For many of us, life problems become so entrenched in our everyday life that they consume our thoughts and feelings. When we get stuck into these difficult patterns, solutions seem almost impossible to find.
Many of the parents I see in my practice have seen numerous helping professionals such as psychologists, counsellors and psychiatrists but haven’t seen the outcomes they had hoped for. There are still unsolved problems. Many of these parents feel lost and unsure of what their next step should be. They don’t see light at the end of the tunnel and feel worried every day and night about the wellbeing and safety of their child.
Now there are two sides of parenting an adolescent that is struggling with behavioural or emotional issues and we see these issues in the bush as well. Firstly, there is the “Crisis Management” aspect involving managing those angry outbursts and oppositional behaviour. The second is all about where we focus our attention. That is what this blog is about.
One of my assumptions as a solution-focused therapist is that “Change in inevitable.” Things cannot stay the same. But the truth is that this is all a matter of how we choose to see things. I recommend pulling out your imaginary magnifying glass and emphasising the times where things are going a bit better than usual. In our clinical work, this is called “Searching for Exceptions.”
This, for example, is when our child seems less depressed or less angry. Or the class in school our child actually enjoys attending, and why? Is there a day that you don’t fight with your partner as much? What happened that day that made a difference? Can we do more of it?
This is hard to do but we have created an easy to use worksheet that you can use each week to find these exceptions and help to amplify them. When I review this worksheet each week with one of my clients we talk about exceptions that were important to them and see what it took to make this happen. If we have more awareness about what we did, how we did it and why we did it, we will feel more in control about doing it again.
Here is how you can do it this week step by step.
1) Think of an exception that happened this week. For example, a time when you didn't feel so angry or felt happy in your relationship.
2) How did you feel when this exception was happening?
3) What did you, or someone else, do to make this exception happen?
4) What do you have to do in order to make it happen again?
I like to use a fun metaphor for the last question. Think of a recipe for your favourite dinner or dessert. Some complicated dishes can have a lot of ingredients and methods to get to the final product. Think of your exceptions this way.
Lets say you had a conversation with your son and he didn't get angry or explosive with you. What were the ingredients that made this happen? You can even ask him this question as well if you’re still in conversation with him.
The point for us is that there is always an exception to the problem but we have to be there to find it. Then we can try to make those exceptions happen a bit more often. This will help you to de-stress, feel happier and more centered.
If you would like to learn more about solution-focused approaches, finding exceptions or would like help in finding new solutions, feel free to contact us. For families living in Adelaide we have a beautiful counselling suite that you can visit. For those living interstate, ask us today about our 14-day adventure therapy program for adolescents and learn more about what services are available for you.
Will Dobud MSW
True North Expeditions
True North Expeditions, Inc. provides adventure therapy programs and services for children and teenagers in Australia. Based in Adelaide, the TNE team writes about child and adolescent psychology, family dynamics and how adventure therapy programs can connect with struggling adolescents.