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Cleaning Up Communication Styles with the 20-item
'Child Dissociative Checklist'
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In the last section, we discussed The Five Minutes Continued. The section included questions that several clients asked me regarding their experiences with The 5 Minutes Technique and my responses to them.
How effective do you feel your communication style is with children?
In this section, we will discuss Cleaning Up Communication Styles. This will include Challenging a Client’s Pathological Behavior and Not Forgetting Why You Work With Children. As you listen, think about how you communicate with your clients. How does your communication style compare with those presented in this section?
Have you found... as I have, that a lot of the communication techniques taught to teachers and child therapists, like the Collective We, referring to oneself in the third person and the softened authoritarian tone can actually blur the boundaries of agency and responsibility? I have realized in my own practice that I need to be more specific and clear.
In some cases, I have found that when I ask questions of a client, I can actually be giving the client suggestions not to remember, not to answer and not to comply. Three ways in particular that I’ve found to clean up my own communication style include Challenging a Client’s Pathological Behavior and Not Forgetting Why I Work with Children. How do you counter that in your own practice?
2 Ways to Clean up Communication Styles
♦ #1 Challenging a Client’s Pathological Behavior
I have found that maladaptive behavior can actually be promoted in two ways. The first is to accept the behavior, taking appearances for granted. The second is to allow a behavior to persist for the purposes of documenting it. How do you counter these in your own practice?
First, obviously, if a child is unable to follow directions due to a handicap, educational or clinical techniques and expectations must be adapted to that child’s condition. However, when a child appears not to understand, remember or do something requested of him or her, I feel that if I accept that behavior, I will start to define the child in deficit terms.
For example, Tanya, age 11, had conduct disorder. She would hit other children at school when she didn't get her way. Tanya had been passed from one foster home to another, and when I asked her about her birth parents, she claimed she didn’t remember them. However, Tanya’s present foster mother informed me that Tanya had left her birth parents when she was 7, only 4 years before. If I had accepted Tanya’s reluctance to talk, I would have effectively thrown in the towel, because I would have stopped challenging her.
I want to clarify that I don’t advocate being confrontational or telling a child that his or her symptoms aren’t real. If I had told Tanya that I thought she really did remember her birth parents, that would have been like saying Tanya wasn’t sick when she had a fever. What I do mean that it can be helpful to test a child out. With Tanya, I did this simply by changing my communication style from an empty statement or questioning approach to a polite command style.
For example, I replaced, ‘Can you tell me…?’ and ‘Do you remember…?’ with, ‘Tell me…,’ which was more assertive. When Tanya remembered material about her birth parents, for which she was supposedly amnestic, or had a memory loss, I had effectively challenged her symptomatic behavior.
A second way to promote maladaptive behaviors can be allowing a behavior to persist in order to create extensive records. Instead of allowing the behavior to persist to create extensive records, I used the 20-item Child Dissociative Checklist, or CDC. The CDC checklist is located at the back of the manual that accompanies this course.
Using the CDC, I was able to identify Tanya’s behavioral clues that indicated potentially solvable problems, such as the way she handled aggression. I have found that children who display behaviors listed on the CDC often respond quickly to signs that an adult cares enough to pay attention, follow up the leads and intervene.
♦ #2 Not Forgetting Why I Work with Children
In addition to challenging pathological behavior, when I think about my communication style, I try to keep in mind why I’m working with children. I can evaluate children with tools like rating scales, checklists and diagnostic instruments. On the other hand, if I actually want to change problem behavior, as Tanya and I did together, then I have found that it is best to treat children as children, along with keeping expectations high, challenging symptomatic behavior and paying attention to the nature of childhood experience."
Do you have a Tanya... with pathological behavior who could benefit from a CDC checklist?
In this section, we have discussed Cleaning Up Communication Styles. Cleaning Up Communication Styles has included Challenging a Client’s Pathological Behavior and Not Forgetting Why You Work with Children.
In the next section, we will discuss Communication Problem-Solving. This will include Talking About Your Child’s Feelings and Needs, Talking About Your Feelings and Needs, Brainstorming Without Judging, Eliminating Solutions that Aren’t Mutual, Picking the Best Solution and Developing a Plan.
What are two ways to clean up communication between a therapist and a child?
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