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A Magic Show for Their Anniversary

When my sister and I started planning our parent’s surprise anniversary party, we wanted to do something that would make it really memorable. We thought about the different things we could do, such as hiring a band, having it at an amusement park, or something similar. My husband told me we should look into magician hire for London area, and we both thought that was brilliant. Our parents both love watching magic programs on TV, but we didn’t think they had ever been to one in person. Rather than buying them tickets for one, we decided to bring the magic to their party.

We did a search for magicians in the area, and that is how we found out about Paul Martin. We looked at the pictures on his site as well as the testimonials, and we knew that this was the right move. Continue reading A Magic Show for Their Anniversary

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Buying an Airsoft Gun for My Birthday

I got a gift card for my birthday, and I know exactly what I want to spend it on. I’ve had my eye on a new custom pistol from the Airsoft shop online. I’ve been looking at it for months, imagining how it would look and feel in my hands. The pictures I’ve seen online are really vivid, so I feel like I know exactly what I’ll be getting. I didn’t have enough discretionary income to purchase it right away, but now that I received that awesome birthday gift, I have enough money to take it home with me.

I love the design of this Airsoft gun. It’s small enough to place in a small case, but large enough to accommodate my hands. The frame of the gun has this unique texture to it, which is different than anything I’ve seen before. Continue reading Buying an Airsoft Gun for My Birthday

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A Security System to Make Us Feel Safer

Crime stinks. There’s just no two ways about it. Though I have never personally been touched by it, my neighbor has been. We are good friends, and I was as shocked as she was when her house was robbed. Thankfully, she was not home at the time, because that could have had a much uglier outcome. It did get both of us thinking though, and we decided that the only way to be proactive about this was to get security systems installed. She opted to install one herself, but I wanted to look at CCTV installers in Leeds first because I just did not have the same confidence that she did in installing one.

I know she would have helped me if I had asked, but I still thought that it was best to leave something so important to someone who is professionally trained in installing them. I knew that I would still be able to pick the system that I wanted, but I would not have to worry about the installation of it at all. Continue reading A Security System to Make Us Feel Safer

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How Online Lead Generation Can Build Small Companies

For company owners who are trying to find some of the finest options which are accessible in regards to lead generation, there are a few proven strategies which are known to operate, and lots of procedures that are publicized which are considered to be keys that are publicized!

tele-callingThat is not what I ‘m here to talk about yet; there are an incredibly powerful means by which to produce leads, and that’s just called a tele-calling lead generation procedure. How this works is straightforward, call centers call thousands of leads regular hunting for prospective customers that qualify for the company conditions. In other words, all they do is call up particular data bases of potential clients who fall within certain standards and qualify individuals that are curious as an expected customer subsequently pass back that info as a possible lead that is verified.

The procedure seems easy enough, and apart from your technicalities of using the process, the company module is not complex, in addition to quite rewarding for the company that gets leads in this way.

These are usually big business, and there are numerous firms that run lead generation procedures, these include financial institutions, banks, and other large companies. The reason they do this is not complicated, there isn’t any point awaiting your customers to contact you, it is better that they are contacted by you. Nevertheless, it is not to be misunderstood that this is a procedure that functions well only for large companies and banks, this can be a module that can work wonders for any sized company, including medium and small sized companies.

lead generationThe truth relating to this kind of lead generation is that it’s received lots of adverse publicity, and though there are many enterprises that do it, reaching excellent results because it is so powerful. The outcome of running this type of procedure is getting a lot more business and in some situations, this single action of the dynamics of specific companies can alter.

There are lots of finer details that should be ironed out before establishing a lead generation procedure, and these are all features which can be associated with the quality standards that should be kept, etc. The quality standards contain where the lead is requested to verify they’re enthusiastic about the merchandise or the service a confirmation recorded call of the possible lead The confirmation calls are usually scripted on request of the company that the leads are for, after which the leads are passed to the enterprise for additional processing.

This can be the whole procedure for lead generation, and usually, such proceedings are out sourced off shore to cause them to become more financially feasible.

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The Feel of the Horsepower

In my early days of working with racehorse trainers, I was a timid young man who knew nothing about the world of horse racing, and I was even afraid to get on a horse. The animals were so big and looked intimidating to me that I would run behind the trainers. The teeth were always in plain sight, and made me think that the horse would bite me whenever I got the chance. Also the placement of its eyes was a little disorienting to me. I learned to like the horses and even began to love them. They’re so gentle that they wouldn’t even hurt a fly if it was buzzing around their tails. Of course, this doesn’t mean that anyone should let their gentle nature fool them, because the horse are packing enough power in their bodies to move at amazing speeds.

