Quote of the Week

"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way" ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Eastern Probation Office Meeting 4-7-07
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Sunday, April 08, 2007

Nine parents attended this meeting. Topics that we discussed: the incurable yet treatable disease of addiction, what to do with anger and resentment, parent letters to the disease, breaking a few eggs, teen manipulative strategies, using your child's Probation Officer effectively, what to do about pre-relapse anxiety a parent can feel, and how to engage ACT 53. We made time for two role-plays at the end. The role-play printed here is only inspired by the two that we did in group and not an actual representation.

Role-play: preparing for a six hour pass home from the rehab.

Mom: Honey, we need to talk about this home pass, you know, get expectations out in the open.

Son: What are you talking about? You act like I'm a criminal or something. I'm not going to be getting high anymore now- so we can cut the shyt. I'm done with all that. Don't worry- I'll be fine- I learned my lesson!

Dad: Son, we are here to tell you that things are going to be different at home from now on.

Son: I know that Dad! Do yo think I'm stupid. Whatever. Make your silly rules up- it's not going to matter because I'm done with the marijuana. Crap! You'd think I was doing Heroin! That's what kids in here do DAD, they do Heroin! You guys think you have problems- you should feel lucky! These kids on Heroin are a mess. THEY have problems. I'm not even on that shyt!

Mom: Look, Honey all we want to talk about right now is the six hour home pass. We need to know that you are going to follow expectations and the rules.

Dad: Right, we can cross the other bridges later.

Son: OK, OK, OK,- tell me the rules! [Rolling eyes- exasperated-clearly these parents are trying his nerves and if they don't watch out he might have to blow up just to get them back in line- a manipulative technique that may have worked for him in the past.]

Dad: OK, first: the home pass is to spend with us- not your friends.

Son: Duh!

Mom: OK, "duh," well said son- it IS a nobrainer- glad you see that. Here is the deal: no use of the telephone AT ALL unless we know who and why you are calling, and unless one of us says that it's OK. Two: no use of computer AT ALL. Three: no going out in the yard or hanging on the porch unless one of us is with you...

Son: [Not able to restrain himself anymore.] That's fu&^#d up! You can't do that! Are you crazy? You CAN'T DO THAT! THAT'S ILLEGAL [raising voice now].

Dad: Nevertheless, son, that's the deal- I'm sorry to say this but take it or leave it. [Dad ignores the "bait" on the whole illegality ploy because he sees it for the distraction that it is.]

Mom: And there's more. But I'll let you talk for a minute because you seem upset- when you're ready I'll tell you the rest of the rules.

Son: There's no "rest of the rules." Listen you guys are going to get in trouble. I'll call the police if I have to. There are laws against taking hostages! You just can't do that to me. Who the hell do you think you are anyway? You can't stop me from using the phone. THAT is ridiculous!

Mom: Regardless, maybe you should just think it over.

Son: NO- I'm not a piece of shyt and if you and Dad think that you can treat me like that just because I'm in a drug rehab- you're nuts! And that's wrong. I won't let you get away with it.

Long pause- [Everyone looks uncomfortable- no one speaking. These parents have learned that they don't get their point across by getting in the last word- they are patient. At least for right now they know they know they are holding all the cards- they have prepared for this meeting, in fact, they have insisted that the drug rehab allow them time to structure expectations for the home pass- they demanded it and told the rehab that if they don't clarify expectations, there will be no home pass. These parents have decided before hand that their son needs this pass home more than they need him to be home. They know that there are two big reasons to get these expectations resolved before the home pass starts. One: to help to avoid any problems such as their son getting high on a home pass. Two: to send a message to their son that he is no longer in charge, i.e., there is a new sheriff in town! They are tired of walking on egg shells around their son and they are ready to begin to take back control.]

Son: What? [Looking at them, uncomfortable with the silence.]

Dad: I'm not ready for a home pass unless we can come to an understanding.

