Helen is our National Trainer. She was previously a freelance trainer with Family Links, delivering training to parent group leaders.
Originally training as a nursery nurse, Helen discovered the Nurturing Programme in 2001 after her degree, when she was working at a teenage pregnancy unit. Over 20 years later, and having delivered hundreds of parent groups and, since 2005, training others to deliver groups in her capacity as Parent Group Leader Trainer, she is a huge advocate of the Nurturing Programme.
"I feel like it's part of who I am now. I'm really passionate about emotional health and I believe that society needs much more education about it because it's missing."
It’s interesting that when Helen first encountered the Nurturing Programme, she wasn’t a parent, but she went along to the training, loved it, and immediately started a group for teenage parents. She then started work in five primary schools and trained someone from every school to be parent group leaders and they and Helen ran groups together.
“I was running probably three or four parent groups a week on a rolling programme because I just loved it. You get parents sent to you who you just thought, “I’m not sure this is going to make any difference” and then it just transforms their lives in the most amazing ways. Just seeing people’s self-esteem develop during the 10 weeks - you can see a physical difference as well as an emotional difference, and a difference for their family.”
In 2005, Helen became a Family Links trainer, training people to run their own groups for parents.
“I really believe the programme is for everybody, and I try to live it as much as I can. We focus so much on mental health, but actually, emotional health probably comes first.”
Helen has worked with all sorts of people. “I’ve run dads only groups, I’ve run groups for Muslim ladies, I’ve trained lots of prison officers to deliver it in prisons. It’s for everybody, and it can work in so many different areas.”
Having delivered so many training courses across the UK, Helen has many poignant stories to share.
“One trainee came to me on day one of the Programme and said, “I don’t know why I’m here. I don’t do feelings. Work have sent me. I just need you to know that I don’t want to do this.” He was quite defensive and not very pleased, but he started to join in things like the games and stuff on day two and started to give a bit more of his experience: he’d had quite a difficult childhood. By the end of the programme, I don’t know if we’ve had a bigger advocate for it, and I know he’s still running groups and is very passionate about the Programme.”
"The thing about the Nurturing Programme and the Family Links approach that is transformational for people is self-awareness. You’re never going to make a change without it. The programme does that really carefully and gently, but not in a fluffy way, it’s quite direct. And we do deal with some really difficult topics, but it’s the way that we do it; creating a haven where we make people feel really safe and comfortable and equal. If we can just break some of the old ways and learn some new, emotionally healthy ways, then I think we could live in a completely different world. We would have a completely different society … our world would be a nicer place."
When Helen and her husband became parents, they found the Nurturing Programme invaluable.
"It gave us a framework with our kids that we both agreed on. We’ve made a pretty good team. Parenting is really challenging, but I just don’t know what I would have done without the tools that I’ve got. I think what we’re really good at is noticing when we didn’t get it right and then trying to make it right.”
Now with much older children, Helen has started to see the impact on them of using the Programme. “I’m really grateful for the Nurturing Programme in their lives, but also in my marriage and with my relationship with my mum and dad. It’s everywhere.”