It will be helpful to consider the discussion following
activity 1 in conjunction with the discussion here. The teaching process as developed in activity
1 parallels very closely this activity and the readiness of the client to
participate in the educational process.
The clients expecting the process to succeed is essential
to whether or not the process will, in fact, succeed. The more optimistic the client is, the more
energy and effort he will attempt to invest and the more receptive he will tend
to be to the concepts, suggestions, and techniques to be learned. Conversely, the clients believing that the
process will not succeed makes it very difficult for both client and the
consultant. It may be that the client
will participate in the process enough to begin to develop some success and
make some progress which may in turn alter his thoughts and feelings about the
educational approach. Even while making
this initial investment, though, the consultant needs to explore with the
client his initial pessimism.
Frequently, it will relate to previous experience with intervention
efforts, misperceptions the client may have about the consultant or the
educational approach, or a sense of futility in relation to having any ability
to change or modify relationships or responses of other people in the family.
Even if the client expects the process to succeed, it is
important for the consultant to clarify success. It may be that the client expects to succeed
but that his perception or idea about success is unrealistic or in some other
way inconsistent with what success will be like. In the role of the consultant, you might say,
I am pleased that you feel that things will get better and that your
interpersonal skills will improve. Talk
with me a little about how you see things when the process succeeds. Through this step, the consultant and the
client can clarify the likely outcome of the process to better assure that the
client will feel positive and successful as a result of the process. It is also important to enter into the
educational approach without minimizing the possibility that either the client
or the consultant could perceive the process as succeeding without the
concurrence of the other.
This point extends to the motivation of the client. Once it is understood what success will be
like, the consultant and the client can then evaluate the extent to which the
client is motivated by the likely outcome or payoff of the educational
involvement. At the optimal level, the
clients motivation will focus in three areas.
First, he will be motivated by increasing interpersonal skill and
effectiveness. This achievement will be
personally satisfying. Second,
motivation will come in terms of improved interpersonal relationships and more
comfortable interpersonal involvement with other family members. Third, motivation will come in terms of the
increased comfort and satisfaction of other family members. Based on a realistic understanding of the
likely outcome, all three payoffs blend into the major interpersonal gain and
motivational energy for the client. If
any of the three motivational areas are seen as unnecessary or as unimportant
by the client, the success of the educational approach is proportionally less
As can be seen from the above, focus here is on the clients
placing high personal value on the outcome or payoff. The client says, All three areas are very
important to me. The personal valuing
of the outcome, the enhancement of family relationships, and the increased
satisfaction and comfort of other family members are then the payoff for the
investment of time and energy.
The educational approach is time consuming for the client
and requires a lot of energy and self-directed effort. Here, though, an additional reality needs to
be introduced and discussed between the consultant and the client. In the long run, it will require as much time
and energy to maintain the problematic status quo to keep things the way they
are as it will to use the educational approach to improve things for the
client, other family members, and the interpersonal involvements of family
members. Problematic and negative
interactions within the family are energy draining and time consuming, with the
investment of time and energy achieving little. The educational approach is then a substitute
way of using the family resources that, in the long run, will reduce the
negative drain or ineffective use of family time, energy, and other resources. It is, then, an investment in the future for
each member of the family.
In assessing client readiness, attention now shifts away
from understanding success and the payoff for the client to developing and
understanding of the clients participation in the family. Does the client take personal responsibility
for his participation and involvement within the family system? The point being pursued here with the client
is subtle and may seem minor but is actually essential to the educational
approach. The client is going to learn
to be a proactive component within the family system, an individual who
interacts with style, skill, and purposefulness. Specifically, this orientation will develop
in terms of his individual functioning and specifically in relationship to his
children and spouse. In order to do this
the client needs to understand and accept responsibility for his involvement
There is not intent to change other members of the family or
to see ones self as simply reacting to other family members. Instead, the client is understood as an
active ingredient within the system, as a responsible and self-directed family
Many clients will understand their active role and influence
within the family and will accept personal responsibility for both. Other clients, however, will need specific
consultation attention directed to defining and clarifying their intrafamily
role. Usually, role clarification is
somewhat less at issue than understanding and clarifying the multiple
influences that the client has within the family. Most of the time, it is enough to acquaint
the client with the concepts and with a few of their implications within the
family system. This familiarization
leads rather quickly to the clients generalizing the concepts and ideas
throughout his participation in the family.