When I became close enough with the horses to race on them, I realized how much power they had first hand. Riding on the horse felt like I was clinging on the back of a rocket. Continue reading The Feel of the Horsepower

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Limos and Private Jets Are Perks to Being a Security Expert

Not much can make you actually feel more important to a client than to be flown in by private jet and met at the runway by a big SUV limousine driven by a professional driver. Not only that, they told me the limo and drivers were at my disposal for the week I was expected to be there. I told them I would be done in four days, but they gave me a week. Computers are not a problem for me. Security breaches are not either. The limo from http://www.starnightlimousine.ca/ and the Lear jet are perks I could get used to though.

They got me to where their main server farm was pretty fast. They are not keen on revealing that info, and I would not be either. They even had the limo driver wait in the parking lot. He was cool with that, but I told him I would just call him to pick me up when I was done for the day. Continue reading Limos and Private Jets Are Perks to Being a Security Expert

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Planning the Best Party Ever

When I was tasked with the entertainment portion of a corporate event, I knew just what I wanted to do. I did a quick search for mix and mingle entertainment to get the name of the company that I wanted. I had heard so many good things about them, but I had yet to be lucky enough to be at an event where they had performers doing one thing or another. Since there will be people of all ages at this event, I wanted something that would entertain the children as well as the adults. Continue reading Planning the Best Party Ever

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More Personality with Brazilian Hair

Curly hair extensions have become quite the trend in the fashion world. Whenever I turn on my television, I see someone wearing the style. I bet Brazil has trouble keeping up the demand for such a hot item. Some of the local stores had their supply being purchased left and right. Everytime I would go to the store, there would be none of the Brazilian hair left, and I waould have to settle for something else. Settling was no longer something that I wanted to do, so I turned to online suppliers to get my hands on the hair.

I placed two orders for the hair, because I wasn’t sure how much of it would be available online until other people started buying the stock. The hair will only stay in my hair for so long, and once it comes out, I’ll have to buy some more. As a woman, this is something that I wish I didn’t have to do, but the hair is just so good, and there’s no way to have it permanently attached to my head. Continue reading More Personality with Brazilian Hair

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Family Systems Can Be Very Resilient

Webster’s Dictionary (1974) defines resilience as “an ability to recover from or adjust easily to change or misfortune” (p. 596). Although this definition is widely accepted, resilience may be conceptualized as being more than merely bouncing back from setbacks. Resilience may also be the ability to bounce forward in the face of an uncertain future (Walsh, 2004). Resilience has been conceptualized as the forging of strengths through adversity (Wolin & Wolin, 1993). Like the willow tree, people thrive if they have a strong, healthy root system. With branches flexible enough to bend with the storm and firm enough to weather strong winds without breaking, the willow tree can continue to grow despite being twisted into differing shapes. The willow tree may be a metaphor for the resilient individual and resilient family system. Resiliency is critical to mental health and healthy aging.

Bonanno (2004) defined adult resilience as a person’s capacity to resist maladaptation in the face of risky experiences. Bonanno’s individually-based definition of adult resilience assumes that resilience resides in the person, an observation supported by the list of individual attributes that covary with resilient outcomes in Bonanno’s work (hardiness, self-enhancement, repressive coping, and positive emotion.). Importantly, this definition of resilience does not identify the positive outcomes that can result from adversity in the hardy individual. Despite Bonanno’s (2004) narrow definition, his analysis includes an interesting finding that loss and brief traumatic experiences, despite being aversive and difficult to accept, are normatively not sufficient to overwhelm the adaptive resources of ordinary adults. Bonanno’s research calls into question the research of Sameroff, Bartko, Baldwin, Baldwin, and Seifer (1998), which demonstrated in longitudinal analyses that as levels of adversity rise, and as resources fall, resilience becomes less tenable.

Rutter (1985) observed that strong self-esteem and self-efficacy make successful coping more likely, whereas a sense of helplessness increases the likelihood that one crisis will lead to another. In a similar vein, Kobasa’s (1985) research findings supported his hypothesis that people with resilience possess three general traits: (1.) the belief that they can influence or control events in their lives; (2.) an ability to feel deeply committed and involved in activities in their lives; and (3.) a tendency to embrace change as an opportunity to grow and develop more fully. Thus, resilient children are more likely to have an inner locus of control (Seligman, 1990), or an optimistic belief that they can positively impact their fate.

Dugan and Coles (1989) suggest that individuals prevail over adversity more effectively if they have moral and spiritual resources. In a phenomenological study of nine subjects who had experienced such traumas as life in a concentration camp, disability, breast cancer, massive head injury, a life of violence and abuse, and loss of a child, Rose (1997) identified similar themes of resilience which emerged from individual interviews: the role of supportive others, empathy, self-care, faith, action orientation, moving on, positive outlook, and persistence. Rose identifies the foundational structure of resilience as faith, self-respect, striving, supportive others, coping, empathy, self-reliance, and moving on.

