Making Change Happen

I do listening sessions with groups of case managers and outreach workers in several of the communities where we do work. It is their chance to share what is working and not working in their practice, and gives us the opportunity to identify strategies or techniques they can try to improve their practice. I absolutely love doing them, and can often see the frustrations experienced turn into optimism.


One of the most recurring themes in these sessions is the outreach worker or case manager that gets frustrated that the person they are trying to support is not changing (or not changing fast enough given some funders provide a timeline for certain activities to be completed). We often go down the road (again) of how coercing, threatening, ingratiating, contracting with, bribing and bargaining does not get strong lasting change results.


But where I have been finding myself thinking more in reinforcing change is walking people through the four strategies and approaches most adults can benefit from when there is a change situation to be considered.


Self-aware and self-guided I know I need to change. I know what I need to change. I know how to change it. I have the resources and skills to change it. I change.
Self-aware and assistance guided I know I need to change. I may know what I need to change. I don’t know how to change it. Or, I don’t have the resources or skills to change, so I seek them out. I connect to those resources. I learn and take on the challenge of change with that assistance. I change.
Motivational Interviewing I am motivated to change because a helping professional used a personal-centred approach to be exploratory in her inquiry to stimulate change. This intentional conversation was evocative enough to call forth my own motivation to change. I may still need supports along the way. I change.
Assertive Engagement I do not see the need for change, or do not see the need for change right now. Motivational interviewing has been attempted and gotten us nowhere. Part of my current behaviour is putting myself or others at risk which is why change is needed. Because I put up defences when change is suggested, a helping professional challenges those defences to make me more vulnerable to understanding the need for change – at least for the duration of the engagement. We are action focused. I change.


As a sector, I think we can lose sight of how the first two likely happen more than we know. There are some helping professionals who think it would be impossible for the people they support to change without them. I think we are doing a better job infusing motivational interviewing into the sector, but we can do a better job making sure the trainers are grounding the techniques into the realities of working with homeless and under-housed persons, and move the training and strategies a bit away from hyper-therapeutic environments, which most of the people we serve are not located within. And there is a need to continue to expand opportunities for workers to know how and when to apply Assertive Engagement. If change really is going to be a benefit because there is harm – and the person is not changing – then probably best to learn the interpersonal skills and creativity skills to increase the likelihood of change, rather than just being frustrated that change is not happening.

Iain De Jong

About Iain De Jong

One Response to “Making Change Happen”

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  1. I have been a shelter manager, a homeless outreach specialist and am now a Supportive Housing Case Manager and it is true that the person needing the help fight back. But we need to keep in mind that the vulnerability the folks feel. Just because their homeless does not mean they have lost their pride or self respect! But all to common is their believe that whatever dignity they feel they have left will be stripped by the folks that, with all good intent, take from them. There are many people that should not be in the field of assisting and giving direction to this population because they are condescending, book learned with no common sense. I have always put into my head; ” if this were me, how would I feel, how would I react, what don’t I wanted to hear.” Each person is an individual , There is no cookie cutter that has everyone that is homeless fitting into the same cookie jar. We are all people, with problems, situations, circumstances and life forcing their way into our everyday existence. We all need to look outside ourselves to understand so as to be successful in making a difference.