Support Individuals to Deal with Personal Relationship Problems

The optional unit ‘Support Individuals to Deal with Personal Relationship Problems’ examines how to support an individual to assess and overcome their own relationship problems, which includes accessing specialist support, evaluating the support given and, where necessary, ending unhelpful relationships.

Learning Outcome 1: Be able to support individuals to assess relationship problems

1.1 Describe problems that may arise within relationships and the potential effects on an individual’s well-being

At times in our lives, we all experience problems in our personal relationships and the individuals that we support are no different.

Some problems that may arise include:

  • Disagreements about finances
  • Behaviours that do meet expectations
  • Infidelity
  • Abuse/neglect/narcissism/controlling behaviour
  • Conflicting values, opinions and attitudes

Relationship problems will usually have a negative impact on an individual’s wellbeing due to negative feelings such as:

  • Anger
  • Upset
  • Sadness
  • Frustration
  • Confusion
  • Despair

Without resolution, over the long-term these feelings can potentially lead to depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.

1.2 Work with an individual and others to identify possible problems in a relationship

You will (hopefully) be able to use your relationship with the individuals that you support to converse with them and identify possible problems within their relationship. You may also be required to work in partnership with others such as the individual’s family and friends, their advocate or the care workers of the individual that they are in a problematic relationship with.

Sometimes they may approach you to ask for support and other times, you may observe potential relationship issues and open a discourse with them about what you have seen. You may also notice changes in their behaviour that could indicate relationship problems and ask them if they would like to talk about it.

Individuals that are able to talk about issues in their relationship will often be able to identify the problems themselves, however some individuals may not even realise that there is a problem at all and may depend on their support staff to explain what is happening to them.

You may be required to share information about an individual’s relationship with others, for example if you feel there is a safeguarding concern. In these cases, it is courteous to inform the individual that you will not be able to keep confidentiality.

1.3 Work with the individual and others to analyse the causes of a relationship problem

After identifying the problems with a relationship, it can be fruitful to analyse the causes before looking for a solution.

You may need to work with the individuals that you support and others (e.g. the person their having problems with, team members, other professionals such as their advocate or social worker) to help them discover and understand the causes.

Some possible causes may be:

  • Poor or no communication between the individuals
  • Disagreements in expectations
  • Not understanding one another’s needs and/or wishes
  • Not supporting one another
  • Not displaying expected emotions
  • Difficult behaviours

Learning Outcome 2: Be able to support individuals to overcome relationship problems

2.1 Establish with the individual and others the level and type of support needed to overcome problems in a relationship the individual wishes to maintain

As a care worker, it is important that you take a person-centred approach to the support hat you provide.

This means having a discussion with the individual (and possibly others) to establish if they would like to maintain the problematic relationship and, if so, agree on the level and type of support that they would like. By working in this way, you will be promoting the person-centred values of choice, respect and privacy.

Some of the types of support you may provide include:

  • Emotional support – helping an individual understand and cope with their feelings
  • Supporting individuals to manage their own behaviour appropriately
  • Arranging/providing facilities for safe and comfortable contact and/or transport

2.2 Agree with the individual and others the best way to maintain the relationship while managing risks

If there are tangible risks involved in maintaining a relationship, it is important that you work with the individual and others (such as their family, friends, advocate and other professionals) to manage those risks effectively.

It may be agreed, for example, that the individual should only have direct contact with the other person in the problematic relationship if support staff are present, Or it may be agreed that the relationship is limited to telephone conversations only.

When agreeing on the best ways to manage risks, it is important to value and respect the views of everyone involved, even if you don’t necessarily agree.

2.3 Carry out agreed support for overcoming a relationship problem

Once the type and level of support has been agreed, you can then work with the individual to help them to overcome their relationship problems.

It is important that you stick to the scope of your agreed support role and respect the individual’s wishes and right to privacy. You should also be aware of your own limits in both experience and expertise and know when to seek support and guidance from others.

