September 28, 2023
The mental health and social change charity, Platfform, commissioned to deliver coach training to their staff in Autumn last year (2021). We trained a group of 12 Platfform team members over 8 weeks and have recently spoken with Sarah Hamilton, Young Person’s Project Manager at Platfform, to find out how the coach training has impacted the work they do.
We work with people experiencing challenges with their mental health and wellbeing. We don’t try to ‘fix’ people – we listen and work with people to find new ways and strategies that help to promote their mental health and wellbeing. Many young people struggle with anxiety, grief, school stress, worrying about exams, confidence, self-esteem, friendship issues, social isolation, and feeling lonely.
Four years ago, we were approached by the Welsh Government to develop a young people's project. Everything we do is co-produced, and we did a pilot with about 100 young people. We spoke with them and said we were developing an early intervention and asked them what they wanted. From these conversations with the young people, we developed State of Mind, an early intervention project where we go into schools and support young people over 10 weeks. This forms the basis of our other projects. We let young people decide what support they need – some are trained as peer mentors and some choose one-to-one support, which is why we wanted to work with Worth-it – to give our staff the skills to deliver this one-to-one support.
The pandemic has had so much impact on young people particularly around school anxiety, friendships, and social isolation – young people don’t want to look back they want to move forward and feel hopeful. We find that young people feel stuck and want strategies to get themselves moving forwards, but we didn’t want to be directive, so coaching seemed the natural choice.
Our project was expanding rapidly, and I realised we needed to train people we were employing so they could offer more support to young people. We were asking our staff to give one-to-one support in a trauma-informed way, and they needed specialised training. I discovered that Worth-it offered coaching training for young people’s wellbeing and mental health and thought it was incredible, so relevant to what we do: it just seemed perfect for Platfform. I met Liz [Robson] and loved her: she’s so passionate about what she does and so well qualified in it. All her knowledge is embedded in facts and research. I knew Liz and her team would be able to engage young people and help things make sense to them.
They really enjoyed it, even those who were perhaps a little nervous about having the training. One team member, who had been a little unsure before the training began, even said to me after the first session, “this is incredible, you're changing my life.”
The training was everything I imagined it would be. I was just so happy with it. I really like the set up that Worth-it have – Platfform had our own page on the Worth-it website where everybody had file, so, as a manager, I could see who had completed the work and who hadn't. I could give them a little nudge, which meant they were getting the best out of it.
One of the main impacts on the team is how proud they feel that they can now call themselves coaches, because they've had that training.
“It [the coach training] has provided me with more diverse skills and resources to use with a wide range of young people”
Worth-it gave them a lot of practical resources that they could use with young people and provided background information as to why they recommended certain strategies. The team then had the chance to go away and see what works for them in their role, it wasn’t prescriptive.
“My practice is more structured, and I am able to explain things more clearly and with more depth.”
My team are much more confident in the way that they work with young people.
“I feel more confident when planning and delivering sessions.”
They feel more capable and confident that they can have a real impact on the young people that they're working with. Because of this they have a real sense of pride in their work, which is great. I think that if you've got that confidence going into your role, you're going to have a much more lasting, positive impact on a young person.
“I understand and appreciate the importance of the young people speaking for themselves - I used to feel like I wasn't doing enough if they were the ones speaking all the time but learnt now that letting them speak for themselves and figure things out alongside me is more powerful.”
“Through the new knowledge and experience I have been able to gain through the coaching training I have seen a vast improvement in the quality of my coaching with young people.”
“It’s allowed me to keep the work focused and coaching oriented. Such as focusing on the present and future and practical things young people can do to support their mental health, as opposed to focusing on the past.”
The young people I've spoken to so far feel that they're more empowered, more positive, and able to make changes. They can look forward, they've got hope, hope for their futures, which is a big thing.
“I’ve noticed the young people I work with are developing more positive behaviours in tackling their difficulties.”
Letting young people speak for themselves and figure things out, alongside the coach, is so much more powerful than any advice giving. The young people have a clearer understanding now that we're coaches, not counsellors. For young people, there's much less stigma attached to coaching then counselling – perhaps because they associate it with sports coaching – going for some one-to-one support with their coach is seen in a much more positive light than going to see their school counsellor.
“They have been able to feel heard and listened to.”
“Young people have gotten more out of the sessions in a shorter amount of time.”
Coaching enables the young people to see that they have the skills themselves to do what they need to do. It's just supporting them to do that. I think that the work we do is more positive since we’ve had the coach training from Worth-it. There can be some difficult things that are going on, but generally, for young people, they are stuck. And they can't see the way out of their situation. And so coaching works with them to move forward and see that maybe we can't change what is going on, but we can work together to make things feel a bit different, so they feel a little bit more empowered to make some different choices, despite what's going on in their lives.
“I have found them providing more detailed answers and they have been able to focus more on the solution instead of the challenge they may be facing.”
Young people want to feel positive, young people want to feel like they can move forward, no one wants to stay stuck, but particularly young people. Having a coach who works with them gives them a feeling of ‘I can do this’, of positivity, of ‘I can move forward and my coach at Platfform has enabled me to see the changes that I can make, and I can make things better for myself’.
“I have noticed that young people are more goal focused. Having the image in their heads of their goals and then the tools on how to work towards them.”
I would recommend that they provide it for their workforce because it has such an impact on staff and young people. They will see results in the ways that their staff work, the way employees engage with young people, and confidence within the team. It will give them more resources to use when working with young people, including physical worksheets.
Knowing you have all these tools, which the coach training gives you, makes your job much easier, and you have so much more impact on the young people.
It can be difficult to get a balance between getting on with your role and doing the extra work that can come with training that will help you in your role. So, take time out to do it – as a manager, free a bit of time within the working day for your team to do the reflection work that is part of the training so it’s part of their normal day rather than extra work on top.
When you've got the tools, you can set appropriate boundaries, to look after yourself, making you feel more able to deal with the everyday challenges that can come up when working with young people. Having coach training helps staff in their everyday – it gives them coping strategies to work with young people, but also for their own lives. A few of my team have said to me that they have applied the coaching skills with their families as well as with their young people. That's been a really great thing for them to do. So, not only is it for work, but it's also made them feel more able to deal with personal situations – providing this training helps you to support your employees holistically as well as your young people.
If you are interested in training your team to coach young people in your school or setting go to our Coach Training Programme page to find out more and get in touch.
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Feel free to ask our team about this project for more information or return to our Examples page to learn about other great results our schools and settings are seeing.