In our programmes at Academy of Experience, we often work with/meet participants whose lives are rarely, if ever, supported by mental health or even just simple supportive conversations: young people from Roma backgrounds, growing up in extreme poverty, children in foster care or young people serving time in prison and about to be released (in most cases secretly fearing it). In their case, it is particularly important to make the most of even one conversation or meeting, because there may not be a next. It is important to us that our participants, whatever their life situation, can draw strength from the experience they get from Academy of Experience programmes. One possible means of doing this is the mental health supportive conversation named after C. R. Rogers.
The purpose of a supportive conversation is to provide non-directive help to restore the mental balance of someone who is otherwise mentally healthy, but who is currently experiencing some kind of blockage, difficulty or crisis. It is based on a person-centred approach, one of the basic principles of which is the trust that the helper conveys to the client: that is, the facilitator builds on the pretense that the client is in possession of the resources that can be mobilised to identify the causes of his/her stagnation, see the way forward and start to find his/her own solution. The triad of Rogers’ approach is authenticity, empathy and unconditional acceptance, which together become something more, give more than they would separately. He also considered this valid in areas outside of therapeutic work: in leadership, in child-rearing, in school, in educational situations, in fact wherever we deal with people. As Rogers puts it: “When I am empathically sensitive enough to understand the client’s feelings, when I can accept the client as a full individual, the client starts moving in a positive, constructive direction towards self-realization: towards growth, maturity, socialization.” (Rogers C R, 2015, p.56)
It is very important that during the supportive conversation the facilitator does not use his/her added mental health knowledge to give advice to the person asking for help, but to help the person to find his/her own solutions, to accompany and support him/her on this way by listening, understanding attention, non-directive questions and active presence.
In addition to discovering and reaffirming their existing skills and abilities, coaching helps the client (coachee) to become more aware of his/her own functioning, to find the next step in case of a problem, to find his/her own solutions.
The most frequently used coaching approach on Academy of Experience programmes is Solution Focused/Brief coaching, in which the clients’ attention is oriented towards the present and future progress instead of past stumbling blocks, towards hopes instead of threats, towards visible signs of advancements instead of difficulties. We look for the observable moments of the desired future – increasing and expanding the client’s possibilities for action.
Compared to the non-directive supportive conversation, the difference is that its topic is more targeted, it focuses more on the future or on more concrete goals formulated by the client, on the articulation, visioning, and circumspection of the goals, thus its questions are more directive. The Rogersian person-centered approach permeates both, taking it as its starting point. Our experience has shown that, depending on the topic, it is advisable to use the tool that best fits the client’s case, mental state and goals.
ROGERS C R (2008) Találkozások – A személyközpontú csoport Budapest: Edge 2000 Kft.
ROGERS C R (2015) Valakivé válni – A személyiség születése, Budapest: Edge 2000 Kft.
BERG I K (2015). Konzultáció sokproblémás családokkal; Budapest: Animula Kiadó
DE SHAZER S (1988) Clues:Investing Solution in Brief Therapy New York: Norton
MOON HAESUN (2022) Coaching A to Z: The Extraordinary Use of Ordinary Words: Page Two
SZABÓ P – MEIER D – HANKOVSZKY K (2014) Rövid és tartós coaching. Megoldásközpontú beszélgetések. Budapest, SolutionSurfers