Thursday, December 10, 2015

The Coaching Program at Sheffield Place - Two Coaches Share Their Experience and Perspectives

Hi, my name is Donna and I’ve been part of the coaching program at Sheffield Place this fall.  I have enjoyed the opportunity to meet with the women who participate in the program every Saturday morning.  Over coffee and light refreshments, we start by reviewing our topic of the week.  Some examples are time management, job hunting, managing personal finances and getting up to date on technology, such as Microsoft Word or filling out online job applications.

It has become a highlight of my week to share an hour with these women because we have so much in common.  My favorite part is when we all share our experiences.  We talk about some of the obstacles that can arise in pursuit of their goals.  If someone doesn’t have a particular skill, or know how to accomplish a goal, we break it down into the steps that it would take to gain that skill or meet that goal.  Then we follow up the next week and get their feedback on their progress. 

I really appreciate their humility and motivation.  Because I see them trusting me to give them honest and helpful feedback, it motivates me to prepare for these sessions ahead of time and be ready for questions they might have. 

The topics we cover are germaine to us all.  For instance, it has inspired me to take a closer look at how I am managing my time and money.  It is really rewarding to have the chance to talk to people who want to learn and do better, their positive attitude and excitement for their future gives me hope not just for them, but for those who will come after them.  If they can do it, so can someone else!

From Dionne - It is such an amazing opportunity to coach someone who is working toward self-sufficiency.  For eight weeks, I and a team of community volunteers, coached life skills on budgeting, managing time, job searching, parenting, promoting health, etc.   I have to admit, my job was made easy because I had women in my group who came motivated and open to learn.  We created a safe place to bond through shared experiences.  While we discussed and studied the well-prepared curriculum assembled by David Hanzlick, Sheffield’s Director of Program and Development, we also used the sessions to share real-life stories.  Our stories revealed that in many instances, we had the same dreams and fears.  During one of the discussions we confessed our biggest parenting blunders.  Although our stories provided some comic relief, it revealed a common theme that every woman in the room shared -- to do better.  We learned that doing better does not just happen however.  Doing better requires a plan, proper execution, access to the right resources, support, and--oh yeah, humor!  The women expressed that they receive these things and more at Sheffield Place.  I was proud to hear this.

While my role was to coach, I too learned new things that sensitized me and added more to my understanding of the challenges brought on by homelessness.  For example, I learned that grocery shopping can be a very daunting and anxiety-ridden task.  Not necessarily because of the lack of money but because of the lack of knowing what a well-balanced meal looks like.  I realized that not everyone had this modeled or taught to them.  I gained a truer understanding of the fear of grocery shopping by imaging the overwhelming feeling of being thrust into a large and busy grocery store and challenged to create a well-balanced meal -- without the skills to do so.  Now throw in the challenge of creating this meal for your children with limited financial means.  That discussion allowed for us to discuss shopping on the outer rows of grocery stores (not convenience stores) for fresh produce and meats.  Then we discussed processed foods, shelf-life, and convenience meals.  We wrapped up the session with quick meal tips and recipe websites. 

There were a number of moments when I saw the light turn on for these women.  They got it and put their new learned skills to action. I am happy to report that within the eight weeks, the ladies successfully landed new jobs, changed how they managed money, and adopted a new time management system.   Two of the ladies have just moved her families into their first duplex-home!  I am extremely proud of the women of Sheffield Place and I walked away from this experience with an increased commitment to help my fellow sisters in this thing called Life.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Movie (Inside Out) and Sheffield Place Families

Have you seen the recent Pixar movie- Inside Out?

We have! Over the month of July, I had the pleasure of taking 9 of our families to see this excellent new movie. Inside Out tells the story of 11 year old Riley who experiences a housing transition with her family.

While Riley experiences moving to a new house, missing a parent who is busy with new job, starting a new school, etc. the story is focused on the journey of Riley's inner emotions (joy, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust) as they struggle to cope with such change.

This was a fantastic film for our families who have experienced significant and ongoing transitions! Many of our children and mothers have made big moves with far less supportive caregivers than Riley did and were able to relate to the reactions of Riley's inner emotions. This movie helped our children to assign words and images to the very abstract concepts of emotions, loss and personality. It provided a great visual understanding for our mothers of emotion development and how parenting can help or hinder healthy emotional development.

For the mothers of Sheffield Place, this movie was empowering because it showed the positive influence their support can have on their children's adjustment during transition- the power they have to help their children even when life's circumstances are out of their control. For our children, the movie
validated and normalized the chaotic emotions they may have experienced as a part of their homelessness.

Finally, perhaps the most important lesson this movie had for our families is that all emotions have a purpose, even sadness, and that it is healthy to let our emotions do their job rather than stuff them down and try to be “happy” all time.

After going to the theater to see the movie- a first time experience for many of our kids, the families processed the movie with their family therapist over pizza and ice cream. Later in the month the families made collages of feeling faces and things that make them feel specific emotions using a book of Inside Out characters. Currently, in Project Hope, we have started using images from the movie to help kids talk about which feelings are “driving” their bodies in times of distress or if maybe their control panel is frozen (as in a scene from the movie) so that
they feel like they are not in control.  

I have to admit, there is little that makes a professional counselor happier than when mainstream media supports mental health and development with psychologically accurate information presented in style that is relevant and accessible to our clients. We have and will continue to use this movie as a tool for healing with the families of Sheffield Place. I hope you’ll see it too!

Stephanie O'Neal, LPC
Sheffield Place Children's and Family Therapist