Scales of Measurement

Introduction

This post is part of a series I’ve been chipping away at, where I teach basic statistics and probability. The other posts in the series include:

Variables are the outcomes of a psychological measurement. As the Australian Bureau of Statistics notes, a variable is “any characteristics, number, or quantity that can be measured or counted.” Also called data items, they are called variables because the “value may vary” and may change over time.

There are four scales of measurement used to distinguish variables:

  • Nominal/Categorical
  • Ordinal
  • Interval
  • Ratio

Nominal Variables

Nominal variables are those that separate a value into different categories. Examples of nominal variables are gender (male, female, other) or type of transportation (car, bus, train). These are categories and have no intrinsic value that allows them to be compared on their own.

Ordinal Variables

Ordinal variables are similar to nominal variables but they are ranked. These are like nominal variables but they are ranked. One example of an ordinal variable is educational achievement. A scale might look like this:

  • Less than a high school diploma
  • High school or GED
  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Graduate or first professional degree
  • Doctorate degree

These can be ranked from least education to most education, but there is no way to tell necessarily how much “more” education a Bachelor’s degree is when compared to a graduate or professional degree.

Interval Variables

An interval variable is an ordinal variable where the different items are evenly spaced. For example, income level:

  • $0-4,999
  • $5,000-9,999
  • 10,000-14,999
  • 15,000-20,000

Each one of these is evenly spaced. There must be a continuum to measure an interval variable.

Ratio Variables

Ratio variables are like interval variables but with the notable exception that “0” indicates an absence of the value. For example, in our previous example income level happens to mean no money. If we look at temperature however, 0 degrees Celsius does not mean there is no temperature. This makes Celsius an Interval Variable.

On the other hand, Kelvin is a ratio variable because 0 Kelvin really means no heat or temperature at all (as we say, absolute zero.)

Continuous vs. Discrete Variables

One more distinction is the difference between continuous and discrete variables. Continuous variables are those that can take on any value. For example, a variable that can have any number between 10 and 11 (10.48938, 10.74982, 10.9999) is continuous.

If the survey only has two values with with nothing in between (like 10 or 11) then this is a discrete variable, also known as an integer.

Why Separate Variables into Categories

It’s important to understand whether the variables we are working with are nominal, ordinal, interval, ratio, because we’ll use different statistical tests when working with different data. Coding, and other manipulations and processing of the data may also differ depending on the variable.

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Advanced Crisis Line Training

Introduction

A few years ago when I was working for Distress Centre Durham (DCD), I undertook a project to develop a new advanced training curriculum for telephone responder. Currently the Basic Training is 16 hours of in-class, plus another 16 hours of supervised phone shifts where a responder demonstrates that they have the active listening, empathy, suicide and crisis intervention skills we need for them to be on the phones independently.

After about 3 months or 50 hours they are required to undertake an Advanced Training session. This session helps consolidate some of the learning, revisit some of the classroom skills and then to build some additional skills going forward.

This training was turned into a PowerPoint that I won’t share because it contains some copyrighted Distress Centre Durham material – but you can read below for information that you could use as the foundation of your own advanced crisis line training. I’ve since made some updates so this training goes beyond the original that I developed for DCD.

Session Information

The length of the session was usually about 3 hours. The content covered was as follows:

  • Introduction
  • Burnout and Stress Management
  • Handling Difficult Calls
  • Advanced Suicide Intervention
  • Advanced Crisis Intervention
  • Discussion of Difficult Situations
  • Conclusion

Five Step Limit Setting Process

For more information on this limit-setting process, you can see my article Setting Limits and Boundaries with Callers. Briefly, the five steps are:

  1. Identify the inappropriate behaviour
  2. Identify what correct behaviour is
  3. Indicate the consequences for failing to change behaviour
  4. Give the caller an opportunity to change their behaviour
  5. Follow through on consequences (e.g. hanging up) if behaviour does not change

Active Listening Process (ALP)

For more information on the active listening process, you can see my article Active Listening Process on Crisis Lines. As a quick reminder, the different skills in the ALP include:

  • Voice Tone
  • Pace
  • Setting the Climate
  • Open Ended Questions
  • Close Ended Questions
  • Empathy Statements
  • Clarifying
  • Paraphrasing
  • Summarizing
  • Referrals
  • Winding Up

Burnout and Stress Management

What is Burnout?

