Having a women’s space is liberating
JUNE 25, 2017
Cristina, student social worker
From a really young age I have been told I am caring and I always tried to solve things. People would come to me with their problems and you realise as you get older, you get wiser, you realise there’s a role for you in this. I did lots of volunteering at drug and alcohol and rehabilitation services and things like that, and I thought, I can see myself doing this as a job.
In my day-to-day it is all about supporting people in one way or another. I can’t live in a world and not contribute it. I am able to help people and make their life better. If I see a person one day and I have an assessment with them, I want to make that assessment or that meeting the best it can be for them.
I run a women’s group. I basically saw a gap in the service. The existing groups were made up mostly of men, there were not a lot of women. A lot of women were not comfortable disclosing. Sometimes when men are in the group it is a bit awkward and you aren’t going to talk about your time of the month, how that affects your mood and things like that. Having a women’s space to do that is really nice and quite liberating.
It’s all about building up self-confidence, building up their self-esteem, and just having a space for them to talk about whatever they want to talk about. One week we have a journal session and we talk about your day, week and month; that was really good. We have also had cake baking, a nail bar, I am hoping to have Pilates and recently we had Agenda come in and talk about the Women in Mind campaign and women’s empowerment. The women that have come have really enjoyed it. When you feel good it helps you and I am all for that.
One of the challenges I have is that sometimes the group can be quite unpredictable. You book out a time, you put something on for them and they don’t come or they don’t engage. It teaches you to be persistent and patient with them – they have things going on in their life. You just need to deal with it and encourage them – and they are still speaking with you which is progression in itself.
Speaking to clients, you hear a lot of stuff, and it’s about being resilient. I am a Christian, so I deal with it that way, and by mindfulness which helps me to not take it home with me, and also by doing a lot of debriefing with my team. I have dealt with thousands of clients and it can get the better of you. As a practitioner you need to look after yourself while you’re looking after the clients.
In terms of my career, my background is mental health but I want to keep growing. I want to work in policy, doing a bit of commissioning in the longer-term. I have done a lot of front-line work, and will be doing more, but I would like to do a bit more commissioning and make more of a change in that way.
For me what I do is about knowing I have contributed to somebody’s day. Male or female – as long as I have helped them and they have progressed in one way or another, it is a bonus.
Cristina was on placement from her degree at Royal Holloway, University of London, at St Mungo’s Recovery Hub in South London.