Closer scrutiny of children and families that are at risk reveals many exceptions to the “damage model” of development, which considers stress or disadvantage as predictive of dysfunction. For example, Werner and Smith (1992) conducted an extensive longitudinal study of almost a half a century of children from Kuai. The researchers found that in spite of early medical distress, poverty, school difficulties, teen pregnancy, or arrest, children were able to learn and persevere through difficulty, given adequate supports. In their analysis of how these impoverished children matured successfully, Vaillant (2002) notes that Werner and Smith emphasized, “. . . the importance of being a ‘cuddly’ child and of being a child who elicits predominantly positive responses from the environment and who manifests great skill at recruiting substitute parents” (p. 285). Werner and Smith point out that key turning points for most of these troubled individuals were meeting a caring friend and marrying an accepting spouse. It is also salient that Werner and Smith found that more girls than boys overcame adversity at all age levels. Walsh (2004) speculates that this finding reflects the notion that “. . . girls are raised to be both more easygoing and more relationally-oriented, whereas boys are taught to be tough and self-reliant through life. . . [and] often because of troubled family lives, competencies were built when early responsibilities were assumed for household tasks and care of younger siblings” (pp. 13-14). Werner and Smith’s study is especially important in reminding clinicians that early life experiences do not necessarily guarantee significant problems in later life. Walsh (2004) suggests that their most significant finding is that resilience can be developed at any point over the course of the life cycle. Walsh extrapolates from Werner and Smith’s research that “. . . unexpected events and new relationships can disrupt a negative chain and catalyze new growth” (p. 14). Favorable interactions with individuals, families and their environments have a systemic effect of moving resilience in upward spirals, and a downward spiral can be reversed at any time in life (Walsh, 2004).

Felsman and Vaillant (1987) followed the lives of 75 males living in impoverished, socially disadvantaged families. People who suffered from substance abuse, mental illness, crime and violence parented these men. Several of these men, although scarred by their childhoods, lived brave lives and became high functioning adults. Felsman and Vaillant concluded, “The events that go wrong in our lives do not forever damn us” (1987, p. 298).

Another study refuting the accuracy of the “damage model” is Kaufman and Zigler’s (1987) finding that most survivors of childhood abuse do not go on to abuse their own children. Similarly, other research found that children of mentally ill parents or dysfunctional families have been able to prevail over early experiences of abuse or neglect to lead productive lives (Anthony, 1987; Cohler, 1987; Garmezy, 1987).

Werner (1995) identified clusters of protective factors that have emerged as recurrent themes in the lives of children who overcame great odds. The protective factors that were characteristic of the individual were myriad. Resilient youngsters are engaging to other people. Additionally, they excel in problem-solving skills and display effective communication skills. Problem solving skills included the ability to recruit substitute caregivers. Moreover, they have a talent or hobby valued by their elders or peers. Finally, they have faith that their own actions can make a positive difference in their lives.
From a developmental perspective, Werner (1995) emphasizes that having affectional ties that encourage trust, autonomy, and initiative enhances resilience. Members of the extended family or support systems in the community frequently provide these ties. These support systems reinforce and reward the competencies of resilient children and provide them with positive role models. Such supports may include caring neighbors, clergy, teachers, and peers.

In Vaillant’s (2002) Study of Adult Development at Harvard University, arguably the longest longitudinal study on aging in the world, it is suggested that resiliency researchers who focus on risk factors and pathology are mistaken in believing that misfortune condemns disadvantaged children to bleak futures. Instead, Vaillant calls upon clinicians to count up the positive and the protective factors when conducting assessments. Vaillant cites Sir Michael Rutter (1985), who reminds clinicians, “The notion that adverse experiences lead to lasting damage to personality ‘structure’ has very little empirical support” (p. 598).

Vaillant (2002) identifies four protective factors in the individual’s potential to age well. A future orientation, a capacity for gratitude and forgiveness, a capacity to love and to hold the other empathically, and the desire do things with people instead of to people are personal qualities identified as resiliency factors. He posits that “. . . marriage is not only important to healthy aging, it is often the cornerstone of adult resilience” (p. 291).

Furthermore, Vaillant (2002) describes resilience as being a combination of nature and nurture. Both genes and environment play crucial roles. He explains, “On one hand, our ability to feel safe enough to deploy adaptive defenses like humor and altruism is facilitated by our being among loving friends. On the other hand, our ability to appear so attractive to others that they will love us is very much dependent upon the genetic capacity that made some of us ‘easy’ attractive babies” (p. 285).

An essential part of resilience is “. . . the ability to find the loving and health-giving individuals within one’s social matrix wherever they may be” (Vaillant, 2002, p. 286). Thus, like Werner and Smith (1992), Vaillant’s research identified extended families and friendship networks as key foundations to resilience in the individual and the family system.

