naturally, and they find it easy to open up about their fears and concerns. However, not everyone is comfortable with this approach, especially those dealing with social anxiety.
We then delve into what causes their fears and anxieties. These underlying issues can be deeply rooted and challenging to identify. We explore them by using imagery or asking about bodily sensations. Sometimes, it’s easier for them to express their feelings through images or physical sensations, especially when words fail to capture their experiences.
My approach varies from one customer to another, depending on what works best for them. However, it’s not always easy. There are cases where language barriers exist, making communication difficult. Each session may not be perfect, but I focus on building a therapeutic relationship and providing a space where they feel understood and listened to. This acknowledgment and active listening often make a significant difference.
If someone doesn’t want to engage in verbal communication or has had negative experiences with it, I use alternative approaches. One of these approaches is guiding them to connect with their bodily sensations. I ask them to locate and describe what they are feeling physically when they are overwhelmed, frustrated, or unable to express themselves verbally. This helps them become more aware of their physical sensations and how emotions manifest in their bodies.
Additionally, I emphasise the importance of deep breathing and grounding exercises. Deep breathing can be a powerful tool for grounding and calming when language or words become barriers.
Q: What are the key challenges you face in your role?
A: One significant challenge we face is customer engagement. It’s essential to recognise that customer engagement can take various forms. In my traditional way of thinking, I used to associate it primarily with attendance. However, I’ve come to learn that engagement can manifest differently. For instance, in an art group session, there were two customers who didn’t participate in any of the art activities, but the mere fact that they chose to be present was a form of engagement. Similarly, some customers may prefer to sit in silence or only engage for a short time during a phone session, but their choice to participate to any extent is still valuable.
Another significant challenge is maintaining my own motivation while ensuring that customers remain motivated, especially when working with individuals struggling with addiction. It can be disheartening to witness relapses, but the challenge lies in staying motivated and helping customers see their progress, even if it’s not linear.
Q: How do you collaborate with other professionals, to ensure a holistic approach to addressing customers’ well-being?
A: As part of the ESP team, we’ve organised workshops like CV writing, where employers spoke to our customers. In those sessions, I provided guidance on managing interview anxiety. I’ve also coordinated sessions by Streetwise Opera. They specialise in working with individuals who have experienced homelessness, offering free sessions on street theatre at Southbank. The goal of these taster sessions is to encourage our customers to join their programmes. The sessions are beneficial not only for trauma release but also for building confidence and life skills that may be valuable for artistic pursuits, job interviews and other areas.
Additionally, I’m in conversation with a group which offers trauma-releasing exercises. I’m hoping to arrange a demonstration for our staff to introduce these exercises, which we can then integrate into our work with customers. These collaborations aim to provide our customers with diverse opportunities and support.
Q: Can you share any success stories or positive outcomes related to your work?
A: I had a customer I started working with during my first week at Evolve. This customer was not satisfied with our services and life in general, and also struggled with anger, which was a personal challenge for me. In our sessions, we focused on breath work, calming exercises, stretching, and relaxation techniques. These exercises were crucial because they helped calm the nervous system when the customer felt agitated, bringing it back to a restful state. Alongside the physical exercises, we incorporated mindfulness to pinpoint where tension and anger resided in the body.
We explored the customer’s traumatic childhood experiences, helping them differentiate between past and present situations. Identifying these elements enabled them to understand and manage their reactions better. Our work extended beyond individual and group sessions, as the customer reconnected with their family, bringing a vital connection back into their life. This person eventually moved to detox, and during our last session, they expressed seeing a light at the end of the tunnel.
Not every story has such a positive outcome as this. Some customers may return to previous patterns in response to unexpected incidents, which can be disheartening. However, it’s inspiring to witness them gather themselves, return to sessions, and maintain their journey toward recovery. We engage with them by discussing what helps them pick themselves up, whether it’s remembering the negative aspects of their past or the positive changes they’ve experienced when they’ve stayed away from their addictions. Each person’s motivation to recover is unique and varies from one individual to another.
Find out more about the Health and Wellbeing team.