Tag Archives: Training

Counselling across Communication Barriers (Part 1)

Action Group Stock Photo

Many thanks to Edith Barrowcliffe from The Action Group for sharing her experiences of using Talking Mats to support counselling with adults who have cognitive or communication difficulties. Watch this space for Edith’s follow-up blog next week which will describe how she has continued to use Talking Mats during lockdown.  Please note that the image used in this blog is from a mock session and has been taken for publicity purposes only.

Eleven years ago, I began working at The Action Group with adults who have additional support needs and was struck by how many had mental health difficulties that they were getting little help with. Sadly, with services scarce enough for the “mainstream” population, I could see why.

The issue resurfaced for me in 2016 when I began training as a counsellor. I kept returning to whether talking therapy was possible with those who had difficulty communicating – or even thinking about – their feelings.

Then in 2019, I attended Talking Mats training. Immediately excited by the potential for emotional connection, I signed up for the advanced “Keeping Safe” training and approached The Action Group’s CEO with the beginnings of a plan.

I’m fortunate in working for an organisation willing to take new ideas and run with them. Within six months I was embarking on a pilot project, called HearMe, offering counselling to adults with cognitive or communication difficulties, with Talking Mats as a key method to help overcome those barriers. Within a fortnight of opening the service was full to its limited capacity and had a waiting list!

thinking_topic

The work has been experimental, learning as I go and adapting to the particular needs of each client. To conduct initial assessments, I’ve assembled symbols based on “Thoughts and Feelings” from the “Keeping Safe” pack. We return to this to review progress. Most clients have used a top scale of “True”/ ”Not True” with statements “about me” for the assessment. We always begin with a practice mat based on more neutral material, allowing the client (Thinker) to learn what’s involved and me to gauge whether the mat is right for them. This is crucial – one client found a way to frame everything we placed on the mat positively even when they’d been able to tell me the opposite was true a moment before! In this case we simply used each symbol as a focus for exploration.

We’ve kept the number of questions relatively small, but the assessment can take two or three sessions to complete as clients often respond quite deeply to the symbols.

Some more verbally able clients move on to a more “freeform” style of counselling as we progress, relying less on the mat to open up. But even in these cases having symbols on hand can be helpful. One client brought up the topic of sex – then apologised and asked if it was OK to talk about it.

“It’s fine,” I was able to reassure her, producing the relevant symbol. “Look, we even have a picture for it”. She laughed and visibly relaxed, the card giving her tangible evidence that the topic was allowed.

It’s still early days, but from the feedback we’ve received so far, the project really seems to be helping people to open up, express feelings they’ve never given space to before, and explore ways they want to change their lives.  The power of simply being heard.

Edith Barrowcliffe, Hear Me, The Action Group

 With thanks to our funders and partners for making this work possible – Hospital Saturday Fund, The Action Group Board, Leith Benevolent Society, Port o’Leith Housing Association, and The Scottish Government.  And to the team at Talking Mats for their support and help!

Follow the link below to find out more about our Keeping Safe training (now available online) and resource: 

https://www.talkingmats.com/keeping-safe-a-new-talking-mats-resource-available-to-purchase/

 

 

Covid 19 Experiences – Using Talking Mats in a Secure Hospital Setting

thoughts_and_feelings

As a group of Allied Health Professionals (AHPs) working in a secure hospital we recently embarked on a mini project using Talking Mats to check in with our service users with learning disabilities during Covid-19. We collated the evidence from our respective professional bodies (Royal College of Occupational Therapy, Royal College of Speech and Language Therapy, Chartered Society of Physiotherapists and British Dietetic Association) in terms of changes that people might experience if they’d had Covid-19 and produced a talking mat around these.  

It quickly dawned on us that we might be on to something here, and that creating an opportunity to ‘check in’ more broadly with our service users would serve a useful purpose, so we added some additional categories around changes to routine, psychological wellbeing and feeling safe.  

This was my colleagues’ first experience of using talking mats, and their faces when I turned up clutching my 99p actual doormat were a picture! I introduced them to the theory behind the mat and its presentation and harped on about the benefits in terms of attention, comprehension, non-threatening interaction, initiation and structuring narrative; they nodded supportively.  

We set off across our learning disability wards in multi-disciplinary pairs and all but a few of the service users agreed to have a chat with us. My colleagues commented that they were pleasantly surprised by the engagement and the amount and novelty of the information gained; we  identified things that the service users hadn’t told anyone because they hadn’t been asked that question!  

JB Blog Photo

In talking to others we were asked why weren’t rolling this out in a partner secure hospital for people with mental health conditions? ‘no reason really, we just haven’t got there yet’ we answered. Then came the…. but we can just do it like a questionnaire with them. This question wasn’t, and in my experience isn’t ever ill meant. It comes from a place of naivety in relation to the presence of communication difficulties in people with mental health conditions and because of that, lack of exposure to different professional groups such as Speech and Language Therapy and the skills and approaches we have to offer. Skills in gaining and holding someone’s attention. Skills in decreasing pressure in communication situations. Skills in enabling time, space and ways in which people can initiate their thoughts.  

The Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) working around the project has enabled me to show others how talking mats can support their practice. It has enabled them to see how a very simple and non-threatening visual tool can open up conversations and lead to information that the service users hadn’t shared before, in a way that a face to face conversation doesn’t.  

Thanks to Jo Brackley, Clinical Lead, Speech and Language Therapy Secure Services at Cumbria, Northumberland Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust for this inspiring blog – which demonstrates when we shift the way we listen and gather information from patients we get a different result and improve the quality of information and communication . If you or your team want to consider Talking Mats training then we can provide this for organisations . At the moment we can take a cohort through our online course together and then arrange a zoom call to discuss application to your work setting  – email info@talkingmats.com for more information.