Son: Fine! I'll stay here! Is that what you want? Hey, even the Heroin addicts get to go home for Easter! But not me! No, no, no-a "big bad marijuana fein" like me, isn't safe to go home- that is such a crock of shyt- are you going to tell them you don't want me home? Huh? They are going to laugh at you! This one counselor said I shouldn't even be here! And another one said that they hope I don't "overstay" cause that could be bad for me to be stuck in here with all the junkies, but no- thanks to you now I got to go tell them that my parents don't want me home.

Dad: OK, OK, OK, [Holding up hand in the universal traffic signal.] You bring up a good point. Hold on a minute. I need to say a few things about this- but I don't want to be interrupted once I start talking, so you tell me when you're done, so I can talk. OK? I'll wait.

Son: [Glares- clearly he does not want to agree not to interrupt- but he wants to hear what Dad has to say.] Just you remember this- how you're treating me now when I'm in here - I'm going to remember that when I'm home! OK- you both got that? I want to be treated decent, like a f&$@*ng human being- not like I'm somebody's dog-and if you give me trouble now- I'm not going to forget that once I get home. OK?

Mom: Just let us know when you are finished.

Son: Go ahead!

Mom: [Looking at Dad, she is not sure how far he is ready to go with this whole thing now-they were trying to keep this meeting relevant to the six-hour home pass, which would usually make sense- but they are getting a lot of resistance and may have to pull out a big gun issue. Mom chooses to let Dad deal with the bigger issue if he wants to go there, i.e., should Son even come home if he is going to be so resistant, and she takes a different course].

OK, well before your Dad starts- I want you to know that you sound like Tony Soprano with the threats you're making. [It is a good idea to pay attention to what is happening. Mom pays attention by labeling behavior as a threat. Notice that she does not threaten back at him, or make this THE ISSUE all of a sudden, but neither can she fail to pay attention. Many, but not all negative behaviors disappear if parents correctly label them.]

Son: I did not threaten you. You're twisting what I said.

Mom: Nevertheless, I feel threatened.

Dad: So do I- but Son, this is a good time- I want to share some things with you. [Dad also labels the threat- but then moves on to the larger issue.]

Son: Yes, I SAID "Yes." You are both so up my butt with this crap- you know it's this kind of shyt that makes me want to use weed! It's assholes like you that make people like me need weed!

Dad: Are you OK? [Ignoring the last effort at distraction-this distraction is actually a good thing to talk about at some point, and both parents make a mental note that Son is threatening to use, and therefore is hardly out-of-the-woods on the substance abuse issue. However, they are two people on a mission and must now return to the home pass issue.]

Son: YES [Obviously mad now.] Just get it over with! I hate this meeting. Can we just get this over with please!

Dad: OK. I didn't want to tell you this right now. I just wanted to deal with the home pass issue, but I think that I need to tell you this now. No interruptions, OK?

Son: OK, OK, OK, I told you OK- just tell me!

Dad: Your mother and I, we want you to be happy, and of course we want you to be drug-free too, but it's important to us that you are not miserable. Maybe happy is too strong a word.


Dad: We think you are very unhappy at home! And the way this meeting has gone so far- I feel horrible, but I'm afraid that maybe you are not going to find happiness at home. Now I know you are only 15, and probably living in a group home or something that Probation finds for you is not a pleasant idea, but just think for a minute- if you didn't have to deal with us on an everyday basis, do you think you would be happier?

Son: Are you for real? I'm not going into a group home. Shut up. That's stupid. I got a home. I'm coming home.

Mom: Not so fast.

Son: What?

Mom: Not so fast. I'm not agreeing to even take you for a home pass- let alone take you home when you get out of here- and if and when I do agree to either a home pass or to actually take you home after discharge, it's because I think you can be successful at home. Frankly, nothing I've seen in this meeting leads me to believe that you are ready to come home and be successful.

Son: I told you- I'm done with the weed! I'm done with the drugs!

Dad: Ahhhhh, but are you done with the friends that you did drugs with?

Son: Hey, those are my friends; you can't pick my friends for me!

