5 top tips for using one-page profiles in divorce

Sue Atkins

Sue Atkins

Written by Sue Atkins

I am a Parenting Expert, Writer, Speaker, Broadcaster, Parenting Coach and a mum! I’ve used one-page profiles in my work for many years and with my own family and can’t rave enough about their usefulness for improving communication, relationships, a child’s self esteem and self confidence

More recently I have been using one-page profiles to help children and families going through the often challenging and traumatic experience of a divorce as well as working with children whose parents have separated, experiencing  all of the changes that this can bring; from living in two different homes,  splitting their time between mum and dad, moving schools, to experiencing lots of changing routines,

This is a subject very close to my heart as more than a year ago my ex husband and I started divorce proceedings.  I discovered via Facebook that he was having an inappropriate relationship with another woman which came as quite a shock!  We had been married for 21 years and had brought up  two wonderful children and shared a full life together.  But as  I tell my clients,  divorce is a process not an event and over time you begin to see the opportunities that change can open up for you.

My children are grown up now but many of the parents that I work with have younger children and they come to me because they understand that divorce is life changing and that whilst the adults are making the decisions the children can be left feeling like everything that they knew is different, leading to feelings of powerlessness, insecurity and isolation. By using one-page profiles with families going through divorce we are able to uncover what is working and not working from the child’s perspective, what is important to them and for them and what support they need during this time. It puts the child at the centre of the decision making and brings back the focus to them so that their voices are heard above the noise of a relationship break-up.

I use one-page profiles with parents too before we sit down with the children.  Supporting mum or dad to feel empowered and in control is critical to their wellbeing and therefore their ability to support their children through divorce. The more I work with families and see the results that one-page profiles can have, the more I would like to see them being used more frequently with children whose parents are getting divorce. Perhaps it is a service that divorce solicitors could offer to their clients to help their children process this life changing event? What if all schools used them and were able to help a child communicate their feelings through their profile when things are difficult at home? I often think about how we can get this resource out there to as many people as possible so that they too can experience its benefits and feel happier and better supported because of it.

I know first-hand that one-page profiles can be invaluable to keeping communication flowing and reminding us all about what is important and to whom during divorce and I’m just glad that more people are going to hear about them through this blog. Here are, in my opinion,  the top 5 benefits for using one-page profiles in divorce:

  1. It puts the child at the centre of the divorce, ahead of the emotions of the parents, ahead of any disagreements and firmly at the heart of all decision making.
  2. It can make a child feel listened to at a time when their voice could be lost amidst the noise, drama and pain of a relationship break-up.
  3. It helps parents gain clarity; direction and confidence about what mum and dad need to do to support their child in the way they want to feel supported through all the changes.
  4. It gives children and parents who use one-page profiles a sense of choice and control at a time of extreme change.
  5. Because of the way a one-page profile is structured , the information is so simple, quick and easy to digest it can be shown to school, other family members and friends so that people outside of the immediate family can contribute to supporting the child during the divorce process.

Sue Atkins is a spokesperson for one-page profiles because she believes in their value and would like to see more people learn about and be able to use the tool in their own life. If you would like to learn more about Sue Atkins and the work she does with families please visit her website.

Carrying Sandra’s voice above the noise

A powerful example of how a person living with a mental health condition can be empowered by using a one-page profile to ensure her voice is heard.

Sandra's one-page profile

Sandra’s one-page profile

Written by: Marianne Selby-Boothroyd

Forty-seven year old Sandra likes going to church, listening to instrumental Jazz music, going to college, meeting new people and spending time with her cat, Molly. She doesn’t like it when she has flashbacks, feels paranoid or when the voices in her head take over and she can’t hear her own.

Born in Lancashire, Sandra moved with her mother, brothers and sister to the Caribbean when she was three. At 13 she returned to the UK and it was whilst living in London and attending secondary school that Sandra began to feel really isolated. As a child she was described as quiet, caring and overly sensitive. She was bullied at school where she felt she was not as clever as the other children. Leaving education at just 16 to escape the bullying, Sandra went to see her GP about her problems for the first time. But instead of getting the support and understanding that she craved, Sandra was prescribed sleeping tablets for anxiety and depression.

Sandra first tried to kill herself at just 20 years old by taking an overdose of sleeping tablets, thinking “If I just go to sleep and never wake, it will all be over”. This began a cycle which lasted throughout her twenties and thirties. Sandra’s life was mapped by frequent suicide attempts and admissions to hospital mainly under section. She experienced periods of mania followed by extreme lows and would also hear voices.