Burnout is a “state of physical, emotional, or spiritual exhaustion.” It occurs when we give too much of ourselves for too long and don’t take appropriate steps to recover. Symptoms of burnout can include:

  • Becoming cynical or critical of callers
  • Being irritable or impatient
  • Feeling responsible for the outcome of calls
  • Having unexplained headaches or other physical complaints

An example of a situation I knew a responder was feeling burned out was when they took a 20 minute call with a regular caller who was dealing with relationship issues. While their on-the-phone work was good, when the call was over, they were very upset that the caller was not in crisis and just wanted to bounce ideas off the responder.

This responder felt like their time was being wasted by this caller, when we could be taking crisis calls instead. It’s clear that responder cared a lot for our callers – but they were not treating all of our callers like they were important to us. For this reason, we had a discussion about how our service is preventative and designed to both provide emotional support and crisis intervention. The responder took a leave of absence and when they returned several weeks later they were recharged and ready to support all of our callers.

Emotions on the Helpline

We can experience a range of emotions on the helpline. Some of these are positive and some of these are negative.

Positive Helpline Emotions

  • Excited
  • Grateful
  • Happiness
  • Hopeful
  • Meaningful
  • Optimistic

Negative Helpline Emotions

  • Anger
  • Frustration
  • Guilt
  • Confusion
  • Physical fatigue
  • Nightmares
  • Intrusive thoughts

What Causes Burnout?

There are a number of causes of burnout. These include working too many hours on the helpline – feeling like you’re a martyr or you always have to be there. Having your expectations set too high and expecting clients to change or improve (they call us because we’re a source of support that don’t ask them to change.)

Being isolated or having a lack of social support can increase burnout, as can a failure to debrief either with peers or supervisors after your calls. Feeling disconnected from the day-to-day events and other things happening at the crisis line can also cause increase your fatigue and burnout.

Overall, if you feel ineffective in your work you’ll be at greater risk for burnout.

Preventing Burnout

To prevent burnout, it’s important that you always debrief after tough calls. You can talk to your peer in the call room, you can talk to your supervisor. You can work fewer shifts or even take a Leave of Absence away from the Centre for a while, to recharge. Adjusting your personal life so you have a better work/life balance, and coming to Team Meetings and other social events can help you.

Finally, stress management techniques and having a strong support network will help you prevent burnout.

Relaxation and Stress Management Techniques

  • Bubble Bath
  • Hot Shower
  • Meditation
  • Physical Exercise
  • Sleep
  • Yoga
  • Others…?

Handling Difficult Calls

There are a range of difficult callers that responders can be confronted with. These include individuals with significant mental health issues, “chronic” or repeat callers who are calling for social maintenance reasons and sexual fantasizers or abusive callers who are trying to misuse the service.

Seriously Mentally Ill Callers

These individuals have significant struggles or may be actively in a mental health crisis. They might speak very quickly and not let you get a word in edge-wise, or they may be very impatient. Winding up the call be difficult and these calls can make you feel ineffective or frustrated.

Remember to keep an open mind, and remember why we support these callers. They often have few resources other than us that are non-judgemental and empathic. Let the caller vent their fears, anxieties and frustrations, but always remember the Active Listening Process (ALP).

If a caller is having delusions, we must not feed into those delusions but instead empathize with the underlying emotion. Rather than saying “Yes, there could be vans outside your house monitoring your thoughts”, say something like, “That would be really scary if it were happening.”

Social Maintenance Callers

These individuals are calling because they’re lonely. While our service provides support to them we must make sure that they do not monopolize the lines, or push boundaries in trying to collect personal information on our callers.

We will use our 5-Step Limit Setting Process if the caller wants identifying information, and try to engage the caller openly in things that they can do, or that you and them can talk about, to reduce their loneliness. When the call starts going in circles (they’re repeating themselves and not moving on to anything new), we can begin to wind up the call.

They should call us back tomorrow if they’d like to speak again, and you can discuss with staff the setting of a time limit or other restrictions.

Sexual Fantasizer Callers

These can be some of the most frustrating calls for us to deal with, because they make us question what we’re doing on the helpline. These callers are often difficult to determine as sexual fantasizers at first – they drag it out as long as possible.

When we begin to suspect that we’re speaking with a sexual fantasizer, we must remind them to stick to the discussion of the emotions of their problem. For example, sometimes we get legitimate callers who want to talk about cross-dressing, sexual orientation, or sexual fetishes. If these callers are genuine, they will prefer to speak about the emotions of those elements and how they impact those around them, rather than discussing the specific activities of cross-dressing, having sex with men, or engaging in a sexual fetish.

