Yesterday we explored the topic of initial interventions, including a free MFT practice question! Did you get it right? Check out the answer and rationale below to find out!
Karl, a 46-year-old retail store manager, comes to therapy at the suggestion of his best friend. During the initial assessment, Karl tells the therapist that he is happily married to his wife Nicole and they have two children together: Nina, 9 and Taylor, 16. The reason Karl is seeking help is due to his ongoing frustration with his son. “He never listens to me or my wife. All he wants to do is hang out with his friends, be on his phone, and stay locked up in his room,” Karl states. “At this point, we are ready to pull our hair out. Nothing we do works,” he adds while requesting new techniques to help deal with Taylor. What initial intervention should the therapist consider in this case?
A. Normalize Taylor’s behavior as part of a normal adolescent stage of development
B. Invite Karl’s wife and son to come to therapy since both of them are such a large part of his presenting complaint
C. Acknowledge Karl’s struggle and comment on how frustrating youngsters can be
D. Suggest that Karl come up with a short list of activities that his son enjoys and invite his son to participate in them
The best answer is C.
- (A) sounds very tempting, doesn’t it? After all, there is a good amount of normalizing that we do as therapists and Taylor seems to be exhibiting normal adolescent behavior. It is a good answer indeed, yet picking it would mean that we miss our client’s feelings entirely. Our client is telling us how frustrated he is with his son. Telling him that his son is being a typical teenager might make our client feel a bit bad, which is not clinically sound.
- (B) is also very tempting. It makes a lot of sense to invite his wife into the room with him, since it is the two of them that are having trouble dealing with their son. Inviting Taylor also makes sense, since the whole issue is about him. Wouldn’t we want to include him in treatment? Perhaps yes, but not quite yet. This is a step that might come in the middle phase of treatment, but it is not suited for an initial intervention, since again, we miss the client that is sitting right in front of us.
- (C) is the answer that finally meets our client where he is. It is clear that he is very frustrated with his teenage son, and that is exactly where we are going to connect with him. Such connection will allow us to build rapport and to help the client feel understood and not judged. Bingo! That is a great place to start. It is out of that connection that the future interventions will flow.
- (D) is putting the cart before the horse. Here we miss the client’s personal feelings and rush into making suggestions. You know how the security message on the airplanes encourages us to put the oxygen mask on ourselves first, and only then help those dependent on us? Connecting with Karl would be putting that oxygen mask on the father first. And that, in turn, will help him take better care of his family. Once Karl’s feelings are attended to, he and the therapist can come up with solutions together.
Which answer did you choose? Does the rationale fit with your understanding of the topic and how you would approach an initial intervention question? If you have any further questions feel free to check in with a TDC coach. We are here to support you all along the way. And if you came up with the same answer-great job! You are on the right track to getting licensed.
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We look forward to helping you PASS your exam with confidence!