August 29, 2011

The silence which I look forward to

Guest post by Mirjam Fortuin, Pluryn

In my job I work a lot with parents of so-called "Multi-Problem" families. These parents have often undergone years of social aid and are therefore used to talk about the problems they have and what goes wrong in their lives. During the first meetings for Family Treatment parents often immediately begin to talk about what's wrong at home. We listen carefully to what they say because, of course, these problems must be taken seriously. These problems are usually the reason they came to us.

Due to all this talk about their problems you can often sense a negative atmosphere. Then, at some point in our conversation, we ask: "What is going well at home, what should stay as it is?" And then ... silence ... This is the moment I enjoy most. For a long time parents have been experiencing going through long black tunnel and we help them to make a hole in the tunnel and look outside. A father once said with a look of surprise: "No one has ever asked me that question!"

After the silence, there will usually be a cautious answer. Parents start telling about what works well and what is good in their lives, however small, and suddenly the atmosphere changes. Parents break free from the black tunnel and find themselves in a sunny open space and are surprised that there is more than just that tunnel. Unfortunately, it also happens that parents really can’t think of anything positive. But then we ask more questions, questions such as whether they can remember the last nice / pleasant moment. No matter how long ago it may be, there always has been a good time sometime.

It is great (yet also sad) to see how parents react surprised when asked what goes well. It is sad to note that they often do not know because they had been in a downward spiral and have focused on the negative. It's great to see how even the posture and facial expressions of people change when they talk about fun and positive things. They will literally sit more upright and have a more positive look.

When Family Treatment then starts I always hope that after half a year parents can say "this and that is going right, I am good at this and that and there could still be worked on this en that." The long black tunnel has become a sunny open space where they can move to all directions they want. This week I have several first meetings. I look forward to the silence ...

1 comment:

  1. This is such a great way of capturing the impact of introducing a solution focused approach - really enjoyed reading your post and have referenced it in my latest newsletter.

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