Therapist, if you really want to help a family…

by Rod Smith

Therapist, take up YOUR life!

Therapist, take up YOUR life!

Look for whomever is the most Self-Differentiated: this is not necessarily because they do “good” things. Who is able to express their own voice in the family apart from the togetherness pressures? This person is KEY to the system’s health. They might be the person able to UNDERSTAND what you are all about even if they do not / cannot agree or cooperate. This person may well be the “identified patient.” Listen as much as you can but only focus on process. This means watch for the HOW and WAY (manner in which things occur) not the WHAT, the WHY, and the WHO. Remembering that all behaviors have meaning but not all meaning is necessary for your understanding. In other words knowing that all behavior has meaning on your part is more important than uncovering the meaning behind a client’s (family’s) behavior. Remember that one person’s behavior in a family is somehow everyone’s behavior (and to a lesser degree including yours!) I am thinking here along the lines of everyone is, in a way implicated, with all social problems.

It takes MONTHS to build a relationship even in the BEST of circumstances with WILLING participants. Your work is hard because you are going against every natural grain in the manner in which relationships work. F (your court appointed client) is supposed to avoid you, J (the mother on probation) is supposed to stand you up. Your arrival at the door (for your home-based and court authorized visit) is the most brazen act of relational suicide you could commit. It is a MIRACLE you get allowed in at all. The client’s natural mechanisms scream “Enemy” because of the role within which you function within the system. Once you overcome that you CAN do good work and be really in relationship but it is almost deemed not to LOOK like what the system is asking for. What the system (Child Protection Services) is asking for is the equivalent of wanting a square sphere or a round triangle. Somethings are just not possible but what is possible is BETTER by far! What is possible is …… people begin to see they captain their own ships…and…. their future is in their own hands….. and….

You are likely to do the best work when:

+ you yourself are Self Differentiated (this is no light call. Please study this most misunderstood concept). It is not just BEING DIFFERENT,

+ when you take no sides (even against the system i.e. CPS, Juvenile Justice, Dad, Mom,)

+ when you are non-anxious about the anxious family and anxious system,

+ when you are playful without malice, sarcasm, or pretension, or any whiff of superiority

+ when you track process and help the family or individual to track process,

+ when you nourish your own needs with loving care.

Rod E. Smith 11-03-99 (Written to home-based and court authorized therapists)

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