Interview with a Listening Circles facilitator
Parenting Mental Health’s Listening Circles are coordinated and facilitated by specially trained parent volunteers from the PMH community. All volunteers have their own lived experience and understand the power of being heard, and the value of connecting with other who understand the heartache of parenting a child through poor mental health. You can read more from the Listening Circles coordinator here. The role of facilitator is absolutely crucial to the success of PMH Listening Circle, we spoke to one of our facilitators to learn about their experience, from training to ‘the power of listening’. We spoke to two facilitators, Sian and Tanya, who were kind enough to give us their thoughts on Listening Circles.
Why did you want to become a Listening Circle facilitator?
I wanted to become a Listening Circle facilitator because I wanted to help to strengthen the amazing community of PMH, and help the parents that were going through a period of crisis. I found the PMH community after my own daughter had been mentally unwell for a few years, she is much better now than she was and when we were going through the crisis point with my daughter I felt so desperate and alone as a parent doing everything I could to help her and hoping that I was doing the right thing. When I found PMH Facebook a few years later it was an amazing source of support to hear from other parents going through similar situations. I wanted to be a Listening Circle facilitator because I know how hard it is, and how much it can help to know that somebody else understands and is there to support you through listening.
How did the training prepare you to become a facilitator?
The training, delivered by PMH Founder, Suzanne Alderson and Tanja Sharpe from Creative Counsellors prepared me by explaining the processes that we needed to follow if we had any concerns about the welfare of any of the participants. It was also really good at reassuring us that we have the necessary skills and experience to be effective facilitators for the session because of our own lived experiences. This helped give me confidence because it is quite nerve wracking when you run the first session. The most important thing I learned from the training was how to really listen to somebody, and how powerful that is.
How would you describe the training process?
The training was excellent and really thorough. I learned skills that I will be able to use as a Listening Circle facilitator and also to help and support others outside of that space. Suzanne and Tanja were amazing throughout and provided us with the tools to be confident in moving forward.
Did you feel supported throughout the process by PMH?
There was a massive amount of support from PMH. We had a comprehensive training package that lasted weeks and we also had emotional welfare sessions to make sure that we were also ok as we ran the circle sessions. The admin support was also excellent. If ever a problem or issue did come up, somebody from the PMH team got back to me straight away. I felt very supported throughout.
What power have you observed in being heard?
This was a real eye opener for me. I had known that actively listening to somebody offers that person a supportive space but I hadn’t seen it in action in such an impactful way before. Giving people the space and support to be heard, with everybody in the circle having their turn, was more powerful than I had expected.
It’s incredibly powerful to be heard. Despite knowing the issue at hand may not be fixable, being able to talk things through without fear of judgement is an incredible way of supporting or being supported by someone effectively.
What impact has being heard had on the Listening Circles participants?
I can only go from the evaluation forms that the participants filled in. The feedback was that they felt supported and understood, by each other as well as by me as the PMH facilitator.
What impact has being involved in the Listening Circles and training as a facilitator had on your own mental health?
The stories that were shared by everybody during the circles, and during the training, has given me an insight into what other parents are going through and what they are doing to help their children. It has helped my own mental health to know that we are all trying our best for our children, and will continue to do so. I will always remember the parents that I met as a facilitator and in the training, the stories that were shared and the support that was shown to each other.
Would you recommend training to become a Listening Circles facilitator to other parents?
Yes, I would recommend training to become a Listening Circles facilitator. The training is excellent, giving you skills to use as a facilitator and in other parts of your life. You will meet some amazing people who have similar experiences to you, and most of all you will help other parents who are going through their own hard times and you will be part of a group that gives them support when they need it most. It’s a wonderful feeling knowing I might make a difference to someone else’s life.
If you would like to learn more about becoming a Listening Circles facilitator or joining a Circle as a participant, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Parenting Mental Health would like to give our heartfelt thanks to our incredible facilitators, and all those who volunteered to make Listening Circles a reality.