We Talk with a Professional Tree of Life Facilitator

There are so many amazing Professional Tree of Life Workshops happening at the moment, we wanted to talk with one of the leading facilitators, to hear how much they are helping people who work in social care.

We caught up with the fantastic Leila Lawton (@Leila, here) and although she is crazy busy, we decided to ask her some questions…

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Firstly, thank you Leila, not only for giving us some of your precious time, but for taking so much support out to care homes.

We’d like to ask you some questions, so that more people can get to understand how the Professional Tree of Life Workshops are really helping care sector staff.

Q. Professional Tree of Life Workshops seem to be quite a new way of helping people working in social care support their mental health; how would you describe it for someone who is interested?

Leila: Tree of Life workshops originated in Zimbabwe and are a form of Narrative Practice that supports people in telling stories of themselves in ways that make them stronger. The tree is used as a metaphor for our professional life. The Professional Tree of Life approach encourages staff to reflect on their relationship to their work, the professional identities shared and co-created at work and how we contribute to each other’s’ working lives, the team and the services. The insight gained from stories shared, can help teams to remember and reconnect to the values that brought them to this work, the individual skills and strengths of each team member, and the team as a whole.

Q. We hear that you are getting great feedback! What are care sector staff finding helpful?

Leila: Based on my experience of facilitating these empowering spaces, in summary, people are experiencing connection, reflection and celebration. Whilst emotive things may get shared in these spaces, the opportunity for validation in recognition of what people have had to overcome over the last few years is phenomenal. Turning the Lens and amplifying the voices of those on the front line, who are amongst those who have faced the most challenges.

To hear from different cultural perspective and contexts is a privilege and tremendous pleasure. To listen and learn about people’s unique experiences, where there are shared themes of overcoming adversity in unprecedented times. They are appreciative of us providing the spaces and we are equally blessed to have such unique insight into their working/personal lives.

We also provide a FREE lunch and a few KWSEL goodies (mugs, pens, pads, tote bags etc) to further illustrate our appreciation for the care sector and how much we value their work.

Q. That’s wonderful to hear! What is involved in a Professional Tree of Life Workshop? Does it take a lot of time?

Leila: A whole session typically lasts four hours, but we are accommodating and can work with the schedule or needs of whatever team we are supporting. An example would be 9.30am-1.30pm, 12.30-4.30pm and any variation over a four-hour period in line with the needs of the team.

There would be two Professional Tree of Life Facilitators delivering the session and we have a minimum of 6 staff and 15-20 maximum in attendance in a session.

Q. Can you do smaller Workshops?

Leila: Yes, as mentioned we can have quite an intimate group with 6 people. We also have the option of delivering the workshop in two parts. With part 1 and part 2 being delivered for two hours respectively.

The popular time for care sector providers and teams seems to be 2-4pm, we are flexible and do our best to accommodate the time which is most suitable. In these instances, part two of the workshop is delivered within 6-8 weeks after part 1.

Lunch is provided for both parts.

Q. What do you think are the benefits from attending a Professional Tree of Life Workshop?

Leila: Time and space to pause and reflect back on why and what inspires staff to do what they do.
An opportunity to acknowledge and reflect on the roots of individuals and collective skills and strengths that staff members and the team bring.

Mutual reciprocated appreciation for what they have been doing and what they have been through, and the incredible way that teams have coped and come together.

There is the individual perspective, reconnecting with aspects of their identity developed during their youth and influenced by cultural factors and how they have translated that to what they do in their daily lives. It helps teams to feel more connected, valued and appreciated.

Q. That is so good to hear. What for you have been the standout moments?

Leila: There are too many to mention! Some of the moments that I won’t ever forget are when teams have expressed shared appreciation and tears for staff members who have passed on. How these people were seen as core roots to their success, describing their skills in guiding and patiently teaching them the ropes in their various roles. To hear people, speak with such passion you really get a sense of the legacy, and the positive influences people have on each other’s lives

Many, many stories of care, compassion and sacrifice; where they have demonstrated such awe-inspiring commitment to care for people whether at end of life or mid stages. With the COVID experience bringing a unique set of astronomical challenges and emotive weight for the care sector. Hearing of how people navigated their own fears and anxieties whilst still providing such high-level care sometimes without the resources, is astounding.

What stands out is how much the care sector staff have put the needs of the service users first and demonstrated such excellence in the face of overwhelming difficulties. How they are celebrated and supported to reflect on the impact is essential and we want to support next steps after the initial training to further embed care for our caring colleagues.

Q. That is so incredibly moving. Do you think that going out to care homes and connecting with people where they work is part of the success?

Leila: 100 percent! Armed with our merchandise/ KWSEL resources and information, we are able to introduce ourselves/the service and make meaningful connections.

The fact that we take the time to do that helps with building relationships and we are taking our support offers out to the care sector. Raising awareness of the fabulous KWSEL portal with its comprehensive offers and bringing it to life within people’s workspaces.

Q. If people have valued or enjoyed the Professional Tree of Life Workshops, any suggestions about what they can do to build on that?

People who access the sessions have the option of receiving training to become facilitators and deliver sessions independently with support from KWSEL. Where we are building in community of practice spaces to support consolidation of learning for these newly trained facilitators. So, there is long term sustainable support and options for staff to develop further skills.

People can also join this community, and continue conversations about their work, their values, and the wonderful teams they are a part of. Just click on the Sign Up button in the top righthand corner.

Thank you so much, again, Leila, for the work you are doing, and for reminding us of all the incredible work going on around us, in the care sector.

We hope we can catch up with you again, sometime :smiley:

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Thanks @RDG - this is brilliant.

Thanks to @Leila also for making time to speak with us - very much appreciated!

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What an inspiring article to read! It really brought to life the amazing work of the care sector team. Such a power workshop to engage with. I got a real sense of our wonderful care staff reconnecting with their values in both personal and professional worlds. Keep up the amazing work!

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Thanks @Helen there is a lot of energy and engagement with these workshops, emotive yet empowering and integral. Such a pleasure to creatively facilitate these therapeutic reflective spaces and give back to such a deserving sector. It’s a win win!!

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Just amazing work, @Leila, @SawyerD, @Claire, @Ella, @Hannah, @Helen :heart: :heart: :heart:

I hope this has an impact well-beyond South East London…it really should.

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