|Anxiety The Future of Psychotherapy Great Attachment Debate Wendy Behary Challenging Cases Men in Therapy Etienne Wenger Attachment Theory Diets Ethics Brain Science David Schnarch CE Comments Symposium 2012 Couples Therapy Mindfulness Community of Excellence Couples Future of Psychotherapy Clinical Excellence Mary Jo Barrett Alan Sroufe Gender Issues Narcissistic Clients Attachment Linda Bacon Trauma William Doherty Clinical Mastery Mind/Body|
|Case Studies - Page 2|
Opening Up the Presenting Complaint
Richard then takes up the story: "We don't know why. We thought we could fix it ourselves, but it's gotten worse."
"We've tried everything," adds Mary.
Most families define their problems like this—in a way that invites the therapist to join them in the trap of their fixed perspective. Asking for more details at this point may reinforce the family's certainty that Whitney is the patient and her lying is the problem. If I join with the parents, I may lose Whitney, and I certainly can't join with their narrow definition of their daughter and themselves. I need to introduce uncertainty, curiosity, and hope into the family dynamic. And I must also make contact with Whitney.
I ask the parents' permission to talk with her for a while, and I start by saying that I'm curious about her life. We talk about her school, her friends, her interests. She tells me that she keeps a diary, that she likes poetry, and that she writes poems but doesn't show them to anybody. I ask her if she knows what a metaphor is. We agree that a metaphor can bring something to attention by calling it by a different name. I say that, in effect, a metaphor is a poetic lie.
I'm pleased with this image. It transforms a symptom into a skill, and I'm pretty sure it appeals to Whitney, who's bright, engages with me easily, and, like any young person, would like me to understand that she's more than just a liar. I know that the parents probably feel I've been seduced by Whitney, however, and have fallen for her lying.