I was asked recently, “How do you create space and opportunity for people to connect with you, as a Peer Support worker and Flourishing Life, Relationship and Wellness coach, in the mental health community?” What a great question.

I begin with meeting people where they are at. I never begin with where they or anyone else thinks they should be. We need to understand where we are before we can move forward. I also focus on what is strong instead of what is wrong.

Let me give you a life experience as an example. A few years ago I was working in a school in a position that allowed me to help students who were identified as having mental health challenges. In order for students to open up to me, I had to create safe and brave spaces that allowed for connection. I had to meet them where they were at in that moment. This might be that they arrived at school after cutting themselves the night before because the pain they were feeling in their hearts hurt less when their body physically hurt. It might be that they were always sitting in anger because they were constantly being kicked out of their class and things weren’t any better at home. Whatever it was, that is where we started.

One day, a grade 9 student was sent to my office. The student’s teachers were frustrated because they felt this student always disrupted the classroom. I sat with this student in silence as they took out a sketch book and began to draw. As I watched in silence, the most beautiful art work began to take form. After a few minutes, I asked them about the drawing. Questions such as, what does that drawing mean to you? Why did you use the colors that you did? Questions without judgment. Slowly the student began to open up to me and I learned that they loved drawing as a means to communicate their emotions. They went on to explain that they had challenges communicating with words, no one seemed to understand or listen. With art, they could escape, process and communicate.

In this moment, I met the student where they were at. I gave them silent space and the opportunity to process what they were feeling at that moment. Once they let me know they felt safe and brave to open up, then I focused on the strong….their drawing. This student was used to hearing the wrong, which is why they sat in anger with the consequence of being thrown out of the classroom. They needed to hear the strong. Their family and teachers needed to hear the strong. From that moment forward, the student used their art to express their emotions. This helped everyone in their world “hear” them and gain understanding of where they were at.

Focusing on what is strong rather than what is wrong, creates the space and opportunity to be vulnerable. When we are vulnerable we can grow. When someone is helping us focus on the strong then we can grow in a positive way.

This leads me to why I connected with Flourishing Coaching. I connected with Flourishing Coaching a year ago because I wanted to move from being an educator in schools to being an educator in life. I wanted to assist people to meet themselves where they are at and to take steps to being the best version of themselves in a way that made sense to them, through their lived experiences. Being a part of the Flourishing Coaching community has allowed me to do just that as the courses teach you tangible, real life, practical skills that can be used within the framework of your lived experiences. Flourishing, for me, is a mindset that focuses on our strengths and that aligns beautifully with what I offer in my practice.

The need to be understood and belong is something we all have in common. Let me meet you where you are at. Make space for your experiences, your emotions, and your growth. Get started with peer support for free, with a 30-minute coaching session with me. https://calendly.com/christinapeerspectiveconsulting/free-coaching-session?month=2023-01

About the Author

Christina Henderson is a mom, a wife, a certified Family Peer Support Worker, and a certified Flourishing Life, Wellness, and Relationship Coach.

Christina worked as an educator for 17 years before moving into peer support and coaching—an extension of her passion for connecting people with the resources they need to thrive.

As a peer support worker and coach, Christina’s goal is to provide safe spaces where people feel heard, understood, connected, and supported. She gives people permission to meet themselves where they are as a starting place to move forward and to accept their limitations while honoring their innate gifts.

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