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Q&A with New Validation Support Group Leader

Editor’s Note: The Validation Training Institute (VTI) will offer a free, monthly online “Validation Support Group” that starts on Feb. 22 (5 p.m. PST, 8 p.m. EST). Today, we’ll meet Validation Teacher Odile “Olga” Lavault, who will be leading that group. For more information on the group, see the Validation Support Group announcement, or e-mail Validation Training Institute Manager Jana Stoddard at jana (at) vfvalidation (dot) org.

VTI: Thank you for joining us today, Olga. We at VTI are very excited you are starting this Support Group for so many reasons. In your own words, why do you think caregivers should consider participating in the group?

OL: The support group could be a way to continue the supervised practice at the heart of the Validation Worker courses. The respectful feedback given to the participants will encourage them to be more confident and creative, even if their work environment feels challenging.

VTI: Who can most benefit from the support group?

OL: The group would be particularly useful to certified Validation workers who feel isolated in their work environment. Maybe they are the only Validation trained person on staff; maybe they are hesitant to discuss difficulties within their work environment; maybe there is no structure available to evaluate and improve relationships between staff and residents.

VTI: So, where do you live now?

OL: I have lived in Berkeley, Calif., for the last 24 years. I was born in Paris, France, where I lived until 1992.

validation, dementia, Odile Lavault

VTI: What do you do for a living?

OL: I am a musician and a recreation therapist. I work as life enrichment coordinator in a 380-bed nonprofit skilled nursing facility in San Francisco.

VTI: What do you like to do when you are not working?

OL: I ride a bicycle or I walk. I write nonfiction. I take tai chi and improvised dance classes. I hang out with family and friends. I cook, I sew sometimes. I participate in musical projects.

VTI: What/who got you interested in Validation?

OL: Back when I was a full-time musician, I was volunteering in a small nursing home leading an art class for older residents with major physical and mental challenges. The administrator sent me to my first day-long Validation workshop as a thank-you gesture. At the end of the day, spent watching Naomi Feil, I decided to become a Validation teacher!

VTI: How long have you been a teacher?

OL: I completed my teacher certification in 2012. I received my Validation training in France and in the United States. It is one of the advantages of studying a method taught all over the world with the same curriculum.

VTI: Was there a specific moment when you first realized Validation worked? If so, what was that moment?

OL: It could be the day I decided to lie on the floor, next to a 99-year-old disoriented woman who did not want to get up. We were able to connect in a mostly nonverbal way. She could see I cared. Five minutes later we were both up, me playing the accordion and her singing.

VTI: What is the most challenging part about practicing Validation?

OL: Not doing too much, not coming in with a plan. Being open to improvisation.

VTI: What the most important thing Validation has taught you?

OL: Each individual has the unique capacity to process their issues and heal. What might seem meaningless might be part of a healing process. Everything that is expressed verbally or not is valuable.

Thank you Olga for helping to lead this important group!