Thursday, 17 September 2015

What’s on your plate?

What indeed! Well, I could get started here because my car failed its MOT for the second time in a fortnight yesterday, we’re temporarily short-staffed in the team for a number of reasons and the damp problem in my living room is showing no signs of going away anytime soon…

Michelle Longhurst
But less on the current lows in my life, and back to the meat of this post. What’s on your plate? is the brilliant name given to a relatively new support service run by the mental health charity Ponthafren Association. There are weekly Wednesday sessions at Welshpool (5 - 6pm), whilst in Newtown they are on Mondays (6 - 7.30pm). Earlier today I spoke to Michelle Longhurst, who is the Welshpool Outreach Resource Facilitator, to find out more.

Michelle explained that members of Ponthafren Association now have an opportunity to take time out and talk about specific areas of their lives that they may be struggling with. Tracy Fletcher, a counsellor at Ponthafren, set up What’s on your plate? during the summer months. Michelle has been helping her and will soon be running some of the sessions herself. 

It’s an intriguing mix of group and individual sessions that seems to be working well. 

Participants use the Wheel of Life tool during group sessions to look at any of the following 12 areas: physical wellbeing, achievements & successes, contentment, work & school, friendship, emotional health, energy & enthusiasm, self-esteem, fun & recreation, home & family, relationships and money & finances.

According to the paperwork accompanying the Wheel of Life, it is: “a tool that many life coaches use to help their clients see how balanced the various areas of their life are. Life’s activities are always shifting and so perfect balance cannot be achieved and maintained, but there are times when one area of your life may be requiring so much energy and time that other areas are suffering, and you feel your life is out of balance or even out of control. At these times, it helps to take a look at the big picture and to get some perspective.”

Tracy Fletcher
Each person is asked to mark themselves on a scale of 1 – 10 on how they see themselves doing in each area of their lives. If they have given themselves a low score for any particular area, then this is further discussed within the group. If required participants can then take advantage of a 10 minute session with a counsellor to follow this up in more detail.

Michelle went on to explain that during the first few weeks the What’s on your plate? sessions have focused specifically on work and education. Participants have discussed resitting GCSEs, writing CVs and looking for employment. They then invited staff from the Job Centre to join them at a later session and chat about CV and interview skills. Michelle said: “There is no pressure to join in, but people find the group setting really helpful for sharing ideas and tips.”

Over the next few weeks the main topic will switch to relationships including friendships. A walking group is also planned, plus a focus too on issues around food. People are often signposted to other courses or groups that can provide support, or ideas are generated for new activities altogether. Ponthafren Association has been quick to respond. Whats on your plate? participants recently identified a need for cooking classes and these are currently in the process of being organised.

A new singing group is also a possibility. Joining in this activity would meet many of the aspirations of the Wheel of Life, including "feeling full of energy and experiencing life to the fullest", and "sharing common interests, experiences and feelings". With luck those involved will also learn enough Christmas carols in the lead-up to the festive season to be able to fundraise for Ponthafren with their singing events!

Feedback for ‘What’s on your plate?’ September 2015

“I found what’s on your plate helpful because it was good getting tips from everyone and sharing advice in a group. The advice was really helpful; the conversation about self-confidence gave me more tools to use and helped me feel better about myself. I found it very interesting and I feel we should continue doing it as there are a lot more things we can discuss and learn from each other."  GL

“Since I have attended the sessions, I have benefited from them as they have helped me enquire to the Job Centre about relevant courses to help me find employment and GCSE resits.To be honest I think the sessions are great and helpful.”  MC

“My experience of the course was that it helped me to understand what to concentrate on to improve on, and being aware of the improvement with the use of the wheel of inventory. It was also valuable that we had the lady from the job centre for advice when you have been out of employment for a long time and on what to put down on the CV for this.”  AP

What’s on your plate? sessions are held every Wednesday, 5 – 6pm, at Ponthafren’s Outreach Centre in Welshpool, and also at the Newtown Centre, Mondays 6 - 7.30pm. If you would like to find out more about joining Ponthafren Association (it’s only £2 a year) and taking part, check out the charity’s website.

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