Dad: OK we are going no where. We can talk for ever about this- and you will believe what you want and we will believe what we want. Nothing will change on either side. So, lets do this. Lets assume after you think it over - that you agree with the rules for the home pass. You don't even know what they all are yet! And this is the only meeting we can have before we come to pick you up. So, lets cover them and if you think we are too unreasonable, then don't come on the home pass. We will respect your choice to stay in the rehab instead of coming home.

Mom: Right, so we only have a couple more rules to tell you anyway. You will go to a 12-step meeting. We will drive you there and pick you up. And one of us may sit in on the meeting. Oh, And doorknobs have been removed from a lot of the doors in our house. We have even taken them off the bathroom for right now. You are not to be behind any locked doors on the home pass.

Son: What? [Incredulous look on face.]

Dad: Yes, and another thing. Don't give us too hard a time. We know you are going to be angry. That's OK, but don't take it out on us. You don't have to talk to us if you don't want too, but no swearing at us- yelling at us, or going off on your own without supervision.

Mom: Oh yeah, and no smoking!

Son: What? you always let me smoke, just as long as I'm in the basement or outside?!!!!

Dad: Yes, but we have decided not to allow that now.

Son: And why not?

Dad: We enforce all rules that this rehab has while you are with us for a home pass.

Son: They all smoke on home pass- the rehab knows that- THEY aren't nuts like you guys! They expect us to smoke.

Dad: [Dad gets closer to his son- makes DEAD ON eye contact and lowers his voice to a slow whisper- picture Clint Eastwood in Dirty Harry in the "go ahead, make my day" scene. ] Nevertheless- smoking on your home pass is unacceptable.

Son: Why not? Give me one good reason!

Mom: [Moving up closer and slowing down her speech too.] Because we said so!

Son: That's not a good enough reason.

Dad: Regardless, that's the reason.

Son: I can't accept that.

Dad: Whether or not to come on the home pass is up to you Son; think it over. [Putting the ball back in his court is better than having the last word- let him have the last word.]


Dad: One more thing. If you don't think you can handle these rules, I think it's better that you don't come home on the pass. It might be easier for you just to stay here rather than try to cope with the rules we have set down. For one thing, if at any point in the home pass, it appears that you do not intend to follow these rules, we will return you directly to this facility. [Reverse psychology, which might motivate an the oppositionally defiant.]

Mom: Oh yes- and let me tell you young man [moving even closer] we love you- we want you home with us for Easter- but if you decide to come home, and we see that you are making no effort to meet these expectations- I don't care if we are only in the parking lot outside this building- we are marching you right back inside! So, think it over very carefully.

Son: No way. Forget the home pass. Don't come visit me anymore. You don't want me home, I can see that; just go ahead with your lives because I can see that you don't want me home.

Dad: I'm sorry it looks that way to you. Regardless, these are the rules. You think it over Son, we'll respect whatever you decide on this one. [Dad ignores the bait of the whole "you don't want me home," except to say that he is sorry that son sees it that way. This is another distraction, a good one that many parents fall for.]

Son: You know, you tricked me. I can't trust you anymore.

Dad: Really? How so? [This is another distraction- but Dad allows just a bit of a distraction here, because Dad and Mom have considered the whole "trust" issue, they are ready for it, and it suits their purposes to allow this one distraction because it allows them to cover one of their talking points.]

Son: Before I decided to come in here- I didn't know that you guys were going to go all postal on me- nutso with changes before I got out! You lied and said, "Oh we'll work it out- you'll be home in no time."

Mom: Good point Son. I see it looks to you like we've been deceptive. [Mom agrees with him that it "looks to him" like they have been deceptive. This is Counter-manipulative strategy; she will put her TWIST in it before it's done. By sort of agreeing with his accusation, she stops this issue from becoming a huge distraction.]

Son: Right- I would have never told my PO that I was coming in here if I knew all this was going to happen. You keep changing things, that's why I can't trust you now! When am I coming home? That will be the next thing you try to change on me!

