Ag Eisteacht’s CEO and co-founder Dr Maeve Hurley, launched the evidence informed and already accredited, relationally based training programme ABLE, to a full-house at the beautifully refurbished Nano Nagle Place on Friday last. In attendance were Cork’s Deputy Lord Mayor- Cllr. John Buttimer, invited keynote speaker Susanna Abse, Dr Sinead Hanafin of Research Matters, along with frontline workers, practitioners and volunteers from a wide variety of front-line services from health and social care, homeless services, education, probation and family support services.
Following a very fine buffet breakfast, the event got underway with welcomes and introductions by host Maeve Hurley. Thereafter the Deputy Lord Mayor, Cllr. John Buttimer delivered a warm, witty and very supportive address. Cllr. Buttimer, a clinical psychologist by profession, was very much in tune with Ag Eisteacht’s relational based work and he acknowledged as “crucial”, the evidence base and accreditations underpinning the ABLE training programme. He explained that reaching out to support other people using intuition or anectodal material as a guide, is not the optimum approach and that using “evidence based practices” and “proven” approaches is the way forward.
Cllr. Buttimer also talked about the symbolism and messaging attaching to the two words “Ag Eisteacht” (The Irish word for Listening) and “ABLE” noting their positivity in “focus and orientation” and said that they also imply a “skills base” as well as “positive action”. During the course of his address Cllr. Buttimer paid tribute to the inspirational Nano Nagle and commended the “regeneration and re-imagining” work of the Presentation Sisters in Nano Nagle Place. He concluded his address by wishing Maeve and her team well with the new ABLE programme.
The keynote address was delivered by the dynamic and richly experienced Susanna Abse, Consultant Psychotherapist and former CEO of the renowned UK charity, ‘Tavistock Relationships’ (2006 – 2016). Susanna addressed the topic “The role relationships play in shaping our lives” and began by asserting that “Relationships underpin absolutely everything that we do, they are at the centre of our lives……. at the centre of our physical and mental wellbeing”. Susanna’s address brought the audience through a range of interconnected themes, from:
- the factors which influence an individual’s relational capacity i.e. their ability to form and maintain positive relationships,
- the significance of couple relationships in determining health and well-being outcomes,
- the reluctance of frontline practitioners to acknowledge and include couple relational well-being into their practice
- the policy landscape in the UK where in recent times there has been “a call for a less exclusive focus on economic answers to disadvantage and a move towards a more relational view of social policy”.
Following Susanna’s address a number of audience members contributed to a discussion reflecting their own experiences and areas of expertise in their specific sectors. Contributors included Clinical Psychologist Martin O’Connor, Pamela Kingston from the SIMON Community, Siobhán O’Brien, Public Health Nursing, Katherine Harford Programme Manager at Young Knocknaheeny ABC, and Dr Patricia Leahy-Warren, School of Nursing and Midwifery, UCC.
Dr. Sinead Hanafin, Managing Director of Research Matters, also delivered a compelling presentation based on her recently compiled publication ‘RELATIONSHIPS MATTER’. She began by commenting that “I can only say to you, that the evaluations that I have done of Ag Eisteacht’s training are the most positive evaluations I have done in my entire career – the work they do clearly works and people clearly benefit from it”.In the RELATIONSHIPS MATTER publication and through her presentation Dr Hanafin reviewed the relational based research conducted in Ireland over recent years, including the Growing Up in Ireland Study, TILDA, Healthy Ireland Surveys, PISA study, MAMMI Study and Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children Study. Her work explores the following research areas in particular:
•Relationships in infancy and childhood
•Relationships in the workplace and community
•Relationships in later life
•Adverse relationship experiences
In concluding her presentation Dr Hanafin called for an overhaul of how we think about relationships, as individuals, practitioners and policy makers, learning perhaps from the way we have begun to think about learning as a lifelong endeavour. She urged her audience to treat relationships as a lifelong endeavour too ….."which need to be supported through policy and through funding”.
The final presentation of the morning was delivered by Ag Eisteacht’s CEO, Maeve Hurley and centred around the recently developed three day relational based training programme ABLE (Adopt a relational approach, Build, Listen and Empower). The programme has already been approved for CPD purposes by the Irish Association of Social Worker, the Nursing and Midwifery Board of Ireland and the Department of Education and Skills and roundly applauded by the more than 120 participants who have under taken the training in recent months.
Maeve, a GP by profession drew from her own experience in practice, explaining that “When people are finding it hard to cope, particularly in their relationships, research shows that they often turn to a frontline practitioner in their lives whom they already trust. This could be a doctor, a public health nurse, a teacher, a social worker, community worker or someone working within the homeless services.” Maeve went on to explain that “The willingness and ability of practitioners to engage with their clients when key relationships come under pressure is admirable, but there is very little training available in Ireland in this area to support practitioners and this is the gap that ABLE training is designed to fill”.
Maeve opened her presentation by introducing the idea of a ‘spectrum of relational support’ which practitioners can explore, distinguishing between promoting relational capacity with clients as a preventative and early intervention measure, preventing relationships from falling into difficulty and finally by protecting people at times of crisis during times of relationship breakdown. Maeve outlined the challenges that practitioners face in adopting a relational approach, citing both time limitations and in some cases a skills deficit as common barriers, but she encouraged members of the audience to try to overcome these challenges, particularly given the unequivocal evidence which shows the range of health benefits attaching to supported and positive relationships. In providing ABLE training and the brief intervention model central to the training, Ag Eisteacht offers practitioners across all sectors, a pathway and a strengths based solution to engage with the frequently unaddressed area in client care i.e. relational health. By attending to individuals’, couples’ and families’ relational health, outcomes for practitioners, the families they work with and the wider community, will be improved.
In conclusion, Maeve invited the members of the audience to join the Ag Eisteacht team “….in making Ireland a country which values and supports relationships and which recognises their impact on health and wellbeing.