American culture glorifies the “rugged individual.” John Wayne, the personification of masculinity and strength, has been adored by generations of Americans as a hero. However, there is an inherent danger in the myth of rugged individualism, which implies that vulnerability and emotional interdependence are weak and dysfunctional (Walsh, 2004). As Felsman and Vaillant (1987) note, “The term ‘invulnerability’ is antithetical to the human condition. . . In bearing witness to the resilient behavior of high-risk children everywhere, a truer effort would be to understand, in form and by degree, the shared human qualities at work” (p. 304). Avoidance of personal suffering and the glorification of stoicism are hallmarks of American culture. Such cultural attitudes are typified by the call to “move on,” to “cheer up,” to get over catastrophic events, to put national and global tragedies behind us, or to rebound (Walsh, 2004). Higgins (1994) notes that struggling well involves experiencing both suffering and courage, effectively processing and working through challenges from intrapersonal and interpersonal perspectives. In Higgin’s study of resilient adults, it became clear that they became stronger because they were severely tested, endured suffering, and developed new strengths as a result of their trials. These adults experienced their lives more deeply and passionately. Walsh (2004) observes that over fifty per cent of the resilient individuals studied by Higgins were therapists. Egeland, B. R., Carlson, E. and Sroufe (1993) offer an alternative approach to thinking about resilience as “. . . a family of processes that scaffold successful adaptation in the context of adversity” (p. 517).

Important research conducted by Wolin and Wolin (1993) points toward the notion that although some children are born with innate resiliencies, resiliency can be modeled, taught, and increased. They emphasize that persons tend to seek healing from pain instead of holding on to bitterness. The researchers note that the resilient person draws lessons from experience instead of repeating mistakes, and that they maintain openness and spontaneity in their relationships rather than becoming rigid or bitter in interaction. Wolin and Wolin also found that resiliency in individuals is strongly correlated with humor and creativity, as well as mental and physical health. The Wolins identify seven traits of adults who survived a troubled childhood: insight (awareness of dysfunction), independence (distancing self from troubles), relationships (supportive connections with others), initiative (self/other-help actions), creativity (self-expression, transformation), humor (reframing in a less threatening way), and morality (justice and compassion rather than revenge). Traits are viewed as dynamic processes by which resilient individuals adapt to and grow through challenge, rather than static properties that automatically protect the invulnerable. These observations are correlated with empirical studies of resilient children (Baldwin, Baldwin, & Cole, 1990; Bernard, 1991; Garbarino, 1992; Masten, Best, & Garmezy, 1990; Werner & Smith, 1992) and adults (Klohnen, Vandewater, and Young, 1996, Vaillant, 2002).

Walsh (2004) asserts, “In the field of mental health, most clinical theory, training, practice, and research have been overwhelmingly deficit-focused, implicating the family in the cause or maintenance of nearly all problems in individual functioning. Under early psychoanalytic assumptions of destructive maternal bonds, the family came to be seen as a noxious influence. Even the early family systems formulations focused on dysfunctional family processes well in the mid-1980’s” (p. 15).

The popularity of the Adult Children of Alcoholics Movement surged in the late twentieth century and encouraged people to blame their families for their problems. This movement tempted the individual to make excuses for his behavior in terms of his dysfunctional family history instead of looking for family strengths that might help him/her overcome challenge and become stronger. Adult Children of Alcoholics “. . . spend much of their time other-focused, and it is easy for them to become preoccupied with another group member’s problem, take responsibility for it, and avoid the painful job of self-examination and taking responsibility for their own behavior” (Lawson & Lawson, 1998, p. 263).

In contrast to this damage model, the Wolins offered an alternative way to view challenging family backgrounds: a Challenge Model to build resilience, stating that “. . . the capacity for self-repair in adult children of alcoholics taught [them] that strength can emerge from adversity” (p. 15). The Wolins reflect a paradigm shift in recent years, as family systems therapists have started to focus upon a competence-based, strength-oriented approach (Barnard, 1994; Walsh, 1993, 1995a). A family resilience approach builds on recent research, empowering therapists to move away from deficit and focus upon ways that families can be challenged to grow stronger from adversity (Walsh, 2004). From the perspective of the Challenge Model, stressors can become potential springboards for increased competence, as long as the level of stress is not too high (Wolin & Wolin, 1993). Walsh notes, “The Chinese symbol for the word ‘crisis’ is a composite of two pictographs: the symbols for ‘danger’ and ‘opportunity'” (p. 7). Wolin and Wolin (1993) observe that we may not wish for adversity, but the paradox of resilience is that our worst times can also become our best.