In recent years Sandra was introduced to person-centred thinking tools and was supported to produce a one-page profile. The aim was to regain control over her life, find new ways to manage her mental health (other than medication) and start looking to the future again. Sandra wants to get back into paid employment. She wants to travel. Move to a bigger house. Look into fostering. Spend more time doing the things she enjoys such as writing poetry. Much like anyone else, Sandra’s hopes for the future are all about leading a happy and fulfilled life – something that she now knows is possible by clearly communicating to people how best to support her in the here and now.

Of the profile Sandra said: “It has had a big impact on my life. It is so important to me to help others through my own experience but I find it really hard to speak in public or be in large groups. Doing my profile helped me understand the kind of support I need to prepare to be with others, being able to share this information with others has meant I have gone from strength to strength – last week I spoke at a conference full of medical professionals – I got a standing ovation!”

In 2000, there was a turning point in Sandra’s life. She was allocated a black social worker. For the first time she felt listened to – particularly in relation to her cultural needs. It was her social worker who found Fanon Resource Centre and who stuck with her for the eight months that it took Sandra to build up the courage to go there.

Sandra credits her social worker and Fanon Resource Centre for not judging her on her past, instead focusing on the present and the future. Through Fanon, Sandra started to get involved in groups and even completed college courses. For the last year she has acted as an Ambassador for Southside Partnership – which has involved speaking at public events and supporting others to identify the support they need in their recovery.

Struggling with a mental health condition is incredibly hard. The one-page profile has helped Sandra to communicate who she is, what she likes, what she doesn’t like, and how best to support her. She shares it with the important people in her life, her friends, family, doctors, mental health professionals and new people that need to understand her. With this support in place, Sandra has lots of good days and fewer bad days where she feels down and is hearing voices. She is doing a lot with her life including a three year college course learning British Sign Language with the plan of becoming an interpreter.

Sandra is now at a stage where she feels she is in recovery. She is moving ever closer to fulfilling her dreams. She still hears voices. But having her own voice carried through a one-page profile means that it can never be lost in the noise.

At the heart of support

A powerful reminder of how what might seem like a small gesture can significantly improve a person’s happiness and wellbeing. Mary was brought to tears when her support team introduced her to the home pet, after stating how important animals were to her in her one-page profile.

Mary's one-page profile

Mary’s one-page profile

Written by Lancashire County Commercial Group Care Services

Mary is 75 years old and has dementia.  She was living in a care home and we were asked to see if Mary could move to Beaconview. When we assessed Mary she was laying on her bed with the bed rails up. Mary is registered blind and has had some paranoid experiences. The staff from the home where we saw her said that ‘she liked to spend time in her bedroom’. Mary was very quiet and appeared to be quite isolated.

During our assessment, we asked Mary what her hobbies were and what her preferences were for a variety of things. We also asked her if she really did like to spend all her time in her bedroom, her answer to this was that she liked to spend some time alone. Mary also told us that she loved animals.  From this conversation we were able to create a one-page profile for Mary before she came to Beaconview.

Once Mary’s one-page profile was completed the care staff were able to read it and had an understanding of what her needs and preferences were, whilst also having a clear understanding of what was important to her.  Mary’s experience in moving to her new home was enhanced by the fact that staff were able to have conversations that were more pleasant and personal to her as a result.  Because of this all the staff at Beaconview were able to begin to build a trusting and meaningful relationship with Mary from the very moment she moved in.

We had recently bought a bunny for Beaconview and because the care staff knew from her one-page profile that Mary liked animals they decided to take the bunny to Mary so that she could enjoy its comforts.

Mary’s face lit up when she was informed that the bunny was here to see her, we asked her to put her hands out so that she could feel it. Mary was so pleased that we had ‘thought about her’ and the things she liked that she began to cry. Mary then cuddled the bunny and kept talking to him. Mary never did spend all day in her bedroom after that as she had something to focus her attention on. She felt a great sense of wellbeing each day.

Mary kept thanking the staff for what they did and although it seemed a small gesture on their part it really made a difference to her life.  The care staff were also extremely pleased that they were able to bring her so much happiness.

Having a one-page profile makes a massive difference to a person’s wellbeing, as it helps to build and form good relationships and it makes staff realise from a snap shot what is most important to a person.

The one-page profile is easy to read and easy to understand. This skill is very useful to all other professionals also.

Before we had one-page profiles it was difficult for all the staff to understand what was important to that particular person. The profiles ensure that not only is the person supported in a way that makes sense to them but that what matters to them is also included in their support.  The important bit is to act upon the individual preferences outlined in a one-page profile; truly keeping the person at the heart of all support.