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15.05.19

Psychologists support trainees in finding their strengths

How can trainees with special needs discover their personal strengths in order to be better equipped to face the challenges of everyday life? This was investigated in a research project led by Prof. Dr. Joachim Thomas (Professorship of Psychological Diagnosis and Intervention at the KU) in collaboration with the vocational training center in Rummelsberg. The institution which is supported by the Rummelsberg Diakonie near Nuremberg supports young people with disabilities, learning difficulties or mental illnesses on their way into professional life. Currently, the institution has approx. 210 trainees for over 40 different professions.


Diakonie in Rummelsberg/Photo: Eduard Wellmann

Diakonie in Rummelsberg/Photo: Eduard Wellmann

Over a period of one month, the participants used a smartphone app in their everyday lives to provide information on how they feel in certain situations connected to success and failure. Participants used faders to answer the question “At the moment I feel…” by fading from “tired” to “awake”, “content” to “dissatisfied” or “restless” to “calm”. (Photo: Schulte Strathaus/Press Office)

Over a period of one month, the participants used a smartphone app in their everyday lives to provide information on how they feel in certain situations connected to success and failure. Participants used faders to answer the question “At the moment I feel…” by fading from “tired” to “awake”, “content” to “dissatisfied” or “restless” to “calm”. (Photo: Schulte Strathaus/Press Office)

In the context of a psychological study, trainees at the vocational training center in Rummelsberg learned more about their strengths and abilities. At the end of the project, the participants attended the event where the results were presented and also had the chance to visit Eichstätt and the university campus. (Photo: Schulte Strathaus/Press Office)

In the context of a psychological study, trainees at the vocational training center in Rummelsberg learned more about their strengths and abilities. At the end of the project, the participants attended the event where the results were presented and also had the chance to visit Eichstätt and the university campus. (Photo: Schulte Strathaus/Press Office)

The study centered around the so-called self-efficacy expectation. “This means that a person is convinced that he or she can master difficult situations solely by relying on their own abilities and strengths. The self-efficacy expectation can be enhanced by targeted training”, explains Professor Thomas. The study was organized by the doctoral candidate Anna Moraß and collaborated with the vocational training center in Rummelsberg, from which approx. 30 trainees in their first training year participated. At the beginning, participants had to fill in a written questionnaire assessing their own self-efficacy. A focus was placed on performance-based and social aspects: Am I able to achieve good results in my training although others do not believe this? Can I actually pick up the phone and call a friend who is mad at me because I had a recent fight with him? Following this initial questioning, the young men and women had to download a smartphone app which questioned them on their current mood three times a day for four weeks and which was also tracked situations connected to success or failure. On the basis of the data collected in the participants’ everyday lives, the Master’s degree students Fatma Barutcu and Kathrin Peter met with the participants at the end of every week to look back on the events in coaching sessions: How did the participants’ mood develop during the past days? Which strengths and abilities were applied in which situations?

The participants’ feedback at the end of the study showed that the trainees were able to get to know themselves better by applying continuous reflection upon their actions in certain situations and were able to develop a better feeling and sensitivity for how to use their strengths and abilities. “I have become more self-confident, happier and more positive”, said one participant. In general, the young adults liked that they were given the chance to speak to the psychologists openly, which helped them to focus on the positive aspects of their everyday lives. “The study enabled us to look into new ways of providing support for our trainees. You discover new sides by offering a coaching which is conducted by external contact persons and combined with questionnaires on the trainees’ everyday lives”, says Matthias Wagner, head of the vocational training center in Rummelsberg. One thing is certain: the project has definitely helped participants in becoming more self-confident.