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Dancing With The Family: A Symbolic-Experiential Approach

Carl Whitaker later became a leader in the family therapy field. An excellent introduction to the psychotherapy proces, including a discussion of pre-therapy and post-therapy processes. First published in Dancing with the Family presents something of a clinical importance, not to offer an all-encompassing theory of the family therapy.

This book emphasize on a dual focus. You will be asked to remain cognizant of the centrality of the person of the therapist, as well as of the evolving process of the therapy. You will discover the general patterns that are common to all families—stress, polarization and escalation, scapegoating, triangulation, blaming, and the diffusion of identity—and you will gain a vivid understanding of the intriguing field of family therapy.

If you have a troubled marriage, a troubled child, a troubled self The Family Crucible will give you insights That are remarkably fresh and helpful. Louisville, ; department chairman psychiatry, Emory University, Atlanta, ; professor psychiatry, University of Wisconsin Medical College, Madison, ; practice medicine specializing in psychiatry, Madison, since Family Therapy methods. WM F2 Wd] RC W48 No part of this book may be reproduced by any process whatsoever without the written permission of the copyright owners. Symbolic-Experiential Family Therapy 40 5.

Caring Revisited 96 9. Three-Year Follow-up References This was to be my initial encounter with Carl, a blind date of sorts. Three years out of graduate school, I viewed this as an opportunity for an exciting learning experience. The time was spent preparing a witty opening line and a thank-you for having accepted my request for a three-day visit. A few moments later he rounded the corner.


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As I rose to greet him, a mother… then, a father…then, three children followed him to his office door. Something was wrong! This was not what I had planned! By the time noon arrived, four families had been seen. As the morning passed, I had recovered from my stupor, emerged from the initial sense of unreality, and begun to enjoy the experience. The afternoon brought two additional families, a couple, and a supervisory session with one of the residents. At , following the last family session, I was exhausted!

The day had been filled with tension, excitement and drama. As I took a deep breath and sighed, preparing to finally discuss the events of the day with Carl, he glanced at his watch, popped up out of his chair and headed for the door. See you tomorrow at Minutes passed before I moved. I was spinning in a surrealistic world, surrounded by the events of the day and by the many toys, objects and artifacts in the office. After all, he was nearing I was not yet That day convinced me that there was something to be learned from this man.

The ensuing years brought continued visits. Each experience was valuable in a different way. When Carl retired from the University of Wisconsin and it was no longer practical to participate in his clinical practice, the notion of passing on vi some of my learnings came to mind. This book and an accompanying videotape are the results of this idea. The intent of the book is to present something of clinical importance, not to offer an all-encompassing theory of family therapy. Rather than hurriedly flitting through the museum to be sure you catch a glimpse of each painting, spending time with one masterpiece may offer a deeper understanding and appreciation of the art.

Throughout this text, a dual focus will be emphasized. You will be asked to remain cognizant of the centrality of the person of the therapist, as well as of the evolving process of the therapy. Without this sort of binocular vision, it may be impossible to really integrate the material. Those of you who know Carl and his work may feel there are distortions and omissions in the writing. I trust you will feel free to further edit this text to make it more useful in your own work.

Have fun! In addition to the efforts of Carl and myself in preparing this book, others made significant contributions. Warmest regards and thanks to Muriel Whitaker for her contributions to numerous discussions related to this project.

Deepest appreciation to my wife, Kathy, for her constant encouragement and support, as well as the creative critique that greatly enriched this book. Thanks are also extended to Steven Tenenbaum for his collaboration in producing the videotape, to Jan Martinson for his professionalism in filming the material, and to my friends at the Family Therapy Institute of Southern California for their support in piloting the tape.

Experiential Family Therapy with Carl Whitaker Video

Finally, I would like to express my deepest gratitude to the family. Their selflessness in sharing this part of their lives, so that ours might be enriched, is inspiring. It was a privilege working with them. John and Marie selected the couch to my right, nervously fidgeting as three of their five adult children found places on the remaining couch.

Their two missing offspring would join us for the final day of this three-day experience. This was obviously a farm family, perhaps similar to the one I grew up in.

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Dad was decked out in brand new bib overalls, while Mom was neatly but casually attired. Their three daughters, Vanessa aged 30, Doris 27 and Marla 18, were more fashionable and less rural in appearance. As we spent a few minutes engaged in small talk, Vanessa emerged as the family spokesperson. We briefly reviewed how they had decided to come for these sessions and covered the logistics for our three-day experience. Vanessa had instigated the idea of meeting.

Carl Alanson Whitaker (born February 20, ), American psychiatrist | Prabook

She was in the process of studying to become a therapist. Though geographically distant from the rest of the family, she felt tied up by the family struggles and wanted relief. She was also concerned about her year-old sister, Gail. Gail had been hospitalized due to emotional stresses. She had recently entered a halfway house program and was being maintained on medications. Despite the risks, Gail decided to attend the final day, apparently with the blessing of her therapist. Twenty-three-year-old Mike, the only male among the siblings, was also delayed in arriving. He had work conflicts and was to bring Gail to the sessions.

They all lived out of town and had lengthy drives. Beginning The opening moments of the initial session are often pivotal. The anxiety level far exceeds mere social discomfort. An intense, covert, bilateral sizing-up process instinctively begins. While we frequently mask the undercurrent tensions, they do exist. One of the initial tasks is to let them know something of how I operate and what I expect from them. I need to establish the parameters of my involvement with them and to clarify my conditions for the relationship. As I take a position, an interactive process is triggered.

My action begets their reaction. As they react, I respond to them and an interactive set is under way. Hopefully this dialectic will eventually lead to a higher order synthesis. Another component in understanding how this works is to consider the very real difference between assertion and aggression. They, of course, remain free to respond in any fashion they desire. They may balk, rebel, capitulate, or act completely aloof and uninterested.

In any event, the process is under way. In the brief opening segment that follows, notice the political positioning that sets the structure for what is to follow.


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My intent is to share with them my belief that their willingness to expose their pain is essential to growth in therapy. Additionally, they need to accept the fact that they remain responsible for their own living. Attempting to relinquish control or responsibility to me will do nothing to enhance their living.

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Carl: How did you decide to come? What would you like to get out of it?

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