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Rediscovering humanity in working with persons with learning disabilities

posted May 8, 2013, 1:19 PM by Mathias Dekeyser   [ updated Jul 23, 2014, 8:11 AM ]
The Person-Centred Quarterly
Before I became a counsellor, I worked as a Registered Nurse for people with learning disabilities both in the community and in a forensic mental health facility, which was part of a large mental health hospital. I left when I felt beaten by the 'system' and what I experienced as a systemic devaluing of persons. This manifested in an incident, which, for me, demonstrated the inhuman treatment of, and attitudes towards, a client for whom the group was entrusted to care. The system effectively turned a blind eye. This was an intolerable situation for me, as the Clinical Team Leader. I walked away with a sense of betraying both the client's and my own beliefs. I felt at risk of losing my own humanity.
I would like to share here how I see that Pre-Therapy and contact working offers a way of combating the dehumanising and devaluing of many groups but, in this case, those with learning disabilities. How whole teams and individual carers can restore their own self- valuing which, in turn, enables them to re-engage with 'being human' and relating human-to-human; person-to-person. How, for me, this is a way of being, which is person-centred in its approach, attitudes and values and which offers a way, not only of making contact, but also of enabling mutual contact between persons with learning disability and of supporting those who feel that they are working in isolation within systems and environments which can be experienced as thwarting, even overwhelming, one's humanity.
I make no apologies for the fact that the reader will find little in the way of academic referencing; little explicit relation to theory. This is a personal account of making contact with persons with whom contact has been denied. My humanness, and the impact that has upon those who have devalued certain persons, a result, I believe, of feeling themselves to be devalued.

Moore, R. (2013). Pre-Therapy and Contact Work - Rediscovering humanity in working with persons with learning disabilities and/or mental health challenges. Person-Centred Quarterly, 2013(1), 18-23.
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