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Supporting people to express themselves

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Social Work
Wordcount: 1829 words Published: 10th Apr 2017

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Discuss why it is important to support people to have a voice and express their views with confidence. How could care workers facilitate this?

This essay shows why it is important to support people to have a voice and express their views with confidence. In this assignment I will use the case of Suzanne, a social worker who supports Jordan, aged 10 who lives in a foster care home (K101 DVD, The Open University, 2010), to talk about his past and to help Jordan to develop a sense of who he is, his identity and how this can help in developing his feelings of confidence and security. I will also use the cases of Mick and Owen (K101 DVD, The Open University, 2010), who were infected with HIV and will expand my answer with an overview of group support. I will also explain how care workers can facilitate this and the importance of care workers to do this.

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By expressing our views we are exposing ourselves to others. Our views are a mirror of our knowledge, feelings, thoughts, past or present experiences and everything else from what we are made deep inside, exposing our identity, revealing our individuality. McAdams et al states that “We are all storytellers, and we are the stories we tell” (cited by Bornat and Northedge, 2010, p.32). It is also very important that we do voice our views with confidence, some can do this independently, but some others need help.

Children, who grow up in the families they are born into, usually have opportunities to find out about their parents and members of their wider family, the places in which they have lived and the reasons for any changes they have experienced. However, children who experience separation from their birth families often face obstacles when it comes to finding out about their birth families and early background. There may be gaps and painful areas in accounts of their identity, and they may have to work out ways of dealing with difficult memories and emotions (Bornat and Northedge, 2010, p.19).

The case of Jordan is an example of a child who is not living with his birth parents and needs help to recover his past. Suzanne is using the “life story work” to facilitate this. Life story work is a method of working with people who for some reason are vulnerable, or who may be going through difficult or challenging life transitions (Bornat and Northedge, 2010, p.19). Life story work gives children a structured and understandable way of talking about themselves (Ryan and Walker, 2010, p.34). With her work, Suzanne is helping Jordan, to know better and talk about his past, with factual information from his files, family and carers, correcting wrong perceptions such as why he was moved from his first foster placement and the negative impression about his birth father.

Reminiscing about the past is important even from early childhood. Mothers and primary carers deliberately set out to share memories and experiences, thereby helping children to build their own sense of who they are. By the time young people reach adolescence they begin to take control of the stories they tell about themselves. As they emerge from family life and make the first moves towards independent adulthood, they assemble a relatively coherent life story, made up of episodes selected for their significance in helping to define their identity (Bornat and Northedge, 2010, p.32).

Suzanne also fully involved Jordan to build his life story book, using pictures, drawings and colours and effectively giving Jordan a voice and a way to express his views. Suzanne’s work is helping Jordan to establish his past, to get to know himself better, and to shape his identity with pride, confidence and security, forming an important foundation that Jordan will take into his future.

Some of our experiences might have an adverse impact on our lives that affects our own identity. Some of us might find difficulty to discuss openly their identity, and need external help to build enough confidence to do so. This was similar to the cases of Mick and Owen who are haemophiliacs, and became HIV positive after receiving infected blood transfusions. Mick and Owen, who were interview by Sian Edwards, a specialised nurse, both narrate how their lives were conditioned by the stigma that their illness carried, mainly because of poor public awareness of their condition. Both Mick and Owen found it easier to hide this part of their identity and reveal it only to a restricted circle of people. Mick and Owen both explain how they were denied opportunities to speak out about their condition as Owen says “Because no-one really wanted to understand about my condition”. Sian Edwards work with Mick and Owen was not only important because it gave Mick and Owen a voice to express their views on their condition, and an opportunity to discuss their true identity, but also because their experience is very useful to educate us. Greenhalgh and Hurwitz suggest that hearing how patients telling the story of their condition can provide ‘meaning, context and perspective for the patient’s predicament … a possibility of developing an understanding that cannot be arrived at by any other means’ (cited by Bornat and Northedge, 2010, p.37). Mick and Owen had to fight with poor awareness and false perceptions that conditioned most of their lives. The more the public is aware about illnesses and their weight on people who suffer from such illnesses, the more patients finds it easier to open up, and discuss their views with more confidence without fear of being misjudged. The DVD activity itself started with a brief overview of Haemophilia and HIV, which improved my understanding of Mick and Owen’s condition, and the way I followed their case with empathy afterwards.

