Beyond the Rational


Beyond the Rational

Medical Science is Finally Catching Up With Family Therapists

By Katy Butler

September/October 1998


FOR MORE THAN SIX YEARS, Cynthia Flynn, a family therapist and clinical social worker in Elm Grove, Wisconsin, had felt uncharacteristically hopeless about writing the dissertation required to complete her M.B.A. She felt so little confidence in her own profession that she didn't even try therapy. "I thought it would go in the familiar, circular direction," she says. "Talking endlessly, analyzing things and having the therapist tell me that this was one of those things I just had to do." a In the fall of 1996, three months before her deadline, a fellow social worker suggested that Flynn go to see a shaman named Manuel Flores. She met him in the carpeted study of a house in Libertyville, Illinois, the home of a therapist who was sponsoring Flores's visit to the Midwest. Flores was wearing shorts and a T-shirt. He was a 33-year-old Mayan Indian, originally from Nicaragua, who lived in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and made the bulk of his living designing and sewing suede and leather western-style jackets, vests and skirts. On the carpet in front of him was an altar a small patchwork quilt arrayed with stones, pine cones, crystals and shells. Flynn had no confidence that Flores could help her, but she wanted to appease her husband and her daughter by trying one last thing. When Flores asked her about her intentions in seeing him, she told him she was "just blocked."

Flores did not ask her whether she'd ever felt like this before, nor did he plot her genogram. He talked…

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