Friday, June 24, 2011


Have you ever discovered, to your utter surprise, that a milestone you’ve been chasing has somehow been reached—and you didn’t even notice? Well, if it hasn’t happened to you, as I suppose it possibly has not, that I truly hope it will.
This week it happened to me. The realization dawned with startling clarity in the middle of Wednesday afternoon as I distractedly jotted rushed notes in preparation for a Thursday lunch meeting. I answered a phone call, made an appointment, then returned to my notes. I read over the first point. The first point said: We now have an identifiable, replicable transferable body of knowledge that we can use for practice, research and teaching. In our own practice we refer to it as Hope-Focused Counselling, or simply Hope Work. In the teaching context we call it Hope and Strengths Tools For Counselling and Group Work. It was a surprise to see that I had written this, and also that I could provide evidence that it was true.
I was not the only one working on notes. Preparing notes for the same meeting, our Director of Research, dr. Denise Larsen had written: “Our research appears to be the only sustained, ongoing program of applied research on hope in the world. Specifically, we research *how* to work effectively with hope. This draws international attention, including international visitors and correspondence, and some programming. Our service programs are documented and delivered in a manner that makes them highly researchable. Indeed, we have ongoing funded programs of research with both our school-based work and community counselling service. In short, we are a well-organized and collaborative team, working to the mutual benefit of our research and service. This makes it possible to provide very unique research of excellent quality with high external validity to international practice and research communities.”
Across the room at the meeting sat Lenora LeMay, the team member who has done parallel work beside me for years, adapting hope tools and strategies for use in classroom setting and youth projects. It is Lenora who made a book of my early group work with teachers on disability. It is Lenora who offered a conversion of the boring counselling and research language of hope threats and barriers to the vibrant engaging language that describes threats and barriers as hope-suckers.
It takes a team of extraordinary people to create an on-going sustained program of applied research on hope. You could see it at the meeting. There were people who had supported the Hope Foundation for a long, long time, and people who were quite new to the work, yet very interested. The were people who had played multiple roles, board members who had used the hope materials in their places of employment, board members who had once been clients, staff who had been clients or volunteers.
Not in the room, but still very present, was Dr. Ronna Jevne, the person who started the Hope Foundation, the one who introduced me to hope work back in 1995. At that time we had the writings of a few wise hope theorists, combined with Ronna’s practical ideas, her inspiring presence and her unshakable commitment to building a resource team that could develop the practice of hope work. The objective of having an identifiable, replicable transferable body of knowledge that could be used for practice, research and teaching was her goal. Not an aim that could be accomplished by a single individual or in a neatly defined plan, it was the type of thing that could only be advanced by many cogs in a wheel of human effort rolling forward.
Call me a cog! This is the end of a week during which I felt particularly proud to be part of a team that has worked hard in relative obscurity for a long time on something that felt important. I felt enthusiastic about the prospect of working with the foundation that has been laid. As I left the meeting to begin a conversation with a client who was in pain, I turned for direction to the body of knowledge that informs our counselling and group work. That body of knowledge, ever growing, open to investigation, translatable into formats that meet the continuing heducation requirements for various professions, felt important still.

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