It is clear that the extensive research on resilient individuals largely points toward the social nature of resilience. However, most resiliency theory has approached the systemic context of resilience tangentially, in terms of the influence of a single, important person, such as a parent or caregiver (Bowlby, 1988). Looking at resilient family functioning through a systemic lens calls upon the clinician to view individual resilience as being embedded in family process and mutual influence (Walsh, 2004). Walsh suggests that if “. . . researchers and clinicians adopt a broader perspective beyond a dyadic bond and early relationships, [they] become aware that resilience is woven in a web of relationships and experiences over the course of the life cycle and across the generations” (p. 12).

It has only been in the last twenty five years or so that families that cope well under stress have been the subject of research (Stinnet & DeFrain, 1985; Stinnett, Knorr, DeFrain, & Rowe, 1981). A growing body of knowledge has pointed toward the multidimensional nature of family processes that distinguish adaptive family systems from maladaptive family systems (Walsh, 2004). Walsh (2004) defines “family resilience” as “. . . the coping and adaptational processes in the family as a functional unit,” [and adds that]. . . a systems perspective enables us to understand how family processes mediate stress and enable families to surmount crisis and weather prolonged hardship” (p. 14). Strong families create a climate of optimism, resourcefulness, and nurturance which mirrors the traits of resilient individuals (Walsh, 2004). In fact, research on family adaptation and on family strengths suggests the following traits of resilient families: commitment, cohesion, adaptability, communication, spirituality, effective resource management, and coherence (Abbott, et al., 1990; Antonovsky, 1987; Beavers & Hampson, 1990; Moos & Moos, 1976; Olson, Russell, & Sprenkle, 1989; Reiss, 1981; Stinnett, et al., 1982). Walsh observes, “. . . a family resilience lens fundamentally alters our perspective by enabling us to recognize, affirm, and build upon family resources” (Walsh, 2004, p. viii). Rutter’s (1987) research added further confirmation that resilience is fostered in family interactions through a chain of indirect influences that inoculate family members against long-term damage from stressful events. It is essential to consider family resilience as a major variable in a family’s ability to cope and adapt in the face of stress (McCubbin, McCubbin, McCubbin, & Futrell, 1995).

Bennett, Wolin, and Reiss (1988) concluded from their research that children who grew up in alcoholic families that deliberately planned and executed family rituals, valued relationships, and preferred roles were less likely to exhibit behavior or emotional problems. They argue that families with serious problems, such as parental alcoholism, which can still impose control over those parts of family life that are central to the family’s identity, communicate important messages to their children regarding their ability to take control of present and future life events. These messages can determine the extent to which the children are protected from developing future problems, including alcoholism in adolescence and adulthood.

Patterson (1983) asserts that it is only to the extent that stressors interrupt important family processes that children are impacted. However, from a systemic perspective, it is not only the child who is vulnerable or resilient; most salient is how the family system influences eventual adjustment (Walsh, 2004). Even those family members who are not directly touched by a crisis are profoundly affected by the family response, with reverberations for all other relationships (Bowen, 1978). Following from these ideas, it is clear that “Slings and arrows of misfortune strike us all, in varying ways and times over each family’s life course. What distinguishes healthy families is not the absence of problems, but rather their coping and problem-solving abilities” (Walsh, 2004, p. 15).
From an ecological perspective, Rutter (1987) suggests that it is not enough to take into account the sphere of the family as influencing risk and resilience in the individual and family life cycles. He emphasizes that it is also incumbent upon therapists to assess the interplay between families and the political, social, economic, and social climates in which people either thrive or perish. Rutter’s findings suggest that it is insufficient to focus exclusively on bolstering at-risk individuals and families, but there must also be public policy efforts to change the odds against them.
In the twenty first century, it is apparent that the configuration of the family is shifting. Diverse forms of family systems do not inherently damage children (Walsh, 2004). Walsh emphasizes, “It is not family form, but rather family processes, that matter most for healthy functioning and resilience” (p. 16).

One family process that governs how a family responds to a new situation is the way in which shared beliefs shape and reinforce communication patterns (Reiss, 1981). Hadley and his colleagues (1974) found that a disruptive transition or crisis could potentiate a major shift in the family belief system, with both immediate and long-term effects on reorganization and adaptation. Additionally, Carter and McGoldrick (1999) suggest that how a family perceives a stressful situation intersects with legacies of previous crises in the multigenerational system to influence the meaning the family makes of the adversity and its response to it.

Walsh (2004) asserts, “A cluster of two or more concurrent stresses complicates adaptation as family members struggle with competing demands, and emotions can easily spill over into conflict. . . . Over time, a pileup of stressors, losses, and dislocations can overwhelm a family’s coping efforts, contributing to family strife, substance abuse, and emotional or behavioral symptoms of distress (often expressed by children in the family)” (p. 21). Figley (1989) noted that catastrophic events that occur suddenly and without warning can be particularly traumatic. Bowen (1978) suggested that shock wave effects of a trauma might reverberate through the system and extend forward into multiple generations. Thus, Walsh (2004) calls upon therapists to take a systemic approach to intervention in the face of crisis, with interventions that “. . . strengthen key interactional processes that foster healing, recovery, and resilience, enabling the family and its members to integrate the experience and move on with life” (p. 22).

