As far as Psychosocial Recovery Coaches go, Hayley Silenieks is as experienced as they come.

Over the years, Hayley has refined her approach to Psychosocial Recovery Coaching. She has a unique perspective on what it truly means to walk alongside someone on their a recovery journey. We sat down with Hayley to ask about the uniquely person-centred way she delivers supports to her customers.

How long have you been a Psychosocial Recovery Coach for?

I’ve been a Psychosocial Recovery Coach since the service was first rolled out for NDIS participants in July 2020.

How would you describe your approach to Psychosocial Recovery Coaching?

I would say my approach to the role is person-centred. That term gets thrown around a lot, but it’s true – everybody is different. No two recovery plans are the same, and so no two approaches can be the same. The most important thing is morphing the Psychosocial Recovery Coaching approach to be a fit for the customer, so it’s a really big advantage that the role is so flexible and encompasses so much. It means there’s room to move and change depending on what each participant needs and where they’re at in their recovery journey.

I also take an approach that’s very different to the medical model. A lot of people have fallen through the cracks or have been further traumatised by the healthcare system in its current state. That can set people back rather than propel them forwards towards recovery.

What does recovery mean to you?

Recovery looks different for every person and is not linear: there will always be ups and downs. At the end of the day, if someone can live a life they enjoy and better handle the challenges that will always come with it, that is awesome progress.

A path through a grassy field with mountains in the background.

Psychosocial Recovery Coaching helps you navigate your recovery, and a good coach knows that recovery is not linear.

What’s something that people might be surprised to learn about Psychosocial Recovery Coaches?

Honestly, Psychosocial Recovery Coaches are just normal people. It’s not a super clinical role! We don’t come in all formal and wearing suits. It’s not about building that kind of relationship; it’s about walking alongside someone in their journey.

Another thing that can be confusing is the word ‘’coach”. While there is some coaching involved, the picture many people have of a coach doesn’t match up to what we do. It’s probably not the best word to describe our role.

What’s the most effective thing a Psychosocial Recovery Coach can implement for a customer?

In my experience, the most effective solution will differ from person to person. Again, it all comes back to Psychosocial Recovery Coaching being very subjective.

One thing that does tend to have a super meaningful impact for most of my customers is a support worker. Getting a support worker you can click with opens the door for you to do things you enjoy and get support with parts of your daily life.

“Getting a support worker you can click with opens the door for you to do things you enjoy and get support with parts of your daily life.”

I find that, when my customers get a support worker they can build a positive relationship with, their anxiety naturally goes down when it comes time to do the shopping. They also feel better about things that can be intimidating, like trying new interests or joining a new group.

Of course, a support worker is not the right solution for every person. Some people don’t need that kind of support. For instance, the best support for one of my customers was getting someone to come in and declutter their home, because that was a barrier to achieving their plan goals. It made all the difference for them and helped them function better. That’s the really great thing about Psychosocial Recovery Coaching – you get a lot of scope to find the best solutions for customers.

When it comes to the implementation of new supports, what does a typical timeframe look like?

Psychosocial Recovery Coaching has quite generous funding compared to Support Coordination, so we can take things as slowly as the customer needs. The customer directs the timeframe of support implementation, and that’s a really important part of making sure they feel comfortable with the process. Again, it’s all about being person-centred.

A group of people putting their hands together in a circle.

A big part of Psychosocial Recovery Coaching is to assemble a supportive network of people to help your recovery journey – at your pace.

How do you support someone to begin a new support or service they may be anxious about?

Feelings of anxiety and the presence of past trauma can make new supports quite scary, so I make sure I am there by the customer’s side. At this point, I already have rapport with the customer, so they have a familiar face in the room. I come along to the first meeting to make sure the customer is comfortable. Depending on their Psychosocial Recovery Coaching funding, I can attend up to three meetings with them, if it helps.

