Meet Nigel Osborn

VTN program graduate and proud member of VTN’s National Peer Support Team

David B canadian armed forces in front of tutor jet
David B canadian armed forces in front of tutor jet

I first found out about the Veterans Transition Network (VTN) in early 2021 when I received some flyer information through the Royal Canadian Legion branch I belong to. I am an allied services veteran having served nearly 23 years in the British Army. I count myself lucky having come back from operational tours in one piece and what I believed to be of sound mind and body. I have always looked for ways to pay it back or forward to those who are or have served, and VTN seemed to resonate with me as something I wanted to be involved in.

I reached out to VTN and asked how I could be of help to them, I was told that to carry out peer support work I had to first attend the Transition Skills Course (TSC), as I needed to experience the course as a student before I could go on to do any support work. My response was sign me up, I am willing to get the tick in the box so I can go on to help others.

“As we went through these various subjects, I found that things were really starting to resonate and click with me. I started to learn a lot about myself and why I behaved in certain ways. I discovered I was a rescuer.”

Everything VTN does is designed to be in a clear, comprehensive, and safe manner, and this starts before you even get on a course. Firstly you have to reach out and ask to come on a course, then one of the clinicians is going to contact you and conduct a short over the phone interview, to determine if you are at the right place in your journey to attend a course, and if you are not they are going to sign post you to someone who can help you get to that place.

I had my interview and was deemed ready to attend the course, and in June 2021, there I was attending my TSC. Each course is five days long and consists of two clinicians, two peer support workers, and 4 – 6 students. I made it known right from the start that as far as I was concerned, there was nothing wrong with me and that I was there to get the tick in the box and become a peer support worker. The course started with us going around the circle and taking turns to introduce ourselves, and then we went on to what was termed the “rules of engagement” or the course ground rules, and straight away this started to feel different as the rules were not coming from the clinicians or the peer supports. Sure they were helping and guiding, but we were encouraged to come up with at least one rule each and we all had to agree upon them.

shattered glass black and white

The rest of the course consisted of what seemed simple techniques, active listening, and communication skills along with coping skills, and some explanations of what trauma is and how it affects you. As we went through these various subjects, I found that things were really starting to resonate and click with me. I started to learn a lot about myself and why I behaved in certain ways. I discovered I was a rescuer. I would cut people off before they had finished speaking and try to give them a solution to what I thought there problem was, only to find that was not what they meant at all, and that I was just being really annoying to them.

I am told that over the 5 days, you get more therapy than the average person gets in 6 months. But, the real power of the course is in the circle. You sit in a circle as a group and each day you are asked to move to a different place within that circle. As the course moves on, you are encouraged to share information of your choice to the group, who are encouraged to actively listen and give you feedback on how that resonated with them. You start to realize that although your story may be different, you share commonalities. I shared a story that I had never told anyone else before, and it felt good to get it out and put it to rest. As time has gone on, I have told elements of that story to many people. These days, that event doesn’t invoke the same emotions as it once did.

“When I got home, my wife commented that I was a changed person, and indeed it has brought us closer together as a couple and as a family.”
shattered glass black and white

By the time the TSC was completed, I knew that the techniques worked and I was spurred on to go further within the organization. When I got home, my wife commented that I was a changed person, and indeed it has brought us closer together as a couple and as a family. Since completing the TSC, I have gone on to complete Peer Support training with VTN and have recently attended a TSC as a Peer Support worker.

Returning to TSC as a peer support worker has been the icing on the cake for me. Carrying out the admin functions of the course is a pleasure, going back over the various elements of the course reaffirms and reminds you of the techniques, but the best bit is the participants who show up apprehensive and unsure what to expect, and then day by day you see the change in them. By the end of the course I was so proud, it was like watching different people walk out the door.

“Every course I attend even as a peer support worker exposes me to something different and teaches me something new.”

My advice to anyone serving or who has served in the Armed Forces or Emergency Services is to reach out to VTN. It really works and may change your life, just like it changed mine, and I am still learning. Every course I attend even as a peer support worker exposes me to something different and teaches me something new.

– Nigel