The barefoot helper
Mindfulness and creativity in social work and the helping professions
By Mark Hamer

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'I endorse it wholeheartedly.' The Guardian's Barefoot Doctor.

To change their lives, clients need to be able to be creative. If our own creativity is stifled then it becomes difficult to foster the creativity in others that would encourage them to pursue the kinds of lives they would hope to have.

If your job involves helping people who are going through difficult times, and helping them change their lives, then the ideas in this book may help you to do your job better, stay sane and be happy.

Sometimes the systems that we work within can breed a sense of hopelessness in workers, taking excitement and creativity away from us. If our role is to help people to be free of the shackles of destructive behaviour patterns, self-defeating thought processes, poor skills in parenting, self-care, relationships and communication... If we are to help people to create new lives, then we as workers need to feel creative… We need to feel free to do work that is personal and individual to the client's unique needs. We need to feel that we can be happy in our work: effective and professional, but also able to be our own unique individual selves.

The Barefoot Helper is about celebrating the human spirit and embracing the creativity that defines human beings. It encourages clients and workers to understand who they really are and what they really want; and helps them to create clear goals based on their insights. It is a synthesis of ideas: from Taoism, Yoga and Hindu philosophy, Christian Mysticism and Occult thought, Zen Buddhism… and from Brief Solution Focussed Therapy, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Motivational Interviewing, Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Life Coaching. All suggest that happiness comes from:
  • doing the least harm
  • focused effort
  • clarity of thought
  • respect
  • awareness
  • clear goals
  • taking time not just to act and do things but also sometimes to stop 'doing things' and experience life directly.

  • The Barefoot Helper explores how this philosophy needs to be embodied equally by managers and within teams who work with vulnerable clients, so that we create progress in the gentlest and most holistic way possible whilst doing the least harm. It encourages us to be aware of where change occurs naturally, so that we can encourage and empower that change. It allows the client to grow in their own direction at their own pace, and allows the worker to value, feed and nurture their growth.

    The Barefoot Helper lets you experience the very life of spontaneous engagement with another human being, experience the full joy of living and being, while doing not just good work, but fantastic work. Written in a spirit of celebration, it reminds us that - as workers - we are a positive force in the world. Intensely practical and useful, it will help you to think about how you work.

    Paperback. 112 pages. 978-1-905541-03-4. Published 2006. £14.95.


    Social workers - students, teachers, practitioners, managers - and anyone else who works with people - sick people, hurting, abused or abusing people, violent people, people without hope, failing people, drug misusing, drinking, worried or frightened people. This includes: youth workers, mental health workers, substance misuse workers, criminal justice workers, carers and health workers.


    Who is this book aimed at?
    Where we are: the state of social work
    Creating change
    Your self is the best tool that you have


    Mark Hamer
    is the author of Preventing Breakdown: a manual for those working in families and the individuals within them (RHP 2005), based on work done in the Option 2 Project in Cardiff, an award winning service that works with families in crisis.


    'Mark Hamer has a rare facility for planting the seeds of positive change and genuinely help people to use their own creativity to break out of harmful behaviour patterns. His book is written for anyone whose work is devoted to alleviating human suffering. It provides the self-empowering tools and philosophy to do so effectively and remain sane. Mark's love shines out through every word - the book's filled with compassion and joy and yet is immensely practical. If you work in the caring professions you could do far worse than to spend a few hours reading this. Doing so could change your life and by extension, the lives of everyone you touch, for the better. I endorse it wholeheartedly.' The Guardian's Barefoot Doctor.

    'For anyone whose work is involved in alleviating human suffering. Hamer's positive approach shines out through every word and the book is filled with compassion while remaining very practical... the ideas in this book might help you to do your job better, stay sane and be happy.' Addiction Today.

    'A refreshing discourse on regaining the soul of social work by becoming more authentic people ourselves. It's a practical book as well as offering an intellectual challenge to the way we think about modern social work. It's a good read and, who knows, it could be the start of social work ridding itself of its corporate dullness and becoming the exciting, creative profession that seduced many of us in the first place.' Well-being e-newsletter.

    'Based on science and logic, and focuses on the whole person... At a time when the role and purpose of social work is being reviewed, this is a timely reminder of these values and a refreshing change.' Children Now.