Real-life story - Adrian Garbett

Adrian’s own mental health issues gave him insight and empathy to work with people with challenging behaviours and paved the way for his career path.

Adrian Garbett IPS employment supervisor
Employer or university Dudley and Walsall Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust
Salary range £20k-£30k

How I got into the role

In the early 1980s, after a period on invalidity benefit, I was placed on a Manpower Services Commission programme to work at a residential centre for young people with challenging behaviours. My own ongoing mental health issues gave me some insight and empathy with the residents and I was determined that this was the role to pursue.

Over the years, I had undertaken several counselling and therapy courses with a vague idea that I would move into the individual healing field at some point. I found myself taking and enjoying an adult educator qualification, allowing me to work as a visiting lecturer in further education colleges.

In 2003, I realised that, if I wanted to continue to promote employment in mental health, I would have to move to a more progressive environment. A local trust gained the European Social Fund (ESF) and skills funding for a pilot vocational service and, having worked with the manager previously, I knew that the integrity and ethical aims of the service would be high. I was fortunate to gain a senior post with them.

In 2010, the service was chosen to pilot the Individual Placement and Support (IPS) approach. This was our turning point and it  resulted in us gaining and retaining Centre of Excellence status and growing into other geographical and service areas. To date we have four services in the west midlands based on IPS.

What I do

Every day there are two parts that I look forward to. The first is seeing our clients moving forward, learning, progressing and taking control of their lives. A lot of the joy is seeing them grow and flourish, beginning to have some belief in themselves and allowing some hope back into their lives.

Secondly it is working to help staff become better at what they do such as increasing their knowledge and awareness, growing as people and moving forward. I recently saw a colleague of six years move into an IPS service management post with great responsibility and authority. I like to think that all the experiences and opportunities I gave them allowed part of this to happen.

I don’t think I would change anything about my role. It fulfils my needs to help and heal in a practical, human way. It allows me to help others to reach new levels of potential. It is of service to the community and society at large. 

The best bits and challenges

The challenge is time. As a small team, there is little spare capacity and when I am called on to develop and support new ventures, juggling my time is always problematic.

Life outside work

I study ancient military history, paint military miniatures, collect avant garde and extreme music. I support Aston Villa, practice zen meditation, walk and help run a wargames club for people with mental health issues.

I write, practise my Heathen religion, read incessantly, and try to understand the world around me through the eyes of a people on the autistic spectrum (my son and myself).

Work-life balance requires an understanding of self and the fact that one must be flexible but assertive.

Career plans and top tips for others

Opportunities for my own development arise regularly. I am supported by a manager who not only ’gets it’ but believes in the service and demands that we work with integrity.

My advice would be to immerse yourself in IPS, understand it, believe in it and practise it.

Be open to any new experiences and allow yourself to work on a human level – bring yourself into the role. I never thought that my interest in extreme industrial metal music would allow me to develop rapport with a client who was selectively mute!

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