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Stress management toolkit – Review

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Title: The Gower Stress Management Toolkit for Trainers and Counsellors: a knowledge-base and 34 innovative interventions for managing stress with groups and individuals
Author: Roy Bailey
Publisher: Gower Publishing Limited, 2001
ISBN: 0566082276
Price: £195

Buy this book from the TrainingZONE – Blackwells bookshop.

An A4 Ring Binder (240 pages) containing information sheets on stress management, guidance notes on the interventions and worksheets to use with individuals and groups.

The Gower Stress Management Toolkit is one of several publications produced by Roy Bailey over the past 17 years on stress management. See for example ’50 Activities for Managing Stress’ (1993). The Toolkit is designed to be used by people working in the stress management or counselling fields. It consists of two parts. Part 1, titled ‘Stress management: the knowledge-base’ provides information on stress: defining stress, understanding its causes, assessment and evaluation of three models of stress (the stress-strain model, the response model and the transactional model) and an exploration of managing and choosing stress management solutions.

Part I is written clearly and concisely yet provides sufficient detail for experienced and new trainers to find useful as background information and prompts for looking at ways of working with organisations or companies. Each of the first six sections has a contents list and a summary and the final section has a list of conclusions. Experienced trainers will be familiar with some of the content of this part of the Toolkit, particularly with the work of Selye. There is a helpful list of references and further reading at the end of the second part of the Toolkit.

Part II, titled ‘Innovative interventions for managing stress’ provides 34 activities, the majority of which can be used with groups or individuals, taking them through and working with different aspects of stress identification and management. The activities vary in breadth and depth. They cover a range of areas including for example stress and coping inventories, stress management interviewing, relaxation techniques, positive self-talk, tackling emotions, assertiveness and target setting. All the activities have accompanying guidance notes and handouts. These are all clearly explained and well laid out.

There is a good range of activities. Experienced trainers may well be familiar with many of the exercises although there are some interesting ones that do not feature so commonly in literature in this field. For example there are activities using colour and collage and one on using the sense of smell. Trying some of the exercises with individuals we found some mixed responses, as one might expect. The Demands and Coping Profile was thought to ask for too many examples, and users wanted more guidance and some model examples to be provided. Two of the activities were particularly well received – ‘Guiding Decisions’, an exercise on making decisions through relaxation techniques, using the power of both the right and left brain and ‘Defending Yourself’ which involves compiling and evaluating an inventory of defence mechanisms.

The guidance notes for the activities provided clear explanations and guidelines. However their usefulness could be enhanced in a number of ways. The provision of indicative timescales for each exercise would enable the trainer to gauge how they might use the intervention with different groups. Given that much of the material covered relies on the participants developing trust as they identify and discuss personal matters it would be useful to emphasise in the guidance notes the importance of covering the issue of confidentiality with groups and individuals and also to mention referral to specialist agencies and organisations. A short section on using the materials in a group setting would be helpful, covering such areas as ideal size, handling confidentiality, managing conflict or distress and so on. This would be particularly useful if this toolkit is going to be used by trainers new to this field.

Overall the Toolkit provides a useful bank of materials for trainers and counsellors who are establishing or building up their library of resources.

Julia Muddiman
Trainer and Consultant

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