Some attention to this point has the secondary benefit of better
acquainting the client with the inductive nature of the educational
approach. Understanding more specific and
concrete areas of functioning and then generalizing that understanding to broader
family areas and issues.
As an outcome of the educational approach, the client will
begin to modify his behavior, involvement and participation within the
family. Gradually, the small
modifications will lead to more general changes in the clients style,
approach, and functioning. It is
important that the client believes in his ability to make the needed commitment
and changes. Important to this step is
the consultants belief in the client and faith in the clients ability. The positive element here is that virtually
anyone who is willing to make the initial commitment will quickly learn that he
does have the necessary ability.
The key here actually has more to do with the clients level
of self-esteem than with actual ability.
When the consultant is working with an individual who questions his
the clients ability, it is important for the consultant to understand that
the issue is more in terms of the clients self-esteem. If this area is problematic, the consultant
will want to spend some time in a supportive way reinforcing the clients
interest, desire to have better relationships, and demonstrated interest in his
family. The consultant might say, I
hear what youre saying and understand that you do not feel real confident in
your ability. I have worked with other
people who have felt the way you do.
Ive found that people who care as much about their family as you seem
to care are usually successful with the educational approach if they will
invest a little initial time and energy.
What do you think? I think you
will be able to make progress because you really want things to be better. Shall we give it a try and see how it goes?
An additional factor enters in here that also needs to be
worked through. The prognosis for
success is much higher for clients who generally like the other members of
their family than for those who do not.
Recall the three areas of payoff:
improved personal functioning, improved relationships, and increased
comfortableness and satisfaction for other family members. If the client is involved in the educational
approach in part for other family members, liking or disliking other people in
the family makes a difference. He is more
likely to be motivated to help people who are like than those who are disliked.
Disliking a specific family member presents a learning
opportunity in terms of understanding the behavior, attitudes, or pattern of
involvement of the other person that evoke dislike or negative reactions. If the consultant can facilitate understanding
at this level, progress is already being made.
For example, suppose an ingredient of why the client
dislikes another member of the family has to do with the other members
habitually saying negative, demeaning, and hostile things to the client. First, simply beginning to isolate the
specific behaviors and attitudes is itself consistent with the educational
process. The client sees what the other
person is doing that evokes the negative reaction. Next, the consultant begins to work with the
client in terms of alternative behaviors and responses that enable the client
to feel more in control and to experience less perceived assault to his
self-esteem. For example, maximizing the
use of the elements of positive interpersonal style discussed later may be
useful. Keep in mind, though, that the
goal here is not to change the behavior of the other person. It is rather to facilitate the clients
developing better defined style and increased interpersonal skill. The goal for the client is to say and feel,
I am who I think I am; and I think I am a worthwhile person with style. Who you think I am is interesting but is not
a basis for my deciding who I am, unless what you have to say really does seem
to fit my perceptions of my behavior and actions. Nonetheless, I appreciate your sharing your
thoughts and ideas with me.
To reiterate an earlier point, the readiness of the client
is in proportion to the perceived benefit for him as well as related to his
looking beyond simple self-interest and seeing each family member as benefiting
from the clients participation.
The client is doing it for himself but also for the other
people in the family. This perspective
combines with a realistic appraisal by the client of his abilities, skills, and
capacity to function within the family in an effective way. These two components of readiness then
combine with the clients excepting responsibility for his participation in the
family and participation in the educational approach.