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Social Workers, welcome!

Looking for resources that are tailor-made for your profession? You have come to the right place! St Luke’s Innovative Resources has its origins firmly in the social work sector. Our publishing and training social enterprise has literally grown out of social work practice at St Luke’s in Bendigo, Australia. St Luke’s runs numerous programs for children, youth, adults and families including disability, mental health, out of home care and community services.

As the publishing arm of St Luke’s (now a division of Anglicare Victoria), Innovative Resources creates and publishes card sets and books that are steeped in ‘strengths-based practice’. Social workers will know that this is a way of working with others that seeks to build and mobilise people’s strengths. It focuses on hopes for the future and what is working well, rather than on problems and deficits.

Our card sets can be used to explore:

  • what is happening in a client’s life
  • their strengths and resources
  • their stories, feelings and relationships
  • keys to building their own resilience
  • their best hopes for the future
  • their progress and steps along the way
  • a strengths approach to client recording and supervision

It was the desire to create a simple set of cards for naming and talking about strengths that gave rise to Innovative Resources’ very first publication, now over twenty years oldStrength Cards. This was quickly followed by The Bears—a set of cards for talking about feelings—and in this way a publishing house was born out of a social work organisation!

Innovative Resources has now published over 60 original conversation-building tools that are used in Australia and in many other countries throughout the world. Social work has provided the values and vision behind our cards sets, books and stickers; and social workers are among those who provide inspiration, guidance and feedback for the creation of our resources.

Social workers in diverse roles will readily recognise the intent to embed principles of self-determination, respect, and social justice in our card sets. Client groups may include children, families, individuals with disabilities, addictions and mental health issues and people struggling with an array of personal and social problems.

All human service professions can incorporate Innovative Resources materials in their conversations but it is social work that has provided the impetus and scope of these practical conversation-building materials.

Strengths-based, Solution-focussed Resources

The card sets, books and resources produced by Innovative Resources arise out of solution-focused and strengths-based practice and principles. Our focus on strengths and ‘seriously optimistic’ hopes for the future is a core thread that flows through all our resources.

The time-honoured and iconic resources for working with strengths are:

Nature of StrengthsFor a newbie in our strengths repertoire have a look at The Nature of Strengths. This is a stunning set of 28 cards with exquisite original water colour paintings in the style of an eighteenth-century naturalist’s notebook. Each card describes a characteristic of a plant, animal or insect such as: Choosing Wisely, Changing Direction, Having Heart, Letting Go, Tuning In, Standing Solid. Use these cards to help clients build these strengths or skills in their own lives. Have a look at this one—you can ‘ooo’ and ‘ahh’ over the exquisite illustrations of artist, Robyn Spicer—but more than that, this is a fantastic tool for anyone to learn from the genius of the natural world while building their own life skills and resilience.

The strengths focus is directly named in the title of many more of our resources. All of the following can be used as doorways out of a focus on problems and into hopeful possibilities. Have a look at:

Talking Up Our Strengths (photomontage card set with an Indigenous focus)

Choosing Strengths (great for teens and adults)

The Nature of Strengths

Angels: the strengths of everyday kindness

Baby Strengths (a tool for expectant or new parents—focusses on bonding/attachment behaviours)

Our Scrapbook of Strengths (family and community strengths)

Strengths in Teams (for building relationships and teams)

Change by Design—the strengths of shared leadership (for teams and organisations)

Social Justice

Social workers also have an acute awareness of social structures that discriminate and disadvantage people. A number of Innovative Resources books and card sets confront issues of fairness and justice and aim to build organisations and communities of respect and inclusion.

Card sets with a strong social justice focus include:

Emotions & Feelings

We live our whole lives in the company of our emotions and yet it can be very difficult to name and share our feelings with others. Sometimes we can be so overwhelmed by our emotions and body signals that we don’t even know where to start in trying to express them! And often we humans are experiencing more than one emotion at a time—sometimes seemingly contradictory ones. We can be sad and happy at the same time, we can be bereaved and relieved, scared and excited, nervous and courageous. It can be very confusing—especially when we are under pressure and doing it tough for any reason.

Emotions are often at the centre of counselling conversations. The skills to recognise, articulate and manage feelings (and to empathise with the feelings of others) are fundamental to emotional intelligence. They are also core features of a nurturing and compassionate family, community or society. Developing our emotional intelligence is a life-long ‘work in progress’ for most of us.

One of the primary publishing arenas of Innovative Resources is emotions and feelings. Any of our emotions cards will find a natural home in the tool kits of psychologists, counsellors and therapists.