To understand resilience, one must also look through a developmental lens (Carter & McGoldrick, 1999). Neugarten (1976) found that stressful life events are more apt to cause maladaptive functioning when they are unexpected. Also, multiple stressors create cumulative effects, and chronic severe conditions are more likely to affect functioning adversely. However, Cohler (1987) and Vaillant’s (1995) research found that the role of early life experience in determining adult capacity to overcome adversity is less important than was previously believed. Thus, discontinuity and long-term perspectives on the individual and family life cycle point toward the idea that people are constantly “becoming” and have life courses that are flexible and multidetermined (Falicov, 1988). Furthermore, Walsh (2004) suggests that “. . . an adaptation that serves well at one point in development may later not be useful in meeting other challenges” (p. 13). Research has pointed toward a greater risk in vulnerability for boys in childhood and for girls in adolescence (Elder, Caspi, & Nguyen, 1985; Werner & Smith, 1982). All these variables highlight the dynamic nature of resilience over time.

In the field of family therapy, it is incumbent upon researchers and practitioners to recognize that successful treatment depends as much on the resources of the family as on the resources of the individual or the skills of the clinician (Karpel, 1986; Minuchin, 1992). Family processes can influence the aftermath of many traumatic events, reverberating into the course of the lives of people in future generations. Individual resilience must be understood and nurtured in the context of the family and vice-versa. Both immediate crisis and chronic stressors affect the entire family and all its members, posing threats not only to the individual, but also for relational conflict and family breakdown in current and future generations. Family processes may mediate the impact of crisis on all members and their relationships. Protective processes build resilience by promoting recovery and buffering stress. Indeed, healthy family processes influence the effects of present and future crises far into the future (Bowen, 1978; Kerr & Bowen, 1988). Since all families and their members have the potential to become more resilient, family therapists should work to maximize that potential by strengthening key processes within the individual and within the system.

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Dr. Barbara Cunningham, MFT

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How Family Counseling Can Help Troubled Youth

A child’s poor schoolwork may be a cry for help in family relationships. If the family’s request for help is ignored, the school may be left with a refractory educational problem and an angry child who may continue to fail until someone finally gets the message. In most instances, when children fail in school, some form of family therapy is warranted.
The goal of family therapy is to change structures and processes in the family or in its environment so as to relieve existing strains. Family diagnosis based on living systems theory makes it possible to determine whether pathology lies in a family as a whole, in one or more individual members, or in a suprasystein, such as an economically disadvantaged neighborhood or a school with limited resources.

The range of interventions available to families is considerable. The health, mental health, social service, pastoral care, and educational systems all deal with family problems. The field of marriage counseling has specifically focused on one aspect of the family, and family service agencies handle all aspects of the family. For faltering families the marital relationship is the most important locus: marriage counseling or marital couple therapy may be useful. For families with more serious problems, self-help groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Parents Without Partners, and Parents Anonymous are available in most communities. Child psychiatrists deal with the range of child, adolescent, and family problems.

The fit between clinical resource and a family is critical. Ethnic and economic factors may override psychological issues. Every clinical resource sets some limit on the range of factors it can work with in both diagnosis and therapy. These limits evolve out of the history peculiar to a given clinical setting, the training backgrounds of professionals, the socioeconomic sur�roundings, and the nature of the social pressures.

Motivating Families for Therapy

Professionals should be sensitive to the misunderstanding, hesitation, and fear in family members as they approach help.

Each family member’s level of sophistication about psychological problems and openness to using a mental health resource varies. At the least education of the mem-bers of the family is required so that an intellectual understanding of the reasons for working with the family can be achieved. This step often is omitted with resulting misunderstandings.

Troubled families are the most likely to lack insight and even the strength to engage in family therapy. Their defensive maneuvers may he so extreme that engaging the family in therapy may depend upon equally skillful maneuvering by the therapist or the external pressure of agencies, such as the schools and the courts. If given a choice, many of these families would either drop out or limit their involvement to supporting treatment of the identified patient. Their denial and projection are particularly difficult to handle.

Ferreting out the family’s expectations of therapy is an important step toward assessing their motivation For change. For example, because dominated families involve both family and individual psychopathology, they often lodge their concerns upon a single identified patient. The other family members may not be disposed to see themselves as a part of that person’s problem and certainly not as the focus of therapy. When an attempt is made to involve the family, the parents may withdraw and look for someone who will “help”. the family member identified as a patient. As a strategy, the therapist may need to appear to join the family in its efforts to change the symptom bearer as a means of involving the entire family with the passage of time.

