At Birmingham City University, we encourage collaborative learning, and work with a variety of individuals to make this happen. Zaynab Sohawon is a self-published author, and one of our Experts by Experience, who share their experiences of health care services with us to help improve our teaching. She has recently been awarded the Diana Award for her work in mental health activism, and her work in hope-based collaboration.
Recently, I was asked to co-lecture on the MSc Speech and Language Therapy course on my experiences of Speech and Language Therapy. I am a young person, aged 19 and proudly autistic. I was sectioned for four years in psychiatric units including secure forensic services. Throughout this time, I underwent a lot of therapy such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Dialectical Behaviour Therapy, Schema Therapy, and Speech and Language Therapy.
Speech and Language Therapy helped me to understand how autism affects me. It also taught me how to articulate this to other people, and this was the focus of my lecture.
In addition to my personal experiences, I spoke about hope-based collaboration, which I learnt about in recent peer support work training. In caregiver relationships, there is often a sense of it being one-sided. This is further explained through the term “caregiver”. It connotes that the professional is constantly “giving” and it can lead to neglect of their self and always prioritising other people’s needs before their own. It can be harmful, but what people frequently forget is that it is also harmful for the person receiving that care.
The person receiving care, also known as the service user, will be so accustomed to receiving services, that they lose their sense of self and autonomy. Their accountability for their health and actions has been shifted onto the care giver. In mental health terms, this means that patients will base their reasons for self-harming behaviours on the lack of competency of the care giver, rather than the lack of trying to be active in their own care and treatment. In physical health terms, this could mean that the patient would blame the health professional for not getting better but would refuse to follow recommendations for taking the medication, for example, forgetting to take it or stopping the course of medication early. Hope-based collaboration reverses this effect.
Hope can be powerful
Instead of being fearful of risk (a patient exhibiting harmful or self-injurious behaviour) or fearful of deterioration of health, it is important to keep a hope-based approach. We should not think about possible calamities but about future possibilities that can occur within your relationship. Thinking about the current climate, this can be applied by saying that you shouldn’t be continually fearful of risk of contagion of Covid-19, but instead move towards a hope-based approach and how we can use this experience of lockdown to inform how we look at healthcare in future practice. For example, Covid-19 opened up the possibility of doing online health appointments and meetings. How can we apply this approach to a post-Covid world? There should be lessons learned from this experience such as ensuring more time is made for self-care for health professionals. There are many more things we can take from Covid-19, particularly in regards to the future of approaches to health care.
Making a difference from a patient’s perspective
Zaynab’s work as an Expert by Experience as part of FACE (Forum for Accessing Community Experience), is an important addition to our teaching. It enables our students to care for the person as a whole, rather than just treat a condition, and see things from a different perspective.