These include:

  • The Bears: the absolute classic for talking about emotions, and still the best selling of our resources. Can be used with adults and children alike, and has no words so very versatile with non-English speakers or even very young children.
  • Funky Fish Feelings: all the colour of the sea with a bunch of ocean creatures letting their feelings out
  • My Feelings: small format cards with emotions and body signals for boys and girls)
  • Stones …have feelings too!:Cartoon ‘stone’ characters showing emotions with possible words for naming those emotions on the back)
  • Ups and Downs: A little pink character adrift on a sea of emotions in a bathtub. Life is full of Ups and Downs. Use these to help develop the navigation skills.
  • The Kangas and The Koalas: mini-sized packs of 20 cards all depicting primary emotions)
  • Girltopia: especially for girls around puberty, and woman of any age—feelings, relationships, body image, healthy choices. This is a brilliant (and very beautiful) resource written by Jane Bennett, internationally-acclaimed author, counsellor and educator specialising in working with girls at puberty. This is an area of work set to take off big time.
  • Car R Us: Derived from Choice Theory these cards provide many ways for working with children and adults to build emotional literacy and their capacity to make good choices in their lives. If you are looking to engage boys, this is a good one to try as the car metaphor can sometimes capture their imaginations and interest more readily than other metaphors may do.

Resources for Working with Children & Families

While most of the card sets, picture books and stickers produced by Innovative Resources can have a place in the tool kits of family workers, some have been produced particularly with families and children in mind:

Our Scrapbook of Strengths (strengths of families and communities)

Kids’ Skills (book)

Baby Strengths

Talking Up our Strengths (Indigenous focus)

Two Worlds (supporting children and parents through separation and divorce)

Positive Parenting (available March/April 2015)

My Feelings (children’s emotions and body signals)

Mates Traits (preventing bullying and building relationships)

Can-Do Dinosaurs (building competencies for the littlies)

Strength Cards for Kids (watch kids blossom as they focus on their strengths)

The Bears (and please see all our other resources for working with emotions and feelings)

The Wrong Stone and Captain Grumpy (two picture books by Russell Deal with messages of inclusion and valuing who we are.)

Jelly Bean’s Secret (novella for children about the death of a grandmother. You will find a resource to help grieving children here)

Rosy and Jack (picture book that provides a resource to assist children who have experienced sexual abuse)

Resources for Mental Health and Scaling

Scaling is a wonderful way of tracking and evaluating anything—whether it is the practitioner who is making the evaluation, or the client who is engaged in their own assessment of how they are doing mentally, physically, emotionally and with goals and relationships. The Scaling Kit DVD has 10 different digitally-interactive scaling templates including a thermometer, a balance, a water tank and a pathway. These can be used with individual people or groups to measure change and progress including how someone is tracking with anxiety or depression, their levels of energy, enthusiasm, fear, anger, happiness (or any emotion), progress with a project or even fund-raising activities.

Growing Well uses illustrations of a seed growing into a tree to measure how someone feels they are tracking in various aspects of their lives such health, relationships, ability to be organised, feel satisfied, and so on. This tool has arisen directly out of university mental health research and social work programs. The Growing Well cards can be used for tracking a client’s journey by scaling how they feel they are travelling in terms of the key indicators of health and wellbeing.

Picture books are powerful learning tools for adults and children alike. I See You is a small format picture book for teens and adults that provides a window into depression. The Wrong Stone is for anyone who may feel different or isolated, and wonder where they fit in the scheme of things. The Wrong Stone is a picture book that is both humorous and soulful. It is a delightful re-telling of a time-honoured metaphor—the stone the builders rejected—and its message is that everyone has a rightful place in this world.

Also take a look at our resources for narrative practice such as Storycatching, Two Worlds, Picture This, Talking Pictures and Inside Out Journalling Kit.

Resources for Separation and Divorce

When a couple separates, one world becomes two. When that couple has children, they too face the challenges of navigating their way through the two new worlds of their parents. These challenges, both practically and emotionally, can be daunting for adults and children alike.

When relationships end, the pain of separation is often raw and difficult for everyone. At these times, it can be especially challenging for children to express their feelings and have their voices heard by the adults around them.

Two Worlds is a set of 48 cards with gentle water colour illustrations to help provide a voice for anyone, of any age, touched by separation, or experiencing significant transitions and life changes. Designed by experienced separation counsellors and child and family therapists, Two Worlds is a unique resource for building healing conversations with anyone experiencing ‘seismic shifts’ arising out of such things as career changes, moving house, loss of a loved one, and the dislocation experienced by refugees and migrants.

Goal-Setting with Youth and Adults

Many resources made for adolescents miss the mark because the graphic style and language simply do not appeal to this age group. Reflexions is a set of cards that seems to have captured the right visual edge for youth. It is a set of 32 cards or stickers using street and techno style photographic montage for encouraging young people to explore their lives. What do I think? How do I feel? What is important to me? Where am I heading? How will I get there? Each card features a key word and a montage of photographs to illustrate some of the nuances of meaning. By encouraging conversations about the hard stuff, the good stuff and how we get to where we want to be, this is a powerful tool for building identity, self-esteem and goals in adolescents. All of the models for the pics are Indigenous youth.

Views from the Verandah can be used with youth and with adults in any setting where important decisions are being made. Using light-hearted, cartoon illustrations with a key word, this set of 54 cards helps identify the things that we aspire to when choosing our priorities, careers and lifestyles.