You might feel angry or used when the call ends if you don’t figure it out early enough. You’ll need to make sure that you debrief and put your stress management techniques into practice.

Angry or Abusive Callers

These callers are those who are calling to take emotions out on you. This can be challenging and is not an appropriate use of our service. Using your Five Step Limit Setting Process, you’ll need to let the caller know that you are here to listen if they are upset but that they cannot direct language at you.

If they would like to make a complaint, they should call the office line. Set the boundary, and if they continue then you’ll end the call. And make sure you follow through!

Suicide/Crisis Intervention

Suicide intervention is the process of assessing and intervening with someone who is at high-risk of suicide. Once you’ve done some risk assessments on the phone you’ll have a better sense of how to weave these questions into your exploration of the caller’s issues.

By starting each suicide assessment with “Have you done anything tonight to kill yourself or end your life?” you’ll be able to move smoothly into the safety planning questions. Your goal is to make sure that you have a sense of whether the caller will be safe tonight. If they will, you don’t have to worry. If they won’t, you can begin building a safety plan or support network collaboratively with the caller to make sure they will be safe.

You’ll want to conduct a suicide risk assessment:

  • Any time you suspect a caller is suicidal
  • When they tell you they’re having suicidal thoughts
  • Even if the person denies current suicidal thoughts

In an emergency, when the caller has already taken steps to end their life, you must:

  1. Change your voice tone. Become assertive, to let that caller know that they need to cooperate with you so you can get them help
  2. Collect their location, and other identifying information
  3. Tell them to unlock their door, open the door if they can, so that emergency personnel can reach them
  4. Debrief after the call with your supervisor

Example of Suicide Intervention

  • Caller explains they have self-injured today
  • Responder assesses suicide risk, they come up medium on the CPR or DCIB Suicide Risk Assessment
  • Responder explores coping strategies but they say there’s nothing they can do, they’ve tried it all and they can’t guarantee their own safety
  • Responder arranges for a taxi to take them to hospital or mental health crisis bed

Discussion of Difficult Situations

During the discussion of difficult situations, responders would talk about situations that they personally found challenging – whether or not they were covered on the above. A group discussion would help responders get a better sense of how their peers would handle those situations, and the facilitators would share their own thoughts. This helped to increase the confidence of the responders in dealing with those situations in the future.

Conclusion

We would wrap the session by thanking everyone for coming out and presenting them with an Advanced Training certificate. Completion of both Basic and Advanced Training was required for a responder to be considered a Certified Volunteer Helpline Worker.

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Basic Strategic Planning for Nonprofits

Introduction

Strategic planning is the process used to make a plan for a nonprofit or other organization over the next few years. It is a living document that helps steer the ship and ensure the organization continues to carry out its mission.

Strategic planning models and phases abound, this is just one example of a model of strategic planning that your Board can use. The OnStrategy model includes 4 components:

  • Determine Position
  • Develop Strategy
  • Build the Plan
  • Manage Performance

Determine Position

Determine the Position includes identifying the issues that you need to focus on. What are the risks and opportunities your organization is facing right now? You also need to collect information about your clients, the state of the market and other relevant information that will help you plan.

Develop Strategy

Next, developing strategy involves reviewing the organization’s mission, vision and values. What is the purpose of the organization, has it changed since your last strategic plan? What are your core beliefs (your values), and what would the world look like if your organization succeeded in its goal (its vision)? These all help you set the strategy your organization will follow.

It is important to identify your competitive advantages. What makes your organization different from the others in your industry, in your sector, in your area? This will help you later when it comes time to determine your organization’s messaging. If you don’t know your value proposition, your messaging will be muddied and this will make it more difficult for your organization to be successful.

Once you have done these things, you will develop objectives and set out strategies to help you meet those. Financial forecasting may also be part of this process.

Building the Plan

Building your strategic plan involves taking the big and long-term goals and setting smaller objectives and goals to help you on the road-map. For example, your major objectives will be set out over the next 3 years (in many strategic plans), but you need to identify goals for the next 3, 6, and 12 months – and then for the 12, 18, 24 and 36 months on the way to the next strategic plan.

You may select Key Performance Indicators that you can refer to on a regular basis (perhaps even at each monthly meeting) to know if you are on track. These could include:

  • Monthly Donations
  • Number of Service Users
  • Retention Rate of Volunteers

You will also need to create or review the budget in order to make sure the organization has the money they need to work on these goals.

Manage Performance

Finally, the last item in the strategic planning process is Manage Performance. This involves setting a schedule so that you understand when key events will be taking place and when milestones will be met. Your KPIs might be added to each agenda. You may wish to implement a quarterly review to make sure the Executive Director is still on track to meet these goals.

