|The Best of Times - Best of Times 2|
The Experience of Connection
In her Saturday keynote address, noted couples therapist and attachment theorist Susan Johnson showed a video of a couple dancing the tango, offering a powerfully insinuating metaphor for the level of deep connection of mind and body at the heart of a vibrant, intimate partnership. Her talk, which citied research findings on clinical effectiveness and studies plumbing the depths of what were once thought of as unresearchable variables like "love" and "emotional connection," exemplified the Symposium's dedication to highlighting the increasing rapprochement between the methods of hard science and the investigation of the "soft" variables that are typically the concern of clinicians.
For many, the emotional highlight of the meeting was the appearance of 87-year-old family therapy pioneer Salvador Minuchin. Presenting in an all-day workshop with a group of his former students, Minuchin struck a bittersweet note as he traced the development of the Structural Family Therapy over the past half-century, from its iconoclastic assault on psychoanalysis and the staid, laid-back therapeutic conventions of the day to its eventual acceptance as a mainstream treatment model and then the increasing marginalization of the family systems perspective within the mental health world of today.
Revered by the audience as a living legend, Minuchin playfully distanced himself from the "certainties" of his earlier self, emphasizing his continuing evolution as a clinician and insisting that today, "I no longer consider myself a Structural Family Therapist."
In the evening, 600 therapists listened to him review the lessons, regrets, and accomplishments of his long career in a revealing interview. The event culminated with videoclips of two of Minuchin's recent therapy sessions that highlighted his undiminished flair for seizing upon a detail everyone in a family may have seen a thousand times and then focusing attention on it in a way that allows new meanings and possibilities for action to emerge. Working with a family obsessed with a young girl's seemingly compulsive lying, he deftly challenged the tone and focus of the family dynamic preoccupied with keeping the daughter under surveillance by asking the ever-vigilant father and mother, "Who between the two of you is the better detective?" Another session was recalled in which he recast an unmanageable teenage girl's continual defiance as a backhanded way of taking care of—of mothering—her own mother. Or, as Minuchin head-spinningly put it, "Why would you want to be your own grandmother?"