While any of our tools can be used for goal-setting, depending on the contexting questions asked by the practitioner, also have a special look at:

Life Tweaking

Cars ‘R’ Us

The Nature of Strengths

Choosing Strengths

Reflexions

Making Good Choices

Strengthening our capacity to make conscious choices: this is a key life skill for each of us—and one that we can refine and strengthen for our whole lives. For young people who are doing it tough—perhaps without good supports and role models around them—this is a vital skill to begin developing.

Several of our resources have been inspired by Choice Theory and Reality Therapy. These card sets provide many ways for working with children, youth and adults to build their capacity to make good choices in their lives. This magnificent capacity is high on the wish list for most of us—whether client or practitioner.

Cars ‘R’ Us uses the metaphor of a car for talking about our lives: our goals, feelings and actions. Who is in the driver’s seat of your car? Are you applying too much brake or too much accelerator? Is your tank running on empty? Who is in the passenger seat? While the colourful, raucous car characters appeal to children and adults alike, if you are looking to engage boys in particular, this is a good one to try as the car metaphor can sometimes capture their imaginations and interest more readily than other metaphors may do.

Note_To_SelfNote to Self is powerfully reflective tool. It invites us to look at where we are heading and how we can be in charge of the direction we take, the decisions we make, and the life we lead. Terrific self-care resource for practitioners as well.

Choosing Strengths combines exquisite illustration, photography and design with strengths that we can choose. Each card starts with ‘I Can Choose to be …’ Young people and adults alike respond to this stunning resource.

Girltopia is a fabulous resource by social worker, author and counsellor, Jane Bennett, for working with girls about to enter puberty, teenage girls and women of all ages. Encourages body and relationship awareness; opens conversations about feelings, choices, identity and self-esteem.

Supervision and Ethical Dilemmas of Practice

  • How is ‘supervision’ done in your practice, organisation, hospital or university?
  • Does it create dynamic learning for both the supervisor and the person being supervised?
  • Or is it somehow falling flat?
  • Does the mere word ‘supervision’ have you running for the hills or does it excite you with possibilities for professional growth and learning?
  • And what might strengths-based, solution-focussed supervision look like?

Have a look at A Vision for Supervisionand consider using this resource to plan and invigorate your supervision sessions. This card set arises out of the work of Roger Lowe (registered psychologist formerly teaching at Queensland University of Technology) and can be used to plan and conduct dynamic strengths-based, solution-focused supervision in any human service field. It can also be used by educators and trainers to teach about the purpose and skills of supervision.

Also watch out for Walking the Boundaries—a set of cards for conversation and reflection about ethical and other dilemmas that arise in practice. Each of the cards asks a question starting with ‘Would you ever …?’ and provides opportunities for vigorous conversations about thorny but very practical issues that social workers face. Due for release in June 2015.

Opening Doorways with Great Questions

The right question at the right time is very powerful. In many ways questions can be more interesting than answers. Answers can be fluid—they may change with time. And some questions—perhaps we can call them ‘living questions’—do not seem to have answers as such; perhaps ‘responses’ is a more appropriate word? Take for example, the hoary old chestnut: ‘Who am I?’ Pondering this question over time and noticing how our responses vary at different stages in our lives, generates insight and self-knowledge. Whether existential or extremely practical (such as ‘What’s for dinner?’), questions can be very welcome doorways into possibility when things are getting tough and hope seems to be in short supply.

Optimism Boosters is a simple pocket-sized set of cards that is very effective at bringing some fresh air into any situation. Authored by consulting psychologist and clinical nutritionist, Selena Byrne, these cards feature a simple question to awaken possibilities, goals and strategies for moving forward. While just so simple, these little cards can pack a big positive punch. A client can pick a card that will be their ‘question for the day’ or ‘question for the week’. They can select a question that really intrigues them or feels like a way forward for them … or perhaps a question that surprises them. You can use Optimism Boosters near the end of a session. Invite the client to pick a question to take away and ponder or journal about, and bring their thoughts and responses to the next session.

Deep SpeakDeep Speak is another fantastic questions-based resource. This one works well for many young people both visually and in how it lends itself to many playful activities. Made up of a single question on each card—some meaningful, some surprising, some puzzling, and some just plain hilarious—these cards are tailor-made for storytelling and laughter. Deal them out and play card games … or ask a client to select a few at random (or deliberately) and use this as a way to get to know the client or group a little better. You can also pre-select some cards from the array if you wish to narrow the focus and style of the questions.

Life Tweaking is a boxed set of 50 cards plus booklet that belongs in the ‘tool kit’ of anyone who works with others to bring about change. For this reason it is tailor-made for social workers, counsellors, therapists, psychologists, life coaches and mentors. Through questions, conversation, storytelling and reflection, Life Tweaking provides opportunities for people to identify their key strengths, values, priorities and next steps. Each card features: a key topic (such as Goals, Happiness, Health, Risks, Teamwork, Balance and Money) and two carefully-chosen, gently-challenging questions that go to the core of counselling and life coaching conversations.

Other resources that feature questions include:

Note To Self—a beauty from the practice wisdom of Choice Theory. Use for goal-setting, self-care and strengthening the capacity to make choices.

Cars ‘R’ Us—includes 52 cartoon-style car characters with a set of 10 Thinking Bubbles featuring questions drawn from Choice Theory.