If you refer back to the blog where we discussed the different types of client-therapy relationships, you will see that we mentioned that depending on what type of client you encounter, will depend on how you will begin the therapy process with them. One way to begin working with a client who is in the “visitor stage” is to take a psycho-education approach.
What is Psycho-education?
Psycho-education refers to providing education about the client’s presenting problems/issues. The goal of psycho-education is not only to help the client better understand what has caused their presenting problems/issues, but also how to find new ways in resolving those problems/issues.
How can it be used?
Using psychoeducation with a client who is in the “visitor stage” helps build a foundation between the client and the therapist and also for the client and the therapy process. We must remember that many times, these clients have been engaging in systems, such as the court system and other aspects of the legal system, that appear to have failed them. When they come see a Specialized Family Therapist, they are unsure about how the process will proceed and may remain hesitant for some time. Psychoeducation allows the therapist to educate the client about the therapy process. It also offers an opportunity for the therapist to educate the client about having a healthy relationship with their co-parent or child. For instance, the therapist can teach the client new communication strategies, anger and stress management techniques, and conflict resolution skills. Some of these things may be vital for the client to learn prior to engaging in joint sessions with his/her co-parent and/or child.
It also is effective if one or the other of the parents is stuck at what Insoo Kim Berg referred to as a “complainer stage.” The approach helps the therapist establish that he or she understands the worries and concerns each parent has for themselves and their children. Helping the parents learn to use “I statements” rather than “we should or “you should” also reduces the reactivity of the other parent. It also establishes that the person using the ” I statement” is acknowledging that not everyone in the world would necessarily agree with me but that I am the other parent and my worries and concerns should be respected. We have discovered from having treated over 500 primarily court ordered cases that most of these feuding parents would never reach even this first level of conflict resolution without the help of the Specialized Family Therapist.
When working with a client in the “customer stage,” we may want to still provide some psychoeducation for the clients. However, the amount of psychoeducation will likely decrease as the client will have been successful at learning and implementing a lot of these education pieces into their relationship with their co-parent and/or child.
Psycho-education should not be the sole purpose of your sessions with clients. It should be used as a building block to help get the client engaged in the therapy process and thinking about ways to make changes.
- What experience do you have in providing psychoeducation to the clients you work with?
- Can you identify some possible pitfalls or limitations psychoeducation can bring about when working with court mandated clients?
Join us at this year’s ALLIANCE FOR CHILDREN AND FAMILIES National Conference on October 15-17 in Pittsburgh to learn more about how you can take this course, bring this program to your agency, as well as meet Maurie Heidish, founder and creator of the Specialized Family Therapy program.