Over the course of this month, I’ve discussed what I mean when referring to the word “process” therapeutically when I work with children, adolescents, teens, and their families. In the previous two blogs, I have outlined how parents can have appropriate expectations and better communication with their children and teens. In this blog, I want to cover the third aspect of process, which relates most to the structure of how we do things.
When referring to structure, I am also considering the system that we set up for ourselves, our children, and our families in order to get things done. The most important part of figuring out your family’s system, is the process you put in place to achieve the goal or expectation you have set. In other words, what steps do you put in place to help your family achieve its goals; what do you expect to get done, and how do you expect members to get their part done? Take the example of losing weight. My system for losing weight may include the following: 1) not buying cookies when grocery shopping, 2) working out in the morning because I would be too tired to workout in the afternoon, 3) weighing myself daily, and 4) rewarding myself for successful completion of the system I have set up. This example has a series of steps to achieve my weight loss goal! Just like when we lose weight, we need structure and a system to achieve things with and for our families. In order to have good systems within our families, we must set goals, lay out a series of simple steps, and track our progress.
For example, if we want to help our children to complete their homework when do we expect them to do this? Is it up to them when or whether or not they complete it? Do we have them work on it right after they get home from school? What happens if they do not complete it? Are we available to help them if they need help? The point is— what system works best for you and your family? What are the steps in the process of getting to the goal you have set up.
All families have a process, a set of expectations, a system of communicating and interacting, and a structure. When wanting to make changes within the family, it is important to consider all 4 aspects of your family’s process. As a child and family therapist in Washington DC, when I see a child (or teenager) in therapy, I also consider who else in the family is being affected by the problems that we are working on, as they are usually not the only ones affected by whatever is bringing them into therapy. Often it is helpful to provide interventions for the child (or teen) client, and additionally to provide a family intervention to help resolve the issues at hand.