The Living Room is an award-winning abstinence-based addiction recovery charity providing free daytime treatment for all addictions: drug, alcohol and behavioural. Founded in May 2000, it provides peer support group therapy in Stevenage, St Albans and Watford to Hertfordshire residents suffering with an addiction and provides a creche in Stevenage. Its counsellors are highly trained with lived experience of addiction themselves.

Background to The Living Room and Protective Behaviours

Families Feeling Safe Protective Behaviours Service began providing training for staff at The Living Room in 2017 for their Children Feeling Safe project and also delivering their programmes to parents attending The Living Room. Families Feeling Safe trained staff in Protective Behaviours (PBs) at Level 1 and Level 2, as well as to facilitate their evidence-based Families Feeling Safe Programme for Mums, Dads and Carers, and more recently to facilitate Morris and His Friends Talk About Feelings, to clients of The Living Room and their children.

“Although Protective Behaviour programmes delivered by Hertfordshire’s Families Feeling Safe Protective Behaviours Service are available at schools and children’s centres, the families trapped in the cycle of addiction that we work with, are incredibly vulnerable and hard-to-reach and, consequently, rarely engage in them. However, here at The Living Room, these families have gained our trust, and are given the time and close support they need to assimilate new learning. Consequently, there is a high need for us to run our own in-house Protective Behaviour programmes”, The Living Room 2017.

“It gave me so much insight into my child’s, feelings, thoughts and behaviour.” (Parent)

“A key factor was that the content of the programme complimented and affirmed parents’ learning from the in-house 12 step programme they had been attending. Therefore their learning was reinforced and built upon in relation to what this meant in parenting their children.“ (Fiona Benjamin, Director of Families Feeling Safe)

By Families Feeling Safe training staff, including counsellors and creche workers, it enabled them to embed Protective Behaviours in their general treatment provision at The Living Room and increase their capacity and the sustainability of Protective Behaviours within their service.

During a meeting with Fiona and Dave in July 2019 Adrienne Arthurs, CEO of The Living Room, and Katie Carter, Creche Manager, discussed the reasons for using Protective Behaviours and the benefits it has provided to clients and the organisation. The following is a summary of our conversation.

What was the prompt for using PBs?

When Adrienne worked with schools she was aware that PBs was working well with parents. Although she has not been trained in PBs she is an advocate. When she arrived at The Living room as Chief Executive, The Living Room had received funding to work with PBs, and that’s how FFSL became involved with The Living Room, and that’s how PBs started there. When Katie arrived she was really enthusiastic about PBs. She had become aware of it when she received some training whilst working in family centres. She then implemented PBs approaches when she worked in schools and loves using it in The Living Room.

How are you using PBs?

· PBs is included in resources and ‘rules’ for parents.

· In the creche, lunchtimes are the opportunities to provide ‘teachable moments’ to parents.

· PBs language is used throughout the organisation.

· People are helped to build networks.

· The Feelings Thermometer and the Anger Onion are on display.

· PBs is built into the overall ethos of the creche.

What difference has PBs made to your organisation, clients, (both adults and children) and staff?

· The Living Room is a place where people feel safe.

· PBs is integrated into the work that is done there. It gives cohesion as everyone has a common language, and safe and positive language is encouraged.

· PBs creates an environment for parents and children to express themselves because they feel safe and secure in the creche.

· PBs is woven into the culture and values and is the essence of how the organisation works.

· All the policies have PBs woven into them.

· There are no commanding signs around the buildings, e.g. Wash your Hands etc., and this is also the case in The Living Room shops. The signs say what the organisation wants not what it doesn’t want.

What has been the value/main benefits of PBs for you, your organisation and service users?

· Staff are more connected with the creche.

· There is greater emotional literacy for clients and children, which enables them to express themselves for the benefit of their own well-being.

· Adrienne uses it in performance reviews, supervision and to empower staff and clients.

· The Living Room is a safe place for staff. Visitors from other branches say they feel safe there. Stevenage is regarded as ‘the mother ship’.

· The 3 branches, Stevenage, St Albans and Watford, talk the same way.

What are the main needs of your clients and how has PBs met these?

· A client had moved from Scotland with no network and was helped to build one.

· Parents using the creche are asking for parenting groups, maybe a short course to help children express their emotions using PBs resources.

We are looking forward to working with the staff at The Living Room in the ongoing development of their Protective Behaviours knowledge and practice.