Collaborative Helping Maps: A Simple Map to Transform Relational Positioning By Bill Madsen

In this video, Bill Madsen offers a simple map to assist workers take up a post-structuralist relational stance.

Interactions between helping professionals and families invite the enactment of particular life stories and experience of identity in the process. With this in mind, the way in which helping professionals position themselves in relation to families becomes very important. This presentation showcases a simple map that can guide thinking and action and help workers take up a post-structuralist relational stance. The map both helps workers think their way through complex situations and provides a guideline for conversations between workers and families. The use of these maps over time has resulted in dramatic shifts in which workers move from taking on a role of experts engaged in corrective instruction to accountable allies helping families draw on developing abilities, skills and wisdom to pursue preferred directions in life.


Published on April 25, 2014

This Post Has 2 Comments

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    Olivia Henry

    Thank you for sharing these ideas and stories Bill. I just watched it on a Friday evening at the end of a week when I am unsure if I really did anything helpful for the families I work with. So many things spoke to me I don’t really know where to start…

    I am in Alice Springs, Australia. Just today I was shown a plan that a child protection worker had filled out and handed to a woman. I asked the woman if these were things she suggested were a good idea or if they were ideas from the child protection workers- she said the latter, and in fact one of the things on the list is going to cause her a big problem. The only way I think we can get around this is to be subversive- and what a shame this is, what a waste of money of behalf of the government paying these child protection workers SO much money and for them to BE one of the potholes in the road….

    Many things that were highlighted in this video have lifted me and energised me that I am on the right track… I also thought of something Linda Tuhiwai Smith says- as workers, can we fix the generator? Can we actually do anything? (i.e.- are we providing help that the family view as helpful help!) In my context working with Aboriginal families I think some adaptions to this map, I will work on this…

    Thank you also to Delphine for your response above which added to my learning.

    Kind wishes, Liv

  2. Avatar

    Delphine Amer

    Hi Bill,

    As a Child and Youth Worker (CYW) living and working in Ottawa Ontario, I loved your video! It brought to mind much of the college training I underwent around the importance of the therapeutic relationship and how this relationship is built up over time in the context of daily living in the milieu work that we do. The work we do as child and youth workers in Canada is relational and involves working in family homes, residential homes or other settings very closely with children, youth, foster parents, parents or caregivers.

    When you spoke about “relation stance” it brought to mind the notion of ‘praxis’ and how it is applied to the work I do as a child and youth worker. The work that child and youth workers do is highly relational, in other words, the therapeutic relationship that develops between the youth or child and the CYW is the impetus to change and growth. The concept of ‘praxis’ is a cornerstone of the philosophical/theoretical perspective of the CYC field. The great philosopher Aristotle defined “praxis” as ‘‘guided by a moral disposition to act truly and rightly; a concern to further human well-being and the good life.’’ Scholar Schwandt (2002)* writes that ‘‘Praxis does not require knowledge of how to make something, but knowledge of how to be a particular kind of person; it is ‘action-oriented self-understanding.” The notion of praxis in the theoretical underpinnings of child and youth counselling means that instead of thinking about children and youths’ problems by simply developing a theory at the intellectual level, theories are tested and experienced in the real world, followed by reflection and evaluation. Praxis connects ideas with lived reality. Praxis in the field of child and youth counselling is the idea that creativity, a strong moral compass, self-knowledge/awareness and an unswerving desire to do what is right and good for a child or youth is what will mobilise change and growth.

    When you spoke about improvisation, it brought to mind a concept we in the field in Canada call ‘rhythmicity.’ This concept is about being able to ‘read’ the subtle clues that families, children, youth or groups give us to enable us to fit into the rhythm of what is taking place at a given moment. In other words, rhythmicity is when to speak, when to keep quiet, when to act and when not to act. I really do think that as you rightly pointed out, we never really know what to expect and each unique situation, person, circumstance and context is complex and offers a variety of cognitive and sometimes emotional challenges. I think that as frontline workers, we have the opportunity to develop deep therapeutic relationships because we are involved in ‘doing’ with our clients. It is often during times of ‘doing,’ like cooking a meal with a youth, that I believe the most therapeutic moments occur. Being intimately involved in children and youth’s daily experiences also means “struggling through” challenges with them; again, offering unique opportunities to learn and grow (for both the child/youth and the worker).

    Your maps are awesome and I will be using them in the work I do. They are a wonderful way to get some clarity in the often chaotic situations we walk into and a tool to change relational positioning.

    Great video – thanks!

    Delphine Amer

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