Conflicted families usually, require intensive family therapy in addition to consultation to other systems. such as the schools, social services, and law enforcement agencies. Chaotic families are the most difficult to engage in family therapy because their views of reality are not congruent with their social milieu. Hospitalization, medication, and consultation to other agencies may be necessary. in order to provide a foundation for family therapy.

A delicate issue in motivating families for treatment is how to separate a clinician’s responsibility to assist the family from the family’s responsibility for change. This is a problem especially when other agencies are involved with the family. For example, both school personnel and parents may look to a clinician for answers about a child. In these circumstances the clinician must carefully keep the child and the family in the position of responsibility and work through them for inter-system negotiations. Unsuccessful management of this issue can make the clinician a scapegoat by permitting both the parents and school personnel to expect that the therapist is responsible for changing the child.

From the educator’s point of view, it is important to he aware of the complicated role of the family in a child’s school problems over which educators and parents find themselves in conflict. Some parents obtain satisfaction from this fight, because they were embittered by their own past unhappy school experience and find this opportunity to retaliate. The child has an especially important role to play in this manipulative struggle. In the battle over who will control the helping process, if the school and clinical team are not coordinated, a family can find a weak link and defeat both. An effective position for school personnel in these situations is to recognize that no one can help the child until everyone works together.

The Techniques of Family Therapy

The theories and techniques employed by family therapists vary. widely. General systems theory, however, provides a rationale for integrating them.

The aims of family therapy are to promote the basic functions of the family. Forming a family unit assists adults in appropriately disengaging from their families of origin. The functions of a family relate to intimacy between family members in the form of attachment bonds and empathic communication, which can be fostered through increasing sensitivity to others and risking exposure of one’s personal vulnerability. As the heart of the socialization process, the family is the vehicle for imparting cultural customs and values through the process of identification and through learning coping skills. The family also is the forum for safely expressing transient irrational emotions and accepting them from others. In the family the irrationality of life can be accepted by acknowledging the differences between the way things should be and the way they are, between expectations and reality, and between verbalizing socially unacceptable emotions and wishes and acting upon them.

The barriers to healthy family functioning are stereotyped roles enacted by family members based upon covert scripts that are incongruent with family functions. Examples of these roles are victim, martyr, hero, tyrant, scapegoat, saint, rebel, fool, and genius. These roles are played out from ritualized scripts that maintain immature, destructive relationships and frustrate the individuation and development family members. Family therapy creates awareness of these counterproductive scripts and roles through confrontation, interpretation, playfulness, and humor in order to foster flexibility in family members within legitimate family roles.

The techniques or family therapy include behavioral, structural, and intuitive methods. The accumulation of clinical experience is demonstrating the usefulness of employing a range of techniques in an integrated style of therapy. The family therapist can assist families to more realistically function by acting as a catalyst who facilitates interaction; a critic who describes behavior; a teacher who shows new ways; a supporter who gives license and hope; an interpreter who offers explanations of behavior; a provocateur who stimulates interaction, and a model who demonstrates solving problems.

Because of its highly structured nature, the Milan method of family therapy has been employed for training purposes. It involves a therapeutic team that helps families through confronting them with more realistic views of their family interactions while encouraging family members to achieve more adaptive levels of relating to each other.

The Process of Family Therapy

Once a family becomes engaged in the therapeutic process, a varied and exciting course of growth may ensue, or the process itself may be impeded by resistance that must be worked through in order to achieve the aims of therapy.

Family members usually have linear cause-and-effect views of what goes on in the family. For example, “Jimmy’s restlessness gets us all upset.” The aim of family therapy is to shift the level of understanding from this simplistic and partially correct view to an interactional system level. An important technique for accomplishing this is through encouraging family members to comment on each other’s relationships in the family. This both opens up communication and focuses attention on interactions within the family.

Through a variety of reframing statements additional information can be given to a family to encourage more accurate interactional and psychodynamic understandings of the determinants of symptoms in family members. For example, the success that a child achieves through failing in school and sabotaging adults can be contrasted with the view of the child’s behavior as simply negative. As a family grapples with a child’s problem. their frustrations and discomforts become evident and permit redefinition of the problem in terms of family members’ personal sufferings rather than the problem child’s behavior. New communication lines ran be opened, so that an awareness of the family’s role in a child’s educational difficulties can add a crucial dimension to helping the child. The family can then realistically support the educational program for their child and assume a parent-professional alliance with school personnel.

Some parents, however, remain involved in the genesis and perpetuation of their children’s school problems. Handicapped by inflexibility, this kind of family is stable and inclined to deny the educational problem and becomes upset when the severity of the problem diminishes.