Of course, there’s also a lot to be said for helping customers navigate the NDIS. The sheer number of different supports under the NDIS can be overwhelming, but I’ve worked in this space for years so I can explain what services are and what the benefit will be for their unique situation. Once they have this information, many of my customers feel better about taking the leap. That type of personalised understanding is so hard to get from a provider’s website.

First meetings and sessions can be really intimidating. For someone with anxiety, their brain’s response is often to “just get through this”, so they’re not thinking about all the questions they want to ask. I can help my customers prepare for these situations by making a list of questions or concerns to raise, keeping them on track. I can also advocate for them and bring things up on their behalf – with their consent, of course.

Something I hear time and time again from my customers is that they like having me in their support network. I’m someone they can trust, and I can help them navigate this very complex system.

“Something I hear time and time again from my customers is that they like having me in their support network. I’m someone they can trust, and I can help them navigate this very complex system.”

What happens if, after a meet and greet, the customer doesn’t want to continue with the service provider?

After the meeting, I stick around, debrief with the customer, and get their genuine thoughts and feelings on how it went.

Let’s say the meeting is with a potential new Occupational Therapist. If the customer doesn’t want to work with the therapist, I can handle that behind the scenes and stop that working relationship. It can be very nerve-wracking to do that over the phone or via email, so I can save the customer from having to have a difficult conversation. I can also coach them through that difficult conversation if they want to develop their capacity in that way.

What’s your favourite part of Psychosocial Recovery Coaching?

There are so many great things about Psychosocial Recovery Coaching! Seeing people engage with services and become happier is definitely a highlight. It really happens and it’s so beautiful to see.

Another element of the role I love is that I’m always learning new things. I recently completed training about working with voice hearers (which we’ll expand on shortly) and it was super interesting. Training like that is very person-centred and gives you space to develop new techniques and mindsets. Training opportunities are really important to me.

Can you expand more on this training about voice hearers?

Sure! So, to start with, the “hearing voices approach” (the approach I take) is very different to the medical approach to supporting people who hear voices.

Unfortunately, hearing voices is highly stigmatised even within the systems that are designed to support people. Some people don’t realise that voice-hearing can occur as a result of many different medical and psychiatric diagnoses, not just the obvious ones.

There’s a lot of evidence to support the idea that engaging in the medical system can be detrimental to voice hearers. Within a medical framework, doctors will say, “let’s get you on medication, let’s fix you” to a voice-hearer. The truth is, hearing voices is a normal trauma response. Everyone has the potential to experience voices in the same way your heart races when you see a spider or how you freeze up when you’re about the cross a road because your friend got hit by a car. Treating voice-hearing as a normal trauma response instead of trying to “fix it” is key to recovery. Hearing voices is not really something that we should only treat with medication, because that doesn’t address the trauma underlying it.

“…hearing voices is a normal trauma response. Everyone has the potential to experience voices in the same way your heart races when you see a spider or how you freeze up when you’re about the cross a road because your friend got hit by a car.”

Can you give an example of what this looks like?

Absolutely. Let’s say Jane was hearing voices and was on medication for fifteen years without any other therapy. Let’s say she stopped taking the medication for whatever reason, and let’s say she recently got divorced and has some unresolved trauma from that. Now, Jane has an accumulation of trauma, both old and new. When the medication stops, all her original trauma is still there, plus the new stuff. Jane is so much worse off now, and it’s very likely that her voices will return and be even more distressing for her.

So, how do you approach Psychosocial Recovery Coaching when working with a person who is a voice-hearer?

The way I approach voice hearing is way more neutral and non-judgmental. I focus on identifying the trauma that has brought the voices to the surface. From there, I help the person identify the voice and work through it based on a trauma-informed framework. I take person-centredness very seriously when it comes to voice hearing and I am an affirming and empathetic practitioner. On that, if someone wants help with the voice hearing, referring them to a provider like the Humane Clinic would be a good approach – and then of course supporting them to engage with that support if it’s a good fit.

Think Hayley might be a great fit for you or someone you support? Get in touch with our friendly team to discuss a referral.