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|Case Studies - Page 5|
Michael Ungar presents some highly relevant questions concerning Kids' Skills. I'll start by addressing his question about whether KS is a distinctive model of therapy that adds anything to other strength-based approaches to psychotherapy. When we created KS, our intention wasn't to produce yet another model of child therapy, but to package the best practices in the field into a simple, user-friendly, step-by-step procedure that would be easy to use not only by therapists but also by teachers and other professionals working with children.
Another question Ungar raises is whether KS works if the parents of the child are unable to participate in supporting the child. This concern is warranted, as KS relies on the idea that in learning social skills, children need the support of the important people in their lives. When asked who they want to be their supporters, most children name their parents, their teacher, and a few friends, but supporters can also include siblings, extended family, and any other persons close to the child. The parents are the child's primary supporters, but in some cases, as Ungar points out, they're unable to fulfill that function. In these cases, the importance of the other supporters becomes accentuated. Fortunately, there's often a caring aunt, grandparent, parent of a friend, social worker, godmother, or perhaps a football coach who's willing to step in to support the child.
Ungar justly points out that not all children have friends who'd sign up as supporters for them at school. This is one reason why KS is often practiced in clinical settings as a group activity, in which each child in the group is both learning a skill and supporting the other children of the group. At its best, KS is a social endeavor that helps children make new friends and reduces possible feelings of isolation.
Ungar mentions that many parents don't have the time or money to organize parties for their children. Celebration of learning the skill is an important step in KS, but it need not be anything fancy. It can be a party, but it can also be just doing something fun together with the supporters. The important thing is that the children get to determine the nature of the social ritual by which they're acknowledged for their accomplishment and their supporters are credited with their contributions.
Finally, Ungar wonders if children may not always be able to find acceptable skills to learn. Finding a consensus about the skill to learn is indeed the most challenging step in KS—or any solution-focused approach, for that matter. It's a collective negotiation process that takes time and patience, but once an agreement is found between the child and his or her social network about the skill to learn, the main part of the work is already done.
Ben Furman, M.D., codirector of the Brief Therapy Institute in Helsinki, Finland, is a psychiatrist and internationally renowned trainer of solution-focused psychotherapy. He's the author of several books, including Kids' Skills: Playful and Practical Solution-Finding for Children and the forthcoming Kids' Skills in Action: Inspiring Stories of Children Solving Problems Successfully with the Help of Kids' Skills. Information about the author: www.benfurman.com. Information about Kids' Skills: www.kidsskills.org.
Christine Beuer, the therapist in this case, practices in Donauworth, Germany.
Michael Ungar, Ph.D., is the author of Counseling in Challenging Contexts (Brooks/Cole, 2010) and The We Generation: Raising Socially Responsible Kids (da Capo, 2009). He's both a family therapist and a research professor at Dalhousie University, specializing in the study of resilience across cultures. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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