Is not easy for care workers to support people to have a voice and express their views with confidence. In some cases even care workers need assistance from external sources too. A successful method is to involve a number of people who share similar experiences to discuss their feelings together in a group sessions. Professor Doel maintains that “In one-to-one work, the focus is almost entirely on what is wrong. In groups, members are often seen in a new light, with people’s strengths likely to emerge” (cited by Bornat and Barnes, 2010, p.64).

People who have experienced traumatic and difficult events may find it difficult to talk about their experience. Care workers have to be very careful as people, who have experienced traumatic events in their lives, remembering the past may be very difficult and painful, and may evoke emotions that are difficult to deal with. A research by two psychologists found that ex-servicemen gained a great deal from membership of veteran associations which provided practical support as well as a safe context in which to remember dead comrades and talk about their own experiences with others who had had similar experiences (Hunt and Robbins, cited by Bornat and Northedge, 2010, p.44 – 45).

Despite the problems that people with difficult memories face, opportunities to talk and to share feelings can be helpful. Talking in groups can help people to regain trust and feelings of shared understanding. Difficult memories become a part of identity. What seems to be important for people with disturbing memories is to be listened to and for their stories and accounts to be recognised and accepted by others (Bornat and Northedge, 2010, p.47).

In conclusion, in having voice and expressing our views with confidence, our identity plays the most important part. So far I always taken for granted that everyone had their own identity, but today I learnt that some people may be insecure of their identity because they were never told who they are, others may hide their identity as they fear of being wrongly labelled and a traumatic experience can threaten or undermine people’s ability to sustain or communicate their identity. People who have poor sense of identity may feel, unsecure or uncomfortable among others and may isolate themselves in deep silence. It’s important to people to seek support, as help is available. As I pointed out above, different strategies were used by different professionals to assist people to have a voice and express their views with confidence, from individualised care to group support.

Finally I believe that many of us experience episodes when our voice isn’t heard or we couldn’t express our views with confidence. We all feel the frustration and the weakness that this inability brings with, like when we pass through a moment of uncertainty, and we would appreciate even if one good listener helps in.

(Word Count 1,412)


Bornat, J. and Northedge, A. (2010) ‘Unit 5: Identities and lives’, K101 ‘Block 2: Working with life experience’, Milton Keynes, The Open University

Bornat, J. and Barnes, F. (2010) ‘Unit 6: Group lives’, K101 ‘Block 2: Working with life experience’, Milton Keynes, The Open University

Ryan, T. and Walker, R. (2010) ‘6: Why do life story work?’, K101 Resources, Milton Keynes, The Open University

McAdams, D.P., Josselson, R. and Lieblich, A. (2006) ‘Introduction’ in McAdams,

D.P.,Josselson, R.and Lieblich, A. (eds) Identity and Story: Creating Self in Narrative,

Washington, DC, American Psychological Association, p. 3.

Greenhalgh, T. and Hurwitz, B. (1999) ‘Why study narrative?’, British Medical Journal, 318, p. 48–50.

Doel,M.(2006) ‘All in the same boat’, Community Care,20–26 July, p. 34–5.

Hunt, N. and Robbins, I. (2001) ‘World War II veterans, social support and veterans’ associations’, Aging and Mental Health, vol.5, no. 2, p. 175–82.

TMA 03 – Part B

Care Skills: Barriers to Communication – Based on Andrew & Rodger’s case.


Andrew opts to communicate a private message to Rodger in a public place, where other people could overhear the discussion in full. This has bar Andrew from delivering sensitive information with a more sympathetic approach.

Disability and impairment

Roger is hard of hearing; he also seems to not recall his memories well.


Rodger indicates that he is an uneasy position and far from comfortable to have this conversation with Andrew. Rodger expresses these feelings by withdrawing and rejecting Andrew’s attempts to talk.

(Word Count 86)

TMA 03 – Part C

Self-Reflective Notes

Even in this occasion, I struggled to compile the essay using material from block 2, and keeping relevant to the question asked. The main difficulty was to adapt material that covered identity, past experiences, etc. and use it to answer a question about supporting people to have a voice and express their views with confidence. Found it a bit tricky.

(Word Count 60)

Page 1


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