An inclusive, responsive, relationship-based service demands a great deal from its practitioners. They require the physical, psychological and emotional energy to invest in both the care and support of clients and initiatives to improve programs and services.
For this reason, youth AOD organisations should adopt a health and wellness approach to employee wellbeing. Like young people, practitioners are more resilient when they know that they are not isolated and have some way of making sense of their experiences. High quality, regular supervision, mentoring and collegiate support can enable practitioners to reflect on the complex nature of their work and feel personally supported. Organisations routinely confirm their support for frontline staff by:
- Ensuring responsibilities are clear and that all staff new to roles have access to adequate induction
- Ensuring staff have adequate back up and emergency assistance when required
- Providing formal debriefing in response to incidents and respite where required
- Putting in place policies that support self care including a formal Employee Assistance Program (EAP)
- Investing in their professional development
Perhaps most important is instituting and maintaining a supportive psychological climate where practitioners and service managers feel comfortable discussing issues in their lives that may potentially impact on their work. Such a climate can develop when the emphasis at all levels in an organisation are on taking responsibility, and not apportioning blame. Non-blaming cultures make it much easier for an individual practitioner, a team or organisation to look at itself critically and engage collectively in the process of working out how all involved can contribute to solutions.
Research conducted on psychological climate in child welfare services supports the notion that the characteristics of the way staff is treated are reflected in the ways that workers treat clients (Glisson & Hemmelgarn, 1998). The suggestion is that by providing emotional and practical support around personal issues, practitioners feel comfortable to bring up a wide range of issues, including difficult issues that may affect or involve their work life. This contributes to a broader climate of honesty that facilitates learning and evolving at a professional, as well as a personal level.
Glisson, C., & Hemmelgarn, A. (1998). The effects of organizational climate and interorganizational coordination on the quality and outcomes of children's service systems. Child Abuse and Neglect, 22(5), 401-421.