Dad: I don't think it will matter to you, if we tell you we didn't exactly see all these changes coming either. [Still going with the reverse psychology.]

Son: Yeah, right! [rolls eyes] You knew! [He doesnt bite on the reverse psychology. However, even when it doesn't seem to work- the reverse psychology does work. Dad called this one. It didn't matter to Son, just like Dad said. So, Dad looks like he knows what he's talking about :) ].

Mom: I'm glad you pointed this out, really.

Son: [Looking encouraged, as if he thinks that he has scored a big one now- the look of triumph in his eyes.]

Son: So, yeah this is really going to be hard for us to get through now that I realize that I can't trust you. You shouldn't make all these changes while I'm in here- it's not fair. It's like the coward's way to work things and now I can't trust you. [He continues to beat the "I can't trust you drum" believing that his parents have a strong NEED to be trusted, just like he mistakenly thought that his parents had a strong NEED to have him home on the home pass- as if THEY will be the ones suffering if does not come home.]

Son: From what I can see- you're being mislead by this crazy dude at those meetings you go to. I heard about that guy- NO ONE up here can stand that guy. As long as you're going to those meetings, I think it's going to be hard for me to trust you.

Dad: Wow. You said a lot there. Phew. Let me try to take that all in for a moment.

Mom: Right - me too. Gee whiz son, you are good! You really should study Law- with reasoning like that - you could win a lot of court cases. [Simple flatery. We forget that it is one of the basic tools of effective communication. And really, this kid IS quite good at debate and at throwing up distractions. Aren't they all?]

Son: [Looking pleased with himself now.] It's true. You can ask anybody up here! Everyone says it.

Mom: OK, Well this what I hear you saying. Number One: we are changing things and that makes you think you can't trust us.

Son: Right- cause you are.

Mom: And two: you think the problem that we are having is partly becasue we attend PSST meetings? [Basic active listening skills.]

Son: Yep. That's the way I feel about it. You don't want me to lie do you? I really am feeling some kinda way about this- like this is going to be hard for us to work though and that's what we are supposed to be doing up here- working through our issues!

Mom: Well, honey I'm glad you said all this- and yes, I'm very glad that you are being honest with us. For you to say that, means that you believe that we are making changes at home. You are so right. We are making a lot of changes and I see that you are starting to believe that now. Good for you. [Enter the TWIST.]

Dad: Yes, I agree. Nice going Son. And I can hear you that you feel you can't trust us now. [Moving closer.] I think the way you are looking at it, you are right. You definitely CAN'T trust us. You can only TRUST that we will do EVERYTHING in our power to try to help you save your own life from drugs and alcohol. [Another TWIST- in group this line in role-plays draws applause!] You can trust that we will search your room; trust that we will take off the doorknobs; trust that we will use the Probation Officer, the Counselors, the School people to help. Trust that we will do everything we can to see that you get ALL the treatment there is for this life-threatening disease. If this rehab isn't long enough- we know there are other places. And you so are right to point this out: TRUST that your mother and I will CHANGE things as we go along. Lot's of things.

Mom: Right, you can trust that we are going to change a LOT of things whenever we feel that it might help you stay away from drugs. And I know that you are no Heroin Addict, at least not yet, but the large amounts of money you stole from us, the continued drug abuse of marijuana and pills, the school problems, and the fact that we have become completely POWERLESS to control you- that is now unacceptable to us. WE WILL CHANGE EVERYTHING IF NECESSARY TO SEE THAT THIS DOES NOT CONTINUE. [Said sternly, with strong eye contact- but in a quiet voice, not a yelling voice. This is embracing First Step for parents.]

Dad: And Son, I'm glad you brought up the meetings that we go to. I didn't think you noticed that or cared about where we go. You may not know this but we are also going to Bridge To Hope meetings, and Naranon meetings now. We are not going as often as we'd like to, but we will go to anyplace we can if we think it might help. That includes PSST meetings. But that is our business- you can have feelings about it- that's OK, but that's our business and we will make those decisions. [Good boundaries- Son's problem with the meetings is that he can sense a shift in power from the strength and motivation that the parents get from the meetings. What a shift- usually it's the parents who are concerned about where the teen is going, now the teen is concerned about where parents are going! Full of irony at the least. ]

Son: I can't believe this!

