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Saol Project

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Saol Project

Mission Statement
Saol is a community project focused on improving the lives of women affected by addiction and poverty

Vision Statement
Saol is working towards transforming the way in which Ireland responds to addiction and poverty.

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Saol's current work is built around a philosophy, a set of practice beliefs that help us understand the process that people go through when making big changes in their lives.  This understanding encompasses change in general and is not specific to addiction (though it of course includes change related to reducing/stopping substance use and other behaviours), so it is helpful when approaching any change that a participant is embracing.  It is largely informed by Prochaska and diClemente’s ‘Transtheoretical Model of Change’ and Maslow’s ‘Hierarchy of Needs’.  However, after 20 years working with women and addiction, we have combined these two models, creating our own ‘Process of Re+discovery’.


We accept that it is a grandiose title!  But we kept it because it’s a huge thing to change your life and when you ‘re+discover’ without adding a defined destination, then you remain open to the positive possibilities that the more negative experiences of life have taken away.  This is more than becoming drug free or becoming alcohol free (or becoming a worker in SAOL!).  I can name all those things as goals.  But this is a ‘Process of Re+discovery’ and the work might lead to more exciting places than I believe are possible right now.

Or in more participant-friendly language:


The five platforms of the ‘Process of Re+discovery’ are:

·         Positioning: “Naming and Claiming”

Here one has to work out ‘where you are’; you position yourself in relation to your goals and wants and values.  “I am drinking too much alcohol.  I like drinking too much alcohol but I have to make an adjustment”.

It can be helpful to hear what others (including the Key Worker) has to say about ‘where you are at’, but ultimately, this is about the individual honestly naming and claiming where they are, in as much as they can, at this time.

·         Compositioning: “Dreaming and Scheming”

Here one ‘writes’ a new image of themselves.  They compose a new way of being, allowing for pressures from outside, dreams from inside and realistic schemes to create a new idea of ‘me’.

·         Transitioning: “Moving and Shaking”

This is when I begin the journey of changing.  Of course, that journey began when I asked the question, “Who am I?” in relation to this problem, but this platform is the point where I can say that I have started to do things differently.  For some, this will be lengthy, for others, brief.  Time-frame is relevant only in that it must be realistic: long enough for real change to happen; quick enough so that I am really changing. This initial change can be exciting but also tough, hence ‘moving and shaking’.

·         Evolutioning: “Seeing and Believing”

When important change happens, we ‘become’ something different, something new.  We adapt, we grow, we evolve.  It’s rarely easy; sometimes we don’t like this ‘new me’ that’s appearing; we will miss parts of the past me.  But with change comes new opportunity and new possibility.  We just need time to see it and believe it.  Evolutioning is that part of the process where I’m getting something different to what I expected. I’m no longer transitioning but rather, I’m getting to know the unexpected parts of me.

·         Actualising: “Living and Learning”

Who knows what this new me can be?  As I get used to this new me, I am becoming more than I thought could happen; I am exposed to new experiences and new ways to be in those experiences:  I am living, not existing or surviving, but embracing life and letting life teach me. For example, I thought I would do this for my recovery.  Now I am parenting/loving/working/learning/achieving in ways that I didn’t think I could.

Actualising isn’t an end point.  It is really an expression of the ‘new me’ for whom the problematic behaviour (like smoking or internet use) is no longer experienced in the same way.  I may be choosing to ‘not engage’ in the behaviour anymore and can do this better than ever before because of my ‘re+discovery’ more than I expected; that the behaviour that once was problematic use is now because of significant changes, merely recreational use. Or I can interpret this as a place where the problem no longer exists for me.  Re-positioning is always possible;


We think it is a very positive and optimistic way of approaching change.  But this ‘straight’ line of ‘becoming’ is rarely the road we travel.  There are bumps and reversals and pauses.  So while the first diagram above shows the basic, almost ‘unrealistic’ process of becoming the diagram below shows an example of what a unique ‘Process of Re+discovery’ can look like.

The diagram suggests that the individual was transitioning and needed to step back into positioning (or re-positioning); had to re-write their composition about their journey in the light of what they had experienced; and then took on the transition again.

At the point of getting used to the ‘new self’, this individual found that another ‘re-positioning’ was necessary and they re-processed all of the platforms again.  This time, for this problem/ issue, they have arrived at ‘actualising’.  That is the now. 

This process is unique. The diagram is written for an imaginary participant.  When working with an individual, you can create a unique ‘Process of Re+discovery’ with them.  Together, you can plot their path to ‘now’, examining previous experiences that have led to now.  This is very important as it can help to ensure than plans are ‘past-proofed’, in that you don’t assist the participant in setting plans that have already been tried and proved less than effective.

You will find that in the early parts of the journey, ventures into ‘transition’ were either rare or done so without awareness of ‘compositioning; and may have lasted a short period of time, without ever reaching ‘evolutioning’ (seeing and believing).

You will also find that people found themselves in ‘evolutioning’ and didn’t like what they found!  It was not what was imagined when ‘compositioning’ and the reality of the new me was not deemed desirable (re-dreaming and re-scheming is now necessary).

All of this is important for this next step in the process.  The participant is examining change again and therefore, they need to reflect deeply on where they are now (positioning) and where they really want to be (compositioning).  Participants will read your reactions, body language, questions and determine what the correct answer is ‘for you’.  It is very important that you help them find their new dreams and schemes.

That answer can be “I don’t want to change but the consequences of not changing are too big, so I better change”.  In real life, change may be necessary rather than desired.  Often, when I change, it is because the stars have aligned, not because I am ready.  I become ready as I move through each platform.  It is our task as workers to accompany someone through this process, nudging where helpful, supporting when necessary and empathising always.

This is the approach that helps us in SAOL.  We hope it is useful as you utilise these worksheets.

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