Before joining forces with Richard and Kathy, Penny completed her MA using the Flourishing Families project as her research project. This is a summary of her story and her findings as recently published in the Human Givens Journal.
Penny Fuller has been practicing as a registered general nurse for 30 years and has specialised within occupational health, with 13 years experience working for the emergency services. As a qualified Human Givens therapist, Penny has a wide range of practical knowledge of successfully working with clients who have experienced physiological and psychological health issues. She has a special interest in the management and treatment of post traumatic stress disorder, specifically relating to exposure in the work place. She also provides support and intervention for mental health, wellbeing and self-management. Penny recently gained a Professional Graduate Certificate in Education and provides training in organisational change and leadership within the police service.
I trained as a nurse 30 years ago and during that time worked in various settings, including general nursing, community and Marie Curie, eventually specialising in occupational health. Fortunately when I commenced my nurse training the curriculum in my training hospital was moving away from a medical model towards a more holistic approach, treating patients as individuals. This I believe was instrumental in the choices I made during my nursing career, moving from a hospital environment into the client’s home and eventually into an occupational setting. As a Marie Curie nurse, I had the privilege to be with people at the end of their lives and I came to realise the importance of getting our emotional needs met as far as is possible within our individual circumstances, rather than simply focussing upon our physical health. Years later, when I commenced the Human Givens Diploma, I came to better understand the relevance of seeking to satisfy our emotional needs as being fundamental to our wellbeing.
Richard and I met when I joined the police as an occupational health nurse. We found that we shared the view that police officers and police staff suffering from ill health were simply a reflection of a society as a whole that was not getting its emotional needs met. This was the start of a journey of exploration, of personal and professional growth. It has been, at times, incredibly challenging, but above all inspirational.
Together we explored training opportunities that might equip our officers and staff with knowledge that would improve their own health and also transfer into how they deliver a service. We put together a small project within the Wiltshire Police control centre where we explained the Human Givens ideas to all staff on one particular shift, admittedly with mixed results at this early stage. However, the startling success this had with a few individuals convinced us of the merit of continuing this preventative and proactive approach. Richard retired from the police service, but continued to work with us within the police service and started to develop these ideas, transferring them from a therapeutic setting to a general educational one.
I continued to progress with MA Human Givens Psychotherapy, my thirst for knowledge ever increasing. Richard, in the meantime, had been developing the ideas within primary schools in Swindon, and Red Oaks School had secured lottery funding for a year long Flourishing Families project. The timing of this was perfect as I needed a research project for my MA and so I agreed to help with the evaluation of the project. This provided the opportunity to discover how Human Givens could be employed in an educational setting, working with parents, their children and school staff, although my research focussed upon support to parents.
The aim of the study was to see if this approach can provide opportunities for knowledge and skill development with a subsequent improvement in family well-being.
For the period of my research, the Flourishing Families six week parent programme had forty-nine participants, with forty-one attending four or more workshops. We used the Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (WEMWBS), the Outcome Rating Scale (ORS), and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) for our quantitative data, and interviews using a semi-structured questionnaire for our qualitative data. This data was correlated with four existing, evaluated and well established parenting programmes.
The focus that Flourishing Families has upon individual well-being and the importance of good relationships, rather than parenting, was perceived as highly effective by participants. This contrasted well with the experience some participants had of parenting programmes, which they felt were judgmental upon their abilities as parents. During interviews it became very clear that participants were making strong links between having a deeper knowledge of human nature and how this could effect their own emotional and physical health, their relationships and so impact upon all those around them, not just their families.
The interviews also revealed the vital importance of establishing a supportive group where the ideas can be shared and applied to individual experiences. They reported that the facilitators had purposely encouraged the group to share experiences, to reflect on their situation and tell their stories in a non-judgmental and supportive way. This was a very positive experience for the parents, and they felt that this was an innovative and valuable approach which gave them great confidence in the material.
Parents feedback (sample)
‘Why don’t they teach this in school? If I had understood where my emotions come from and what triggers them, I know I would not have made the mistakes I have. At least I now know, and I can make sure my children understand.’
‘I was so angry with the world. I felt I had no control, my life has been just one emotion after another. My son was the same, we both were lost in our own worlds. My son showed this in his behaviour and me also. Just knowing how my brain works and the fight and flight response constantly triggered just made so much sense. Then, knowing I could do something about this, has changed my world forever and I know not only what it is to be a parent but also how I live my life.’
‘I now realise I was constantly going up anger mountain with my child – life is so much calmer because I do not respond how I did before.’
‘The first time that made me think about who I was , and that I was important and had needs’
‘I have a new circle of friends that I know have felt like me –Now I know that others have felt like this, I have confidence to approach other parents and tell them I know what it feels like and that it is okay.’
The quantitative data indicated that there was an improvement in participant’s perception of their own well-being and compared well with the four parenting programmes reviewed. Programmes held since this research study have demonstrated an even greater improvement in well-being as the approach has developed.
This was a very small study completed over a short period of time, the findings provide confidence and encouragement to suggest that the Flourishing Families (now Flourishing Together) approach may provide valuable knowledge, skills and understanding that will assist with parenting and also help to improve the overall well-being of society as a whole. We are planning for a continuing evaluation of the programme as it continues to evolve.