Cloe Madanes on Advocating for the Most Vulnerable


Cloe Madanes on Advocating for the Most Vulnerable

March/April 2015


In the 1970s, when I began working in this field, family therapy pioneers Salvador Minuchin and Jay Haley had turned the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic into a place where every child treated was also seen with his or her family. I’ll never forget one Friday evening when I was supervising a student working with the family of a severely suicidal 15-year-old girl. I could tell that the girl felt abandoned by her biological father and threatened by an overly intense relationship with her young stepfather. I needed a few days to find the father and reconnect him to the girl. To buy that time, I needed a psychiatrist willing to sign off and be on call so the girl could go home over the weekend until a session on Monday. Otherwise, I’d have to put her in the hospital—which I felt would be traumatic for her. Unfortunately, everyone on the psychiatric staff had already left.

Wandering the halls in hopes of finding someone to help, I discovered that Minuchin, the head of the clinic, whom I hardly knew at that point, was teaching a seminar to about 50 residents. I went in and said, “I’m sorry for interrupting, but I know that in this clinic the children come first.” After I explained the situation, Minuchin immediately stood up, told the students to wait, interviewed the girl and the family for half an hour, and gave them his phone number. He’d personally take the responsibility to be on call.

At the clinic and elsewhere during the height of the family therapy…

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1 Comment

Tuesday, April 21, 2015 2:01:31 AM | posted by Prem Dana Taka
What a wonderful article Cloe. It is so true that our field needs to rise up to its true greatness. The healing power of words and Love expressed through righ action is a powerful combination.