February 10th, 2012

Specialists at being Generalists

There are many services available to young people that focus on specific areas of support whether that be drug and alcohol education, sexual health support or careers advice. The Canaan Project is not one of these services. We don’t specialise in any particular area of support.

What we do aim to be is a first point of contact for young people on the Teviot Estate – offering them a safe place to go, to take part in some positive activities, and  have access to some adults that take an interest in them and their holistic development. Through ongoing relationships built with the young people week on week, and a variety of activities, we aim to help them begin to understand themselves and their place in the world as well as to start to develop new interests and skills. Being generalists we often find ourselves needing to have a basic understanding in a whole range of areas eventhough specialising in none. Since becoming a youth worker I (Fiona) have learnt how to cook, invented a whole catalogue of craft activities, learnt the intricacies of pool rules and developed some basic counselling skills and conflict resolution techniques. These all go into the tool box, ready to be drawn upon at the relevant time.

However one of the most important, and often tricky, parts of this generalist approach is to know where our role ends and to identify where the intervention of experts and specialist services is appropriate and to be able to support young people in accessing these services. Generalists definitely have their limits but part of our role is to provide the bridge between young people and specialists. If we are to best support young people, both approaches are vital.