I find families to be a treasure chest of resources and talents that are capable of removing whatever problem that is interfering with their ability to have a happy and fulfilling family experience. When working with families, my job is to facilitate a discussion that would allow those talents and resources to become more powerful than the problem. This is done by envisioning a future for the family without the problem and how each family member, both individually and collectively, would play a role in this new future..
I also focus on the exceptions to the problem when working with families and there are always plenty to discuss when many members of the system are present. There are always times when the problem is not present or is less severe. This may occur when the family functions well when both parents are home or when a child that has trouble with behaviors always seems to behave well when in the presence of one parent or another. By understanding what is different about those times, solutions to the problem become obvious.
Often times when people come to therapy with their families, they believe that the problem is so severe that it will require major changes by all members of the family to resolve. I offer a different perspective. I believe that all that is needed in order for the family to function differently is for one of the members to do one small thing differently. This creates a ripple effect throughout the family, allowing for a new experience. By focusing on creating one small change, instead of large changes by all members of the family, there is the immediate presence of a hope for a family experience.
“What are your best hopes for this therapy?” This is a common question that I ask of all of my clients, including families. I invite each member of the family to answer this question so I know what everyone would like to be accomplished in therapy. I believe all members of the family play a valuable role in describing what the family will look like without the problem and also, how this will be accomplished. I also believe asking this question is more useful than asking problem-focused questions that will only tell me what has gone wrong.