Cloe Madanes

Cloe Madanes

Behind the One-Way Kaleidoscope

By Rich Simon

September/October 1986

Here they are, in the therapy room on the other side of the huge one-way mirror, Scarlett and Rhett. So what if you don't remember Scarlett in flip-flops, madras bermudas, and hair curlers? Who cares if the dashing, thick-maned Rhett of memory has become a glum, shiny-topped man given to twirling and untwirling the few vagrant wisps that still ring his scalp? You've got to realize this is the Family Therapy Institute of Washington, DC. Here, they don't believe self-knowledge fires the engine of change and insist instead that therapy is really just a process of persuasion. Here, therapy is about metaphor and boldly sweeping clients along in unexpected directions—and convincing this unlikely couple that they are just like Scarlett and Rhett.

Nevertheless, a visitor might wonder what on earth the institute's clients tell their friends about the things they're asked to do in the name of "therapy." How does the father whose seven-year-old son suffers from chronic headaches describe having to come home from work every day pretending that he has a headache? And what does the bulimic woman say about being instructed to go home and, rather than binge and vomit, toss out five dollars of food a day? And just what does the ex-addict with the suspicious wife who compulsively rifles through his pockets think as he stuffs notes in them saying "I love you"?

But questions like these don't excite curiosity around the institute. How clients explain the effect of their therapy…

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