Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

  • Blog
  • February 16th, 2014

From Theory into Practice: Combining Experiential and Talk Group Psychotherapy for Adolescents

Mark White, LCSW, LMFT, is a seasoned group and family psychotherapist who has worked in private practice in the Austin area for over 25 years. He presented at the February meeting of the Austin Chapter of the Texas Association for Marriage and Family Therapy on both the theory of group psychotherapy with families, specifically adolescent boys, and his experiences in conducting group psychotherapy. This interview was included in the Austin AMFT monthly newsletter.

1. Briefly describe your work with groups and any specific qualifications or expertise for this work.

I have 39 years of experience in mental health. I began at the age of 21 working in mental health in a residential treatment center, where I participated in groups and helped to lead groups. I learned to practice and use the concepts of Milieu therapy while working in residential treatment.

For over 15 years, I have conducted groups for adolescents and parents in my private practice.

2. Please share with us one of your most memorable experiences in the field.

There are so many good and memorable experiences they are hard to record. I’ll tell you one story. I worked with a young man who had low muscle tone and stuttered profusely. He would barely participate in either the talk or activity part of the group. Over the course of four years, he became much more active in playing games or sports. As he began to experience some success in the activity portion of the group, he gradually began to talk more and his stuttering diminished. As he gained confidence, I approached him near the end of one group and mentioned that he talking more as well as becoming a good athlete. Finally, I asked him why he was talking more in group. Very simply he stated, outside of group, people always made fun of him when he stuttered, and now they don’t.

3. More specifically, how do groups help families and/or couples?

I provide phone and session consultation to the parents of every client I work with in group. I am able to provide an understanding of the client to families with a systemic approach.

Also, in the spring and fall, I provide parent-only group meetings for all of the parents of clients in group. Like all groups, they learn from other parents, share experiences, and it greatly helps to generalize the work in group to home and outside environments.

4. How can mental health professionals more effectively use groups?

We live, work, and play in groups starting with the family to the community at large. The experiential groups seem to really help clients that may be socially awkward in a real, live, and vibrant process.

5. Please provide a brief overview of your presentation.

I will cover theory including E.H. Erikson, D.W. Winnicott, and eclectic practice materials that are put into practice in the facilitation of Milieu therapy with middle and high school students. The presentation will cover who, what, where, and why groups are conducted for these clients.

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  • Blog
  • May 27th, 2012

Change is Hard! Successful Transitioning

The end of school, at every level, marks a significant transition for all parents and students. The transition from spring to summer is a seasonal change, as well as the end of the school year, and is also a transition from a structured schedule to a new or different structure and schedule, and increased demands and expectations at the next level.

In transition, most children “regress” before they “progress.” Therefore, “acting out” behavior is common when children are about to make a developmental leap forward. For instance, a Senior graduating from high school may engage in a ritualized Senior prank, which actually is a statement of DEVALUATION of the current environment (high school), as well as a REGRESSION to an omnipotent terrible two-year old state of “You can’t make me do anything.”

Adults commonly act out and regress when confronted with change or transition. An employee with five years of experience in a professional position, when moving to a new and more challenging promotion in another company or corporation, may decide the day before they terminate to tell their supervisor everything ‘wrong’ with their supervisory efforts, as well as the many things they don’t like about the company’s policies regarding employees. This is an example of both DEVALUATION and REGRESSION.

With children, it is important to recognize both regression and devaluation in the process of transition, in order to facilitate the process of PROGRESSION. Following are some useful tips for parents of students in transition.

1. Recognize when your child is “regressing” and meet the regression by providing and assisting the child with their current and basic needs. For example, “I don’t want to study for my exam tomorrow, and you can’t make me.” Parent response: “I know it is so hard to do. Can I make you some macaroni and cheese?” Meet the regressive tendency and provide empathy.
2. Recognize the natural tendency to devalue the current environment and relationships within it. Try not to join the student in this process. “I hate high school and especially my math teacher, who wants me to do extra credit work for my missed assignments.” This is a common sign of devaluation. Try not to join the student, and instead, assist them in meeting expectations.
3. Say goodbye well. Send a note with the child’s signature to the math teacher, thanking him or her for the opportunity to complete extra credit work. Show up, shake hands, and express gratitude for a job well done. Put together a party or outing for your child and their peers to wrap up the year and celebrate a successful completion and ending.

Recognizing that our natural tendency to regress and devalue in the transition process in a mindful and conscious manner is imperative. Empathically meeting the dependency needs of children in transition without devaluing the current environment is essential to successfully navigating a progression to the next step.

I wish you a successful transition from spring to summer!

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