Discovery Awareness

Discovery Awareness is a unique way of using video with a clinical team to help them develop the way they view a client, encouraging them to take the client’s point of view. During a DA meeting, the DA coach uses a range of skills to direct the participants’ focus towards the client’s posture and body language in such a way that the participants begin to shift their point of view about the client. In so doing, many participants start to become more aware about their own personal perspective about the client. What might have been thought of as meaningless behaviour becomes to be seen more as representing the client’s experience, emotion, involvement, initiative, communication, being-in-touch-with and self-management.
The DA coach helps the participants to become more aware of their own personal perceptions about the client and uses this to increase the individual participants’ interest in getting to know the client more. When participants engage with this renewed interest they can become motivated to get to know the client again. Many participants say that they become reacquainted with someone who they thought they have known for a long time.

Why use Discovery Awareness
As we know, some people with intellectual disabilities can often experience behavioural and emotional difficulties that affect both themselves and the social system in which they form a part. Things can become “stuck fast”. Their relationship with their parents, family and friends, and their support system can come under such heavy stress that their quality of life suffers to the extent that everyone feels negative, stuck and lost about what to do.
For professional and paid staff, either in an NHS service or in a community support provider, the pressures of their ‘work’ with a client can mean that their ‘view’ of the client can become clouded and unclear. For example, staff may begin to have serious concerns about the client deteriorating, they may focus on the threat and risk the client’s problem behaviour presents, and they may have difficulty in communicating and connecting with the client.
In services, often there is an emphasis on the client’s difficulties and disabilities. This usually happens simply because there is a lack of time available to ‘think’ about the client. Staff teams can often become stuck with a way of thinking and responding to a client so that everyone feels stuck fast.

It is widely accepted that any plan to help a person who has become involved in a “stuck fast” situation with others, has to be person-centred. No one would argue that the plan could be anything but person-centred and that it should include an attempt to understand their difficulties from their point of view.
The Heijkoop method starts from the point that a person’s behaviour may vary enormously, but our plan to help the person is not focused on a particular type of problem behaviour.
People with intellectual disabilities who feel “stuck fast” share many similarities although their behaviours vary; they tend to be insecure, anxious, extremely vulnerable to others, very sensitive to sensory information and can be quickly thrown “off-balance” by events and other people. Their moods can quickly change from positive to negative, and become intense.
The care staff’s view of the patient's personhood can get clouded for several reasons. For instance, serious concerns regarding deterioration of the general development, negative experiences resulting from the threat emanating from problem behaviour, difficulty in making contact or in communicating  and the emphasis on the disorder or  handicap.
In professional services, it is likely that the view of a person is clouded due to the emphasis on the disorder or handicap which often leads to a ‘explanatory way ´of observation. “He is doing this or that because of lack of ...”.
Whatever may be or was the cause, there is nothing left besides inquiring into this person. Only really seeing of this person by ‘meaningful’ observation will bring back the possibility of connecting by care staff and family members. It is the very first step to self-strengthening (Stern) which lead to a reduction of challenging behaviour.
 Awareness of body language leads to the possibility of being able to watch and to listen to the patient's personhood in a more balanced way. Moreover, this unique form of observation enables the care staff to take the patient's point of view. A balanced view combined with shifting points of view opens up the staff's perspective. What used to be meaningless behaviour is now seen as signals of experience, emotions, involvement, taking initiative, communication, being in touch and self-management.
DA - helps to deepen the staff’s observation of the client - to make it more nuanced.
Staff’s constructs about the client are elaborated - so that more relational work is possible.