Quote of the Week

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

Report on recent meetings and Holiday Vist role-play.
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Wednesday, December 05, 2007

We had four parents two weeks ago at Eastern, 12 parents this last Saturday at Eastern, and three parents at Gateway Greentree. At the 12-parent meeting we also had two guests from Wesley-Spectrum Family Therapy.

It was very nice to have guests at our Wilkinsburg meeting. Wesley-Spectrum therapists are involved with more and more of our parents in group and reports that we get are very positive about the great work they do.

All in all it was a great meeting. Even with 12 parents everyone finished updates by close to 10:30 AM leaving us time for an extra long break followed by role-plays. The smaller meetings that we have had lately have allowed more time for more intimate sharing and more time for longer role-plays.

At one meeting we explored how much power that teenagers still exert on the family even when they are in placement. How do they manage it? Mostly through the application of guilt. Parents are often particularly susceptible to these tactics because they already feel so guilty about having their teen in placement, even though it means that they are temporarily safe from continued substance abuse.

Add to this equation the fact that the holidays are upon us and you see tremendous pressure. For example, consider this exchange from a recent role-play.

Teen: Mom, you know you can have me home at on Christmas.
Mom: I thought you had to be here longer to get a home pass. You just got here a month ago.
Teen: No, Mom! That doesn't matter. All you need is a Court Order, and they say it's fine for me to go home at Christmas.
Mom: A court order?
Teen: Yes, you can do that Mom. Just call the PO. Tell them you insist, that you expect me to at least have a Christmas Visit. Look at this place Mom! And you put me here- the least you can do is spring me for one day!
Mom: Oh I don't know about that honey...
Teen: MOM! [getting a bit louder] it's Christmas! Oh my gawd, even Tiny Tim had a Christmas! You remember our favorite holiday movie we used to watch- or did you even forget what wonderful Christmases we had when I was little.
Mom: No honey, I didn't forget...
Teen: Then you'll call the PO and ask for the order?

We can see how much pressure this teen puts on the parent. Note that the natural tendency for the parent is to say, "no, honey. I can't do that." Or "I'll call the PO" and later say, "you Know honey, I called the PO and they say we can't do that. Sorry I did what I could. You know I want you home for Christmas and if I could have done anything at all- I would have."

But lets look at this reply. It accomplishes one thing. It keeps the teen in the placement where she is safe over the holidays. However, it does that without transferring any power to the parent. The power-players in this scenario is the Teen for applying a generous amount of guilt and the PO who says "no- way." The parent is correctly viewed as powerless. Also, the parent really does nothing to garner support or appreciation from the teen who could care less how much mom tried- the bottom line is Mom failed. Plus the teen might correctly assume that Mom didn't really try that hard. No, this is not what we need. What we need is for the Mom to be powerful, and in the beginning of the role-play you can see that the Teen attributes power to the Mom. The teen is more or less saying, "hey Mom, you are powerful." And Mom's response is "no, I'm not powerful." This is like throwing money away. Part of the problem that we are trying to address is the imbalance of power that happens along with Chemical Dependency. The addicted family person ends up with way to much power. When the addicted person is in treatment, we are trying to correct this imbalance. Consider the following wrap-up to the above role-play:

