Blog #6? Perhaps I’ve lost track

Posted by: Curtis Stevens on June 22, 2011 2:05 pm

I seem to have lost track of my ongoing writing.  My last entry illustrated the use of re-framing in helping a client set goals.  There is a science, or perhaps an art to taking undesirable events and reframing them into something useable.  It is more than just looking on the bright side – but actually changing the content/tone/perceived intent of the event into terms that are workable for the client and, perhaps, the therapist.

 I once had a client tell me – in reference to his over-zealous parenting approach – that parenting is just like “breaking a horse.”  Even though I am an Alberta boy, I knew nothing about breaking a horse and proceeded to tell this parent so.  I told him that he might as well be talking about training a dolphin as I don’t know very much about that either.  What I did know was that when training dolphins, the trainers don’t beat, scold, timeout, or withdraw any form of affection for not performing.  In fact, according to my rudimentary knowledge, the trainer simply rewards the dolphin with a treat for performing and step toward the desired outcome.  For example, if the dolphin were to touch it’s nose on a hoop – paired with a signal, it would get a treat.  Once that was successful, the signal would be given and the hoop raised and so on until the dolphin is jumping out of the water through the hoop to the signal.  In this case, the reward is a fish. 

 When dealing with troublesome behaviour of youth, it is rather unproductive to focus all of your energy on pointing out what the youth is doing wrong – believe me when I say they already know.  In fact, primarily all it does is set up a division between parent and youth.  Set a goal – decide the painfully smallest steps in reaching that goal and focus your efforts on rewarding the completion of the small steps.  If you’re having trouble getting your youth to attend school, go for a drive or a walk by the school, and if they happen to look at the school while you are going past, throw them a fish (figuratively speaking).  When they take a step toward the school, throw them a fish.  However, I wouldn’t recommend using a fish all the time.  A “good job” and a pat on the back go a long way – especially if most of your previous interactions have been fighting over the task.

*The views expressed by our authors are personal opinions and do not necessarily reflect the views of the CCPA

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