Finally, a one-year review will let you see what goals you have achieved and what goals remain to be completed.

Conclusion

Have you ever facilitated a strategic planning session, what was it like?

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Introduction to Life Coaching

Introduction

Life Coaching is a field that has been expanding since the 1970s with the growth of the Human Potential Movement. Life Coaching is “partnering with clients in a thought-provoking and creative process that inspires them to maximize their personal and professional potential” (International Coach Federation, n.d.)

Life coaching is frequently performed by counsellors and therapists but also by trained paraprofessionals. Although Life Coaching is an unregulated field there is accreditation through organizations like the International Coach Federation (ICF) or the International Association of Coaching (IAC).

Life Coaching vs Counselling/Psychotherapy

Life Coaching is often confused with counselling or psychotherapy. As coaching is unregulated and counselling/therapy are, coaches must proceed carefully to ensure their work does not cross over into the regulated activities of counselling or therapy with clients.

Life coaching focuses on achieving specific, concrete changes in someone’s life that are skill-based. Counselling and therapy are based around the idea of achieving normalcy or recovery from a mental health issue, while coaching clients are seeking superior performance. (Nelson-Jones, 2007)

Goals of Life Coaching

The goals of life coaching are as varied as the goals of psychotherapy clients or any other situation. For example, mid-career executives seek out life coaching to help make them better public speakers. Some will get a Life Coach to help them achieve their educational goals. Basically any part of your life (academic/educational, relationships, money, career, or others) can be fertile ground for life coaching.

When you see a Life Coach, you will participate in an assessment process to help you better understand your goals.

Life Coaching Model

Life coaching books, like counselling books, teach phase models of intervention to help you structure your contact. The Nelson-Jones (2007) Model is a four-stage, several phase model

Stage 1: Relating

Phase 1 – Starting the Initial Session

The goal in the relating stage is to build a strong working relationship, and to identify what the client wants out of coaching. The first session is the opening conversation: why is the client here?

Phase 2 – Facilitating Client Disclosure

Open-ended questions and strong empathy and rapport-building will help facilitate client disclosure. This will help the coach get a sense of the client’s resources (strengths) and weaknesses, in order to make a plan.

Stage 2: Understanding

Phase 1 – Reconnaissance, Detecting and Deciding

This involves exploring the client’s issues, to understand where the root of the problems is. Skilled questioning, reflecting back at the client what they are saying and probing to find out how they really want their life to be different is key here. The Miracle Question can be useful here: if you woke up tomorrow, and all your problems were solved (but you didn’t know they were solved), how would you know? What would be different?

Phase 2 – Agreeing on a Shared Analysis of How to Achieve the Client’s Life Goals

In this phase, you have a shared understanding of what the causes of the client’s problems are, and you’ve developed goals together to fix their problems. Then you’ll move into the intervention stages.

Stage 3: Changing

Phase 1 – Intervening

In the Changing Stage, the clients will implement the plans you’ve developed together. For example, your client may begin a journal and using a planner to improve their organizational skills, or may start taking classes in college to improve their education. The client may complete “homework” between sessions or do other work to help them stay on track, while the coach keeps track of their progress towards their goals.

Phase 2 – Ending

In the Ending phase, the formal coaching wraps up. The client and coach look together at the progress they’ve made and begin the process of tying up loose ends.

Stage 4: Client Self-Coaching

Phase 1 – Maintenance and Improvement

The Maintenance part of Maintenance and Improvement involves the client and coach making plans for the future and discussing what the client will need to do in order to maintain the improvement they’ve made.

Phase 2 – Self-directed Growth

The final phase of the model involves the client taking the progress they’ve made until now, and without the need of the coach, continuing to develop themselves.

Conclusion

This is a very brief introduction into a field in which many books and other resources have been written. Do you have anything to add? Write in the comments.

References

International Coach Federation. (n.d.) “Coaching FAQs – Need Coaching – ICF”. Retrieved on June 14, 2017 from https://www.coachfederation.org/need/landing.cfm?ItemNumber=978&navItemNumber=567

Nelson-Jones, R. (2007) Life Coaching Skills: How to Develop Skilled Clients. SAGE Publications: Thousand Oaks, CA.

Cite this article as: MacDonald, D.K., (2018), "Introduction to Life Coaching," retrieved on June 26, 2019 from http://dustinkmacdonald.com/introduction-life-coaching/.
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