One Step at a Time

Principle 7 – One Step at a Time


In line with our values and principles we want to ensure that everyone is provided with the support they need to build upon their gifts, assets, skills and aspirations. We know that this relies upon trusting relationships, built carefully over time. We also know that for some of people it is crucial that we find ways of supporting them with the next small step that they can manage that is within reach and is at the right time. Many or our services do this already, describing it as ‘holding people’s hand’ or being ‘like a family member’, or working alongside people at their own pace.

On a practical level this theme is about working alongside people and pacing our work together in a way that is most beneficial to the person seeking support, whilst recognising the importance of deadlines and demands from some statutory services. The other element of this process is that it helps facilitate the development of a trusting relationship.

We believe that overwhelming people in crisis, or vulnerable people, with lists of ‘things you must do’ is an ineffective way of supporting people with the change/s they need and want to make. Our belief in working one step at a time is informed by Vygotsy’s (1978) concept of the Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD).  The ZPD refers to the difference between what a ‘learner’ can do without help and what he or she can achieve with guidance and encouragement from a skilled helper. The one step at a time / ZPD approach helps to locate the optimal point for an individual’s learning – an optimal learning moment or environment.

Another way to think about this is that sometimes the work required from the person seeking help and support is too easy or sometimes the work required is too hard, the ZPD is when we get it just right, or ‘just hard enough’. When the work is just right, it creates this optimal learning environment, an environment where the person seeking help can be supported to take the next step in order to make the change they need and want.


“Nobody has the power to take two steps together; you can make only one step at a time.”



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