Mom: Honey, you are so right!
Teen: About what? You mean you will ask for the Court order?
Mom: Honey, what I mean is this. If we had a Court order you could come home for Christmas. A Court order goes a long way in this business, I'm learning that.
Teen: And?
Mom: Well, this is going to make you mad I'm afraid, but I'm not going to ask for a Court order for a Christmas Visit.
Teen: What!? You don't want me home do you.
Mom: No, not yet.
Teen: you bi%@*. You want me to stay in this hell hole that YOU put me in, while you out having a nice Christmas.
Mom: Yes, I want you to be here where you are safe.
Teen: Oh don't give me that s*&t. I have done really well here, and you know the staff spit on that one girl- what kind of place is this you put me in. You put me here. You don't even know what this place is like, do you MOM? You don't know a thing about this place. The things I could tell you about this place would keep you up at night if only knew what goes on in here...
Mom: Yes, I think it's bad here.
Teen: Bad? You have no idea. Did you ever have to stay in a place like this? Huh? Did you? No you didn't.
Mom: No. I don't' know what goes on in here.
Teen: So how can you say that?
Mom: I prefer that you are where you can not do drugs, stay out all night, go out with older men who give you drugs. That's all. And I want you to come home to visit only when you have earned that privilege here.
Teen: You don't have a clue. Give me one good reason why I can't come home for Christmas?
Mom: Honey, you know if we talk about this for hours, it won't matter. I can't convince you that you should spend Christmas in here.
Teen: You're right! You can't.
Mom: So, I'm not going to try.
Teen: Well, you just want me out of the way, don't you? Admit it. It's just "easier" for you that way.
Mom: Well, yes, it is easier for me to enjoy Christmas knowing that you are safe here from drugs and alcohol.
Teen: So, this is all about what is best for you, isn't it.
Mom: Yes, part of is all about me. I want you safe this Christmas. I don't' want to worry about you getting high, running off with that older man, stealing money from me and from our relatives, and hurting yourself in any of the ways that you have done in the past.
Teen: Why won't you trust me? I'm not going to do any of that this year!
Mom: Nevertheless, you'll be here for Christmas this year.
Teen: I hate you! Don't even come to visit me for Christmas. I don't want to see you anymore. I hate you.
Mom: You break my heart baby.
Teen: Oh sure. I don't think you feel bad at all. If you did, you would get me out of here for just ONE DAY!
Mom: Yes, you are right. I guess I don't feel as badly about it as I would have last year. I guess it's OK for you to be mad at me. I'm OK with that.
Teen: What do you mean by that? That is an ignorant thing to say.
Mom: Well, it use to bother me soooooo much if you were mad at me. Then, I would make decisions that maybe weren't good ones, just so that you wouldn't be mad at me. But I've changed. I have a job to do as your mother. Sometimes when I do my job you're going to be mad at me. I've accepted that.
Teen: Bi$%. Just don't visit me. You got that?
Mom: Yes, I got that.
Teen: Just think about me rotting away while you have your little Christmas, OK? Just picture me stuck in here with all these felons, rapists, and bank robbers. OK?
Mom: I confess that while I will miss you- and you don't believe that- my holidays will be happier this year just because I know you safe from Drug Abuse. That's the nicest gift I could get this year.
Teen: I hate you. Please leave now.
Mom: OK, I think maybe we covered everything. [gives girl a hug, which girl fights off.] Love you. [Mom walks away.]
Teen: [Wants to yell obscenities at Mom but mom is walking aways and is in ear-shot of staff who girl does not want to overhear their problems, so she fumes quietly.

OK, not a happy ending. Not yet. But in this role-play Mom is powerful. This isn't about the PO. Mom takes all the blame. With blame comes power. You don't get the power without taking the blame. Mom does a Harry Truman. The bucks stops here. Note that Mom may have not been able to get the order, however, that is not relevant. Mom does not wish to enable daughter anymore. She refuses to seek the order, preferring that her daughter stays where she is safe and that she "earn" her home passes the regular way. This Mom knows that being in the institution instead of at home is really part and parcel to the treatment that her daughter is receiving.

Will the girl make good on her threat not to have mom visit? Perhaps. Even so, mother can opt to visit or not to visit but her point is well-make. She will not be manipulated into making bad decisions because her daughter is angry and making threats. Period. This mother has made a statement that goes to the core of the daughter having too much power. The reaction of the teen is likely to produce one more thing. If she flips out over this, then Mom has provided "grist" for the "treatment mill." This daughter is blaming Mom and manipulating. This is important information for staff to have. This tells everyone that this young lady has a long way to go towards taking responsibly. No matter how excellent she may be doing inside, her interaction with her mother provides useful information on where she really stands on making changes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

very insightful roleplay. Taking back the power is soo important.


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