In troubled families, the double bind is a frequently encountered interactional pattern that can have devastating consequences for family members enmeshed in it. In essence, the double bind is a covert relationship in which one person has power over the other, who cannot escape. It has two important components. The first consists of paradoxical injunctions in which the less powerful member of the dyad is given conflicting messages either through impossible injunctions, for example, “be spontaneous” or through the nonverbal contradiction of verbal messages, for ex�ample, a parent’s statement ”don’t worry about me” in an anxious tome of voice. The second component occurs over time in which the paradoxical injunctions lead to repetitive behavior patterns. The participants provoke the very behavior from each other that they deplore through incongruous behavior. For example, a mother criticized her silent daughter and encouraged here to express her feelings. When she did, however, the mother broke into tears with, “How can you feel that way after all I have done for you? Then the daughter became silent, eliciting her mother’s criticism again, because she was not speaking.

During therapy these resistant families act like well-drilled teams. When inter�viewed together family members may feel persecuted, become confused, find it hard to think of anything to say, be preoccupied with and silent about the same secret, agree on a fabricated version of a touchy incident, or start arguing with one another and then blame the therapist for upsetting them.

These families typically employ power plays that maintain the status quo. For example, one set of parents nagged their adolescent son into being a “good boy.” To qualify he had to be passive, compliant, infantile, and sexless. When he rebelled his mother histrionically went to bed with intense heart pains, presumably induced by the son, and the father expressed the horror of one who had sired a homicidal son. Another mother coached her son in reading even though the drills ended with both in tears and obviously impeded her son’s motivation to learn. Other parents are so punitive when their children get poor grades that the children retaliate by failing even more.

A specific aim of one family script is to maintain the symptom. As an illustration, one family with a retarded reader convinced their son that he was doing as well as might expected in view or his presumed limited intelligence. They denied clinical reports that his intelligence was normal and disparaged the validity of the tests. Another aim of a family script is to maintain the acceptability of the family’s public image. For example, a family maintained the image of cheerful cooperativeness with no problems apart from their son’s retardation in reading.

Scripts also protect a family’s secrets. For example, when one son began to talk about the “skeleton in the closet” in a family session, the others started conversations on unrelated subjects. If he persisted, they continued to divert the discussion to peripheral topics or tried to talk him out or his opinion.

Some children improve in schoolwork while acquiring a new emotional or behavioral problem. In this maneuver, the children maintain their scapegoat functions in their families and do not have to deal with upsets, which would follow relinquishing their problem roles. Thus they help keep their families from becoming unstable. If the new problem is addressed therapeutically, the members of these families close ranks. They offer carefully reasoned excuses for missing appointments. They accuse therapists of using ineffectual treatment methods and may discontinue therapy. One parent simply said, “I can’t stand any more talk about me. If we have to do that, I would rather have Bryan stay in special ed.”

PARENT EDUCATI0N

Parents benefit from insight into their children’s problems, but insight alone is not enough. They need help in learning to change the emotional climate in the home.

Parent-guidance materials are important means of assisting parents to understand and to cope with a child’s characteristics. Training in parenting skills also is useful. This is particularly needed in developing communication skills through listening, talking with children, and verbal problem solving as employed in Parent Effectiveness Training. Effective communication is basic to the survival of all groups including families. More specific behavioral management techniques have been developed for hyperactive children. Literature is available to help parents play a more significant role in their children’s schoolwork.

Fostering communication between parent and child through parenting education can produce substantial gains in the competencies of children.

Babies and young children with difficult temperamental styles may cause their parents to feel threatened and inadequate with resulting unconscious rejection or scapegoating of the child. A difficult child and threatened parents, therefore, can set in motion a cyclic interaction that makes the child increasingly vulnerable. With older children parents need help in examining their childrearing techniques. Viewing themselves interacting with their children on videotapes can be particularly useful. They may unwittingly reinforce behavior problems through attention to misbehavior, double messages, failing to set limits, ignoring desired behaviors, and inappropriate punishment, all of which result in losing a child’s respect. Although striving for consistency is a laudable objective, still there are times when parental authority must be arbitrary and so acknowledged with children.

To effect a climate of communication, parents can motivate their children by helping them analyze their own behavior and select target behaviors for change. Family meetings are useful for exercising the democratic process, so that each member participates in decision making within appropriately defined limits. When the atmosphere in family meetings is conducive to discussion of problems with openness and dignity, parents can appreciate the importance of changing their own attitudes and listening to their children more carefully. Parent modeling of self-discipline, forgiveness, and a willingness to acknowledge mistakes promotes similar qualities in their children.

Parents can profit from an understanding of sibling relationships in which a mixture of pleasure, affection, hostility, aggression, jealousy, rivalry, and frustration is freely expressed. The sibling relationship can be profoundly important in shaping the development of social skills. At the same time, a younger sibling can languish in the shade of an overbearing older sibling.

Jack C. Westman, M.D., M.S., is professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. More information about parenting can be found in his book The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Child and Adolescent Psychology, Penguin Press, in bookstores and on amazon.com.

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