Ways to Wellbeing Case Study #1
Our Southend BIS Community Learning Mental Health project IAG offer was carefully designed at the bid stage of the process, in order to maximise the potential for increasing the capacity for positive behaviour change in our learners. We wanted to achieve the following through the IAG, where possible.
Positive Role Modelling
Self-efficacy theoryas modelled by the psychologist Albert Bandura, has four domains, one of which is titled vicarious experience – basically if we can see that people similar to us are doing ok, we can develop a growth mindset that we too, despite our challenges, can do the same. In Southend, we therefore recruited people with lived experience of mental health, and crucially the right transferable skillset, to deliver IAG. We trained them in the project values and processes before we went to formal recruitment which meant we invested in people up front, and allowed them to step gradually into recruitment, at their own pace. The power of the process was shared with the candidate by the prospective employer, and the option of voluntary work remained as stepping stone option to employment.
Embedding social connection
There is recent evidence that shows better outcomes for people with depression if social connections are present, or boosted. We tried to embed social connection from the start, calling our IAG providers wellbeing coaches, and making sure their training included experiencing some of the courses they would be enrolling people onto. We also provided the coaches with signposting training, so that we could not only advise on our own course offer (where social connection is embedded in course design) but also encourage and support people to access other local opportunities
Using a goal-setting structure for IAG
With up to 3 hours of IAG mandated for our learners, we wanted to make use of the GROW model coaching tool, to support learners to move forward and experience success. This also gave our coaches and learners a structure for their conversations. We ran workshops on the GROW model so learners could use GROW as a tool for themselves and others in future.
This is how our IAG offer came together from the perspective of the first wellbeing coach we recruited, Nina Dodson.
Learner A* had anxiety and a lack of confidence when they came to our first 1:1 meeting during which they were frequently tearful. After reviewing the courses we had on offer they thought mindfulness would be a good choice to help Learner A notice their thought patterns and learn to relax.
Learner A was also on the waiting list for NHS therapy but felt they needed some 1:1 support as soon as possible. They decided to take up the full offer of our coaching (IAG) sessions of 3 hours. During our first appointment Learner A spoke about patterns of bullying that had reoccurred as a child and young adult. They felt that a lack of confidence meant they were unable to be assertive and they now tended to presume the worst would happen.
Using our coaching tools we looked at where they would like to be if there were no obstacles. The main goals Learner A had was to be able to manage anxiety, so that they could pass their driving test. Until now, nerves had got in the way. They also spoke of travelling, but due to bad experiences with it in the past, was fearful to try it again.
Learner A spaced four coaching conversations with me over the course of a few months, whilst they attended learning. We made links to the learning in the mindfulness course, and the idea that they could observe thoughts, rather than get caught up in them. To support the development of self-efficacy, we introduced a diary for to write down the things they had done well at the end of each day (mastery experiences domain). They also used the diary to record things they were thankful for - another evidence-based strategy used in positive psychology.
Through the on-course mindfulness learning, we worked on shifting the inner dialogue to a more kind and positive one. Learner A began to learn that other people’s opinions were not ‘truth’. The mindfulness course was also teaching Learner A how to observe thoughts and feelings, and that they could choose to step away from these and just be in the moment if anxiety became overwhelming.
On our third session Learner A spoke with great pride and a bit of surprise that during a confrontation involving a friend and someone else they were able to calm the situation and defend the friend. This step made Learner A realise that maybe they could do that for themselves too.
In our final session Learner A walked in all smiles, told me they had put mascara on today as they knew they wouldn’t cry like they had in our previous meetings. The driving test was booked. Learner A was feeling confident, and they had been firm but fair with a boss that had been messing them around. Lastly the big two month trip overseas was finalised.
For Learner A the combination of learning and IAG supported them to become more confident and take charge of life. Being able to talk to someone who understands anxiety, having the space to work through issues, stepping out of the comfort zone and into a learning environment in a supported manner saw Learner A’s anxiety levels decrease and wellbeing rise considerably.
A few months after completing their learning and IAG, Learner A sent me an email.
"Just a quick note to say that I'm back from my big USA and Canada trip and I'm sooo glad I did it! I had an amazing time and enjoyed every place I visited :) and I passed my driving test!! Thank you for your encouragement.
I've also applied for a full time job from May to August and I have an interview next week!"
Self-Efficacy: The Exercise of Control , A. Bandura (1997)