In June 2020, the Victorian Government (Department of Health, through Consumer Affairs Victoria) funded the project ‘Financial Counselling COVID-19 Response Mental Health Initiative’. The funded activities include provision of additional training to financial counsellors to enable them to deal with the anticipated increase in complexity and high stress among their clients. FCVic has used this opportunity to make progress on established areas of need within the sector and two topics have been developed.
The first, Connect with CARE – dealing with suicide intervention and prevention, has been delivered by Neami National from February to June 2021, with a further session scheduled for 15th and 16th November 2021.
The second, Complex Caseloads – working productively with clients experiencing challenging emotions and behaviours, has been delivered by Our Curious Minds during the month of August. This in-depth workshop focused on building relevant knowledge and context regarding why some people present with dysregulated emotions and challenging behaviours that often prevent or obstruct their important financial counselling needs.
We asked two participants from the first session, Kim Hubber and Michele Padbury to provide their reflections.
Kim Hubber – Team Lead and Financial Counselling Practice Lead, Integrated Service Team, EACH
As an experienced FC, I found this CPD really well delivered. Brett is an engaging presenter – well informed, articulate and he peppered his content with lots of practical, relatable examples. This CPD enhanced my understanding as to why some clients appear to self-sabotage, have difficulty engaging and/or exhibit behaviours that seem to obstruct the financial counselling process, and to better understand my role in the process. “When we have context, it tempers our reaction. Without context, we can be judgmental and rush to solutions”.
This CPD reminds us about the importance of applying a trauma lens, investing in clear boundaries, adopting a time limited professional relationship and the value of really listening, hearing and understanding the person we are working with. Take the time to pause, focus less on what we are going to do, rather, what are we going to notice, and be aware of the inherent tension between our time, role, and finding solutions (and the constraints within which we work – e.g. funding models). This training prompts us to be mindful of our own agenda and values which can overtake good process, especially when faced with risk, and to focus on process not outcomes. There are timely reminders regarding transference and counter transference – recognizing what may be happening for us, and the importance of self-care – supervision for reflection, creating healthy boundaries, and modelling of behaviour – saying “no” with empathy.
Brett reminds us to be a “Naive enquirer” – being open to what we don’t know and the value this can add, and of “empathetic attunement” – being tuned in to where the client is at right now. As financial counsellors we can be pragmatic, it must be with empathy. Engaging in mutual respect, remaining calm, being authentic, acknowledging points of difference.
I would highly recommend this training for both experienced financial counsellors, and those newer to the sector.
Michele Padbury – Financial Counsellor, Community Health and Wellbeing, Mansfield Shire Council
Financial Counsellors inhabit a busy world. There are increasing caseloads, current cases, new clients to see, professional supervision to be had, training and professional development sessions on the go. There are agency demands, budgets to manage, reports to write, networks to attend. So often the opportunity to do a two-day training session on complex caseloads seems too difficult to squeeze in, but the recent FCVic training was so valuable.
The presenter Brett Bridges was very engaging, and ensured the sessions were interactive. The content was oh so pertinent to financial counselling. It provided an opportunity to reflect on my own behaviours and counselling style.
I took away so many easy prompts to incorporate into my work. Here’s some that really resonated with me:
- Use a trauma lens.
- Be present, go in with an empty head. We set the structure, the client sets the discourse.
- Hold your boundaries but empathise. Empathise, empower, enable.
- Manipulation – it is not the goal but a survival technique
- Values that promote engagement: safety; predictability; authenticity; naïve enquirer; curious listener; boundaried relationship; coherent experience; empathetic attunement; empowerment.
A complementary session ‘Complex Caseloads: Supporting staff and managing risks’ was delivered by Our Curious Minds to Agency Managers on 26th August. Further sessions of Complex Caseloads for financial counsellors are planned for February/March 2022. Please register your interest by emailing [email protected].