Planning for stress-management training
This module provides a lot of material on planning and running stress-management training for national staff. There will be no “one size fits all” with this topic. It’s always important to take the culture and participants into account, so try to learn as much as you can about these before planning the training.
We’ve included an outline of some topics to cover, and some ways to make training interactive and interesting. However, these are just ideas to get you started. You will need to select from and adapt these depending on how much time you have available and the needs and educational level of the group. You may also want to include additional material.
There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to stress-management training. It is always important to take the participants and the culture into account, so try to learn as much as possible before planning the training.
Stop and Think
- What might be the benefits of offering stress-management training to your national staff?
- What challenges might you need to overcome?
Questions to consider before offering stress-management training
1. What are the aims of stress-management training?
One of the first things you should consider when planning for stress-management training is what you most want staff to get out of such training.
Among many other things, stress-management training can help staff:
- Understand what stress is;
- Recognize signs and symptoms of stress (in themselves and others);
- Realize that these symptoms are normal for people involved with humanitarian work or other stressful situations;
- Learn ways to reduce or prevent stress, including using problem-solving; and
- Identify strategies to deal with symptoms of stress.
2. Who are the best people to provide the training?
They may be people who have provided similar training to other NGOs, or other people who have a good understanding of stress and cross-cultural issues. Consider whether it would be better to use an expatriate trainer, or one from the culture, or both. We recommend that facilitators have professional training and experience in a mental health profession.
3. When is the best time for the training?
Training should be during working hours, with staff relieved of their jobs for that time. Therefore, it should not be at a busy time when deadlines are due. You may need to offer the training more than once so that people can attend in shifts, while others cover the work.
4. How long will training take?
Some organizations say they can spare staff for only half a day – but might run the training in two parts, separated by a few weeks or months. Others run a one-day or two-day training event.
5. Where should it be held?
It should be outside the office so that people are not distracted by colleagues, phones, and work activities. A pleasant venue with good food will help (e.g. a hotel).
6. Who should attend?
It is good practice to invite all national staff to attend. If you have just a few expatriates on the team and they get on well with the national staff, it may be appropriate for them to attend as well. Alternatively, inviting just national staff can help them to feel valued and listened to, and help them to talk freely. You may want to ask national staff what they prefer.
7. How will you ensure that national staff attend and gain from the training?
Here are some ideas:
- Consider making it a mandatory work activity;
- Give information beforehand that will arouse interest and make it sound attractive;
- Use an interesting and trusted speaker who can maintain confidentiality on any sensitive issues;
- Provide good food and a pleasant venue where participants will feel comfortable and be able to talk freely without being disturbed by noise or other distractions; and
- Award attendance certificates.
8. What is the best style of learning?
Consider learning styles in the culture, and whether the participants can all read. What will work best – a lecture? invited speaker? group discussion? activities? role-plays? sharing personal stories?
9. What if some participants can’t read? Or they can’t read in the trainer’s language?
In these cases avoid handouts and other written materials. Instead use discussion, drawings, role-plays, acting, interactive games, sharing stories, and other forms of learning. If they can read but not in the language of the trainer, have handouts translated in advance into their own language.
10. What materials do you need?
Training can be provided with equipment no more technical than a marker board or flip chart for writing or drawing. Pens and paper for participants, as well as small rewards (see the next section) will be helpful. Printed handouts are helpful if participants can read. If you have the technology to support it and your trainer would find it useful, an overhead or data projector can help.
11. Will you need interpreters? If so, who is appropriate in this role?
Interpreters need to be people who can be trusted to maintain confidentiality, who can cope with translating emotional issues, and who will be able to make sure they understand what they are translating without adding or subtracting from it. (See advice on using interpreters [PDF].) It will help to discuss how to translate any special phrases or acronyms in advance, as well as any handouts, slides, etc.
12. How will you create trust?
Participants can benefit from stress-management training even without speaking to each other5. But they will often learn more if they are able to talk about their own stress with one another, and the training workshop in this module is designed with that in mind. Consider how to create an environment that will foster open discussion. Try to ensure the staff attending can trust each other, the trainer, and the interpreter. How will you explain what you mean by ‘confidentiality’?
Stop and Think
- What are the specific answers to all of these questions in your work context (e.g., for question 1, what are two or three specific things you most want staff to get out of this training)?
- What do you need to find out to answer the questions more fully?
Next: Tips on giving stress-management training