Reading Time: 3 minutes

Most teaching, training and client support focuses on the “what” of it all: What’s the content? What’s the curriculum? And what is this person missing?

If we truly want to have an impact, we need to shift our focus to the “how”: How do we help people learn and grow? How do we create experiences with deep results? How do we build on strengths – our own and those of our clients?

There are five key principles that help practitioners get the “how” right:

1. Strength-based

When we start by looking at what a person lacks, we begin the relationship in the negative. This is immediately disempowering for the client. It lowers the client’s expectations and stops us from seeing a person’s unique capabilities and strengths, which limits opportunities for change. When we start with the client’s successes, strengths and abilities, however, it changes the relationship from fixing someone to nurturing their innate potential.

Instead of dwelling on problems and seeing hopelessness, we need to shift our approach to focus on opportunity, empowerment and hope. We need to start where people are, with the strengths they already have. This approach provides opportunities for people to experience success by focusing on the boundless nature of human potential. Authentically demonstrating an unshakable belief in clients’ or students’ capabilities and their ability to learn and change helps empower them to do just that.

2. Holistic

As human beings, we bring all of us with us wherever we go. Facilitating growth and removing barriers to employment must include engaging and developing all aspects of ourselves as people (emotional, physical, spiritual and intellectual). It must also acknowledge that these parts of us are interconnected. If we are worried about our safety or haven’t eaten since yesterday, writing a resume is not a priority.

It is important to assist people in exploring all aspects of their health, well-being and brain function, so they have the tools they need for their life journey and employment path. We should encourage exposure to – and hands-on application of – multiple strategies to help us all be our best selves and live fulfilling lives.

3. Client-centered

There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach. Clients must be partners in their own learning – to have their experiences validated, their talents utilized, and their needs addressed and respected. Facilitators need to understand that every participant comes with a unique story, which they will continue to write and alter during and after their time with you.

The process of deciding how you will work together needs to include the clients input and create an environment of choice. This means developing content that is relevant to participants and in which they feel invested. If you are running group programming, it must be individualized with differentiated instructions reflecting the needs of each participant.

4. Hands-on

Humans learn by experiencing things and by reflecting on those experiences to find meaning. We could get fancy and call this Constructivist Learning Theory, but in the end, the important thing is that active learning and engaged participation really matter. We learn by doing.

This can include real-life work experience, community projects and interactive workshops that allow participants to fully explore concepts and ideas, building deep understanding that facilitates real change. It also includes integrating and practicing wellness activities to help people find a self-care practice that they can take with them for life.

5. Trauma-aware

We must be conscious of the ways that trauma can affect the brain, the body and behaviour. We must structure our programming or meetings to create opportunities for participants to rebuild a sense of control and empowerment through collaboration, choice, mutual respect and trust-building. A key to being trauma-aware is the creation of physically, psychologically and emotionally safe spaces. We each have the capacity to understand and heal ourselves; there are paths and tools to address the symptoms and behaviours accumulated through trauma. No one is broken beyond repair.

At Change it Up, we call these principles the Fab Five. Embracing these five elements and incorporating them into your practice will increase your impact, particularly for diverse and equity-deserving clients. They will also make you a better career counsellor, no matter who you work with, because the Fab Five approach is human-centered and that includes us all.