Learning Outcome 3: Know how and when to access specialist support about relationship problems

3.1 Describe circumstances that would require additional or specialist advice when supporting an individual to manage a difficult relationship

When supporting an individual to manage a difficult relationship, there may be circumstances where you require additional or specialist advice. Some examples of this are:

  • The individual asks if you can support them with their relationship on a particular day and time – discuss with your manager to find out if this could be accommodated
  • The individual discloses to you that they have been abused – pass this information on to your organisation’s safeguarding lead, social services and possibly the police
  • The individual informs you that they are pregnant – refer to GP and (if necessary) social services
  • The individual requests counselling regarding their relationship – assist the individual to find an appropriate counselling service

3.2 Identify specialist information and support for a range of relationship problems

The list in the previous assessment criterion touches on some sources of specialist information and support Below are further examples that cover sources of information and support for a range of relationship problems:

  • Abuse/neglect – Social Services Safeguarding Team/Police
  • Health issues (e.g. pregnancy, STI’s, contraception) – GP, Nurse, STI Clinic
  • Seemingly unsolvable conflicts or disagreements – Local counselling or mediation services
  • Addictions – GP, Drug/Alcohol/Gambling charities
  • Relationship education – community nurse, local colleges
  • Mental health issues – GP, charities

3.3 Describe how to access specialist information or support to help address relationship problems

Primarily, specialist information or support will be accessed by making an appointment with the relevant agency. This may be done online or via a telephone call.

In some cases a referral may be needed – for example, the first point of contact for an emerging mental health condition would be the individual’s GP who may refer the individual to a psychologist or psychiatrist.

Learning Outcome 4: Know how to support individuals to end unhelpful relationships

4.1 Describe types of support individuals may need in order to end an unhelpful relationship

You may be required to support an individual to end an unhelpful relationship that they no longer want to maintain.

It is important that the decision to end the relationship is made by the individual themselves and they have full autonomy in this choice (except in circumstances where they do not have the capacity to make this decision for themselves, in which case a ‘best interest’ decision would be made on their behalf).

The support that you provide to the individual will depend on their particular circumstances, however some examples include:

  • Emotional support – helping the individual cope with the wide-ranging emotions associated with the end of a relationship
  • Practical support – helping the individual to cut ties with the person they are ending the relationship with by assisting them to change their phone number or block the person on social media
  • Communication support – assisting the individual to communicate their decision to others

4.2 Explain how to establish with an individual the type and level of support needed to end a relationship

As with maintaining a relationship, it is important to establish the type and level of support and individual needs or wishes to end a relationship. This promotes person-centred values including choice, respect and privacy.

You would need to communicate with the individual in a way that is congruent with the information in their care plan and use skills such as active listening to ensure that there are no misunderstandings.

4.3 Describe ways to support an individual to cope with any distress when a relationship ends

There are several ways that you can support an individual to cope with the distress associated with the end of a relationship.

Simply being there for the individual so that they have someone to talk to and a ‘shoulder to cry on’ can be very beneficial to them. Remaining positive and using praise to boost their confidence can also be useful.

They may lack some understanding of what is going to happen in the future so you may be required to explain some of the potential effects of their relationship ending and how they can move forward.

You may need to support an individual by referring them to specialist services such as their GP, a counsellor or local groups.

Learning Outcome 5: Be able to evaluate the support provided for relationship problems

5.1 Establish with the individual and others the criteria for evaluating the effectiveness of support for a relationship problem

To assess the efficacy of the support that you provide to an individual with regards to their relationship problem, it is important to look at the preferred outcomes and set goals that will evaluate if you have been successful in your endeavours.

This should be planned in collaboration with the individual and any other stakeholders including their family, advocate and other professionals.

You will want to set realistic criteria that will determine whether the support has been successful or not. This will invariably mean asking the individual what they want from their relationship and which aspects of the current relationship they would like to reduce.

For example, if an individual would like a good relationship with their mother but every time they meet it results in a heated argument, you may decide that you will aim for 50% of future meetings being argument-free with a view to reducing this further as time goes on.

5.2 Collate information about the relationship and the support provided

Information about the individual’s relationship and the support you provide should be collated and recorded using your organisation’s information-handling systems.

This will provide you with the data you need to analyse if the support given has been successful or not and help you to assess what changes may be needed to the support that you provide.

5.3 Work with the individual to evaluate the effectiveness of the support provided to address the relationship problem

By comparing the information that you have collated with the criteria that you set, you will be able to evaluate the effectiveness of the support that you have provided to the individual in relation to their relationship problem.

This should be performed in collaboration with the individual themselves and any relevant stakeholders.

5.4 Work with the individual and others to revise the support provided

If the evaluation of your support has resulted in little or no positive change the individual’s relationship problem then you may need to work with the individual and others to revise the support that you provide going forward – assuming that the individual still wants to maintain their relationship.

Ask the individual what they think should be changed to benefit them more as well as getting input from other relevant people and agencies. Look at the information that you have collated and see if there are any positive aspects that you could develop going forward.

Once you have agreed to a revised strategy, implement it and begin collating data again. Set a review date and evaluate how effective it has been.