Dad: Thanks for letting us explain all this- I know it was a lot to handle, but really we needed to get that off our chest. [Expressing gratitude for son listening is not a sign of weakness but to the contrary- we can all still be civil and not forget to let loved ones know that we appreciate the little things they do. And think about it: this was a LOT for the kid to sit through. He is not used to this kind of confrontation.]

Mom: Yes, and I know this was not an easy meeting for you. You did fine. You didn't interrupt us much after we asked you not to do that- and you didn't start a tantrum. You did just fine. Now, if I were you I'd think carefully about my next step. If you decide not to visit or not to return home to live with us at all- then talk to the people up here about what your options are. [Putting the ball back in Son's court. Once again, this is much more effective than getting in the last word.]

Son: I'm not going to live in a stupid group home, if that's what you're thinking!

Dad: Good for you, then. So you've got a lot to think over I'd say.

Son: Maybe. [At this point, Son is not about to agree with anything that THEY say.]


Son: We'll let me ask you something.

Mom: Sure thing.

Son: If I come home for the pass and I do all this STUFF, can I at least have a cigarette- just one- or maybe two- before I come back here. It's so hard to go without them. Hey, if you want, you can even just give me one if I follow all the rules you have, you know, as a reward or something. Nobody here will know.

Dad: OOOOOOOO- now you tempt me Son- [Smiling.] [It is tempting- now if you agree to his cigarette request, he will or might agree to your conditions. Just pay him off. Of course that actually puts Son back in control and makes co-conspirators out of all three of you. This is a trap, a back door effort to sneak in the control he feels he is loosing.]

Mom: Yes, me too, but you know, we have a problem with that too- but it is a really good question you are asking. [A good question is one that opens up one of the parents talking points :)]

Dad: Yes, it is a good question and it deserves a good answer. Son, we can no longer keep secrets like that for you. Period.

Mom: Yes, you see we have learned that our secrets keep us sick- and honey we don't want to loose you to this terrible disease- so we have made a committment not to keep secrets about your behavior- not from the rehab staff- not from your Probation Officer. So, you see they would find out. We would tell them.

Son: Who are you people and what have you done with my real parents?

Mom and Dad: [Laughing].

Dad: So glad you can keep a sense of humor about this Son. Oh, and one more thing that I don't think you will believe- but I got to tell you. We miss you. I miss you. You should know that.

Son: Doesn't sound like it.

Mom: No I don't suppose it does sound like that to you. [More active listening- this Mom is skillful :)] Well, sorry it looks that way to you- regardless, we love you very much. You let us know what you want to do about the six hour home pass, OK?

Son: Ok, [Son tries to walk away- but parents grab him- hug him anyway- he tries to resist- they let him go- he walks back acting upset, but without the same angry conviction he displayed earlier in the meeting.]

Mom: [Watching Son walk away she turns to Dad.] That was hard- my heart is breaking.

Dad: Me too. But, hey, we did the right thing- he will be ok, he is learning that he has to deal with us- and he hasn't had to deal with us like this for a long time. It will take some time for him to get used to us.

Mom: I guess so, [Starting to cry a little], but we did good didn't we?

Dad: Yes, honey, we did good.

[Parent's hugging.]

Final point: If you are a single parent and you read this you might say to your self, "they are lucky - there is two of them," and you would be right. However, you can combine Mom and Dad's comments: one parent could say all that. It is often more difficult to pull off, but it can be done. After the role-play, if you are single parent, make sure to go somewhere else for a hug. You need one too.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for writing the great role play Lloyd. It is very helpful when dealing with teens (addicts or not). I have used the words nevertheless & regardless in a few situations with my daughter over the week-end. It kind of stopped her right in her tracks.....

Great job to Ken with the new layout!


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