FTN : Your ability to handle conflict seems to come out of your skill at convincing both sides that you are with them. What keeps families from just seeing you as a manipulator?
MINUCHIN : For people to accept my interventions, they must know that I really see them. They must say to themselves, "Yeah, that's me. Yes, he has my number." I think that what it comes down to is that I really care. Once I work with a family, I am absolutely concerned for them. I suffer with them. I cry with them. Even though I am like Jiminy Cricket I am their conscience I also care for them. When Jay Haley wrote about Milton Erickson, he emphasized his inventive interventions and his command of hypnosis and metaphor. But when you look at tapes of Erickson with patients, what you see above all else is a man who is absolutely benign.
FTN : Since the early days of structural family therapy, you've been considered a champion of a here-and-now approach to change. So I was surprised to hear you say in your new book, "We have tended to overlook family history."
MINUCHIN : I believe that to understand the present one must always make incursions into the past, in order to become free of it. The analysts also believed this, but for them, the investigation of the past was open-ended and took a lot of time "First, tell me about your father. Now tell me about your mother." And one would go on exploring and exploring, weaving together all these strands to make an interpretation of the present. My idea of how to explore the past was different. I saw it not as an intellectual exploration, but as a search for new responses. You start by seeing the narrowness of people's responses in the present and ask, "How did you learn this narrowness?" You then explore the past, looking for something very specific and focused. The exploration is in search of a solution that will make the client more complex in the present.
F TN : So what exactly are you looking for in that exploration?