 

Online Training offer

talking mats online course offer

The current situation is strange for everyone so please read about our online training offer*.  Whilst normal work practices are put on hold, the need and desire to keep our minds challenged in order to provide the best care possible for our clients and families is still there – perhaps more so!  Our online learning course provides a stay at home option that will:

  • Allow you to understand the Talking Mats evidence-based approach to communication and thinking;
  • Help you apply a creative approach to conversations and interviews within your setting. This could be for goal setting, staff appraisals, service evaluation;
  • Help you gain confidence in using a tool that embodies a person-centred approach to communication and increases awareness of your own communication style;
  • Let you study in your pyjamas with the cat on your lap.

*Please note this offer has now finished but you can still book a place on one of our online courses.

The course runs for 6 weeks with 4 modules to complete that are fully supported by a Talking Mats Associate who provides individual feedback.

Here is what previous students had to say about their online learning experience:

“I found it helpful to be able to go through the training at my own pace and spread it out across 5 weeks. This gave me time to reflect on what I had learnt and consolidate my learning.”

“I liked that I could access the training at any time and was able to review bits that I was unsure of – overall a positive experience. Thank you.”

“I liked that the online course could be taken at my own pace as having four children and found I had frequent interruptions. The layout was easy to navigate and I found the forum section a helpful read.”

And the impact it has had on them personally:

“From this training, I learned to adjust my communication styles to support my communication partner’s engagement in a conversation.”

“This training has improved my confidence and skills when supporting clients to think and express their opinions and has improved my knowledge about the different benefits of Talking Mats that I had not previously considered, e.g. as a thinking tool.”

Upcoming start dates: 22nd September, 6th October and 3rd November.

To register interest, please complete the registration form and email it to info@talkingmats.com

Remember you can use Talking Mats remotely and there is a Digital Talking Mats Covid19 offer.

 

 

When is a Talking Mat not a Talking Mat?

DTM with arrow where you live

It’s always great to see pictures of Talking Mats on social media.  The stories behind them, and the positive changes that can result for people keeps us motivated to share this powerful tool.

It is apparent however that not all pictures that are called Talking Mats are actually Talking Mats!  For example,

TOP SCALES   If the  top scale is Yes / No Or  a tick /cross

image 1

It is apparent from these mats that the questions are likely to be closed, and don’t provide a scale for reflection.  Closed questions can be leading and suggestive of a set answer the listener is seeking. e.g  ‘Did you enjoy your lunch?’  v. ‘How was your lunch?’

A yes/no, or a tick and cross at the top  are occasionally used with topics which appear to test understanding of rules, e.g acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in a classroom.   In that instance the listener facilitating the mat keeps the control and the power imbalance that exists in conversations for people with communication difficulties isn’t reduced.

The top scale used with each  topic is key to the mat working.  A Talking Mat could find out what the person thinks about the rules, and which ones they feel are good -not good or help -not help.   Our Foundation training includes how to match the top scale to the conversation. https://www.talkingmats.com/training/

TEACHING TALKING MATS   Some people with communication difficulties need to learn how to do Talking Mats.  Learning how to express a view can take time and has to be taught.  We  see pictures of what appear to be Teaching Mats. For example, starting with closed questions might be necessary to introduce the idea of preferences.

It is important that these Teaching Mats are not used as a true representation of a person’s view but seen as a step towards this skill- It can take time but great learning takes place along the way.

We have guidelines for teaching steps for people with autism on our website-

https://www.talkingmats.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/2018-Talking-Mats-and-ASD-guidelines.pdf

Supporting people to share what they think, and giving them the control to say when they are not happy with an aspect of their life, is within their legal rights.

‘To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity’     Nelson Mandela

Having Better Conversations – Using Talking Mats Resources (Part 2)

Talking Mats

In the second of two blogs, we talk about how using Talking Mats Resources can help people have better conversations.   

Our first Resources blog (https://www.talkingmats.com/resources-with-training/) focused on the resource bundles which are available to purchase with our Foundation Training course.  This second blog focuses on the resources which are available to people who have completed our Foundation Training course. 

Remember that most of our resources are available in both low-tech, and digital, formats.   

Post-Training 

Once you have accessed one of our Foundation Training courses, you can purchase our resources at a reduced rate: 

1.    You can buy these in established sets using our post training order form, for example you may choose to buy a social care set, the secondary Children and Young people resource, or one of our Advanced sets (see 3. below). These sets all have 3 topics of conversation in them.

2.     New for 2020! – you can now buy individual topics of conversation from our ‘pick and mix’ selection, which includes topics  from our Health and Well-being Resource (also available as a bundle purchase with our Foundation Training course), as well as our Conversation Sets: 

conversation sets

 3. Our advanced sets, for example Keeping Safe and Thinking Ahead, are only available for those who have completed foundation training:

  • Keeping Safe: Give people time to reflect on their lives and raise concerns using this resource. This can help you to explore sensitive issues in a non-threatening way by creating a listening space, simplifying abstract ideas, supporting thoughts while encouraging expression and decision making.

keeping_in_touch

  • Thinking Ahead: Support people to express their views and help them plan for end of life using this resource. It will also be helpful for many other people to consider future options in their lives.

We are also planning to add a how was school today?‘ topic to our ‘pick and mix’ selection soon – so watch this space!

nursery        school

To find out how our resources could help you in your professional area of work/setting, check out these links here:  https://www.talkingmats.com/where-you-work/

For more information about these resources please contact the office on 01786 479511 or email info@talkingmats.com