The Godfather Strategy


The Godfather Strategy

Finding the Offer a Client Can't Refuse

By Cloe Madanes

November/December 2000


Most of my career has been spent working with cases that other therapists find challenging. I was in Berkeley, fresh out of college, when the public schools were first integrated racially and I worked with teachers resolving racial conflicts. When I went back to Argentina, after studying at the Mental Research Institute, I was given a position in a mental hospital teaching residents how to work with schizophrenics. Back in the U.S., I was hired by Salvador Minuchin to teach non-professional Puerto Rican therapists how to work with difficult immigrant families. It's been like this forever. I think that my career followed Peter's Principle perfectly. I was always promoted to a position in which I could feel completely incompetent.

After 20 years of teaching therapy, but not doing it myself, I decided I needed a lesson in humility. What better way to experience humility than to be a therapist? So I started a small practice that basically consisted of taking on the cases that, for a variety of reasons, other therapists couldn't handle: sexual violence, heartbreaking drama, money problems, celebrities. And I was quite successful, to the point that the lesson in humility was escaping me. Until I met Bob.

For years, I've gone around saying that I don't like the concept of resistance. Too many therapists blame their failures on a "resistant" patient or a "resistant" family. Of course, everyone who comes to therapy is resistant, otherwise they could solve their…

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