Trust and Support Activities

Trust and support activities involve the creation of an experience in which the client is not in total control and is required to count on other people to accomplish the task presented. It also provides opportunities for clients to be in the position where they provide physical and emotional support and have a level of control over someone's physical safety and emotional well-being. Lots of activities involve trust and support, but these activities involve a primary element of trust as an outcome (Schoel & Maizell, 2002).

Typical trust and support activities involve issues of individuals trusting other people or being personally trustworthy. Activities aimed at trusting other people usually require letting go of control in their immediate situation. Examples of these activities include falling into the arms of another person or group of people, wearing blindfolds, or otherwise moving into a situation in which one is required to count on something other than themselves for safety and personal well being. These activities generally elicit issues relative to trusting oneself to further one's own well-being, as well as to effectively support other people (Schoel, Prouty & Radcliffe, 1988; Smith, 2005a, 2005b).
These activities are generally used after an initial engagement in the treatment has been established, such as when clients are familiar with one another or have done a series of cooperative and problem solving activities together (Bisson, 1999). They include Trust Fall, Blindfold Trust Walk, Vertical Web, Electric Fence, Mousetrap Activities, Wild Woozy, and others (Schoel & Maizell, 2002).

Reasons for Using Trust and Support Activities
These activities are appropriately named "trust and support activities" because that is precisely what they are intended to develop. Many times, clients in treatment have issues with trusting others, being trustworthy or both.

Trust activities provide a good opportunity for assessing trust and support dynamics and issues. Practitioners can observe how clients respond to activities requiring trust and how clients cope when faced with life situations in which their control is limited. Practitioners can note a client's comfort level with allowing others to provide support, willingness to trust others or take risks, ability to maintain healthy boundaries, and beliefs about supporting themselves and other people.

Developing Therapeutic Alliance
Trust and support activities can be used to deepen the therapeutic relationship, both with the practitioner or with other clients in a group setting. Practitioners and clients are able to demonstrate their trustworthiness through their actions in activities. This can work to increase the level of self-disclosure from clients and enhance the safety of the therapeutic environment (Newes, 2000).

Developing Supportive Behaviors and Interactions
Trust and support activities allow clients to explore how they use support from others or offer support to others. The practitioner can explore with clients their perceptions of different levels of trust in a variety of relationships. These relationships may include authority figures, peers, parents, family members, practitioners, or others. Clients have the opportunity to experience the positive effects of engaging in a trusting relationship or interaction with another person. Clients are also empowered to make decisions about how they will trust others. For example, does a client choose to participate in the trust fall by falling? Or does that client assert his or her own desire to catch others but not fall, setting a personal boundary? Each reaction of a client provides a useful exploration of issues related to trust and support and how those dynamics affect the client's progress in treatment. Clients can also develop some confidence in assessing safe situations and in their ability to support others in a positive way (Newes, 2000; Schoel, Prouty & Radcliffe, 1988;Webb, 1993).

Practitioner Guidelines for Using Trust and Support Activities
Trust and support activities require important consideration prior to using with clients in treatment. Clients can experience a wide range of reactions to these activities; not all of these reactions are positive. To assist with decision making, these guidelines are recommended when using trust and support activities.

  • • Attend to physical safety prior to every activity requiring trust from participants. Monitor the physical environment for safety hazards. Teach clients adequate skills such as appropriate behavior with blindfolds and safe spotting techniques. Ensure that participants are prepared and capable of providing support needed to maintain safety during the activity (Alvarez & Stauffer, 2001; Schoel & Maizell, 2002; Schoel, Prouty & Raddcliffe, 1988). 
  • • Attend to emotional safety prior to every activity requiring trust from participants. Assess the emotional preparedness of participants for the specific activity and the treatment environment to ensure that there is systemic support for desired outcomes to be achieved. Empower the client to make personal choices and take responsibility for how he or she participates. Allow client to establish personal boundaries. Reinforce emotional safety when framing activities (Newes, 2000; Vincent, 1995). 
  • • Sequence activities appropriately. Start with activities that build initial levels of trust and support between the client and practitioner. These activities can be presented early on in the treatment process to facilitate full engagement - physical, cognitive, and emotional. As client becomes more comfortable with self expression and conflict management in the treatment setting, the practitioner is able to present trust and support activities requiring increased risk by the client. Maintain a balance between the level of challenge and the client's ability to meet the challenge or accept the potential failure (Bisson, 1999; Newes, 2000; Schoel, Prouty & Radcliffe, 1988; Schoel & Maizell, 2002; Lung, Stauffer & Alvarez, 2008).