Ungar 6 Strategy: Hear their truth and help them to listen to the truth of others
During my placement I observed and interacted with a female client. She is 18 years old and was fostered at the age of 2 when her mom abandoned her at a busy street intersection. Her life was saved by an inquisitive bystander who rescued her and immediately reported the incident to law enforcement.
At 18 she had already moved through four foster care parents before admission to this group home who concluded that she was simply difficult to manage. The problematic scenarios included stealing, tantrums; disrespect and potential violence. During our therapeutic interaction I first allowed her to realize that I cared about her future and could be relied on for confidentiality.
At this point she began to tell her truth of how at 18 years old she felt about herself and life generally. In a tearful tone the teenager began to explain how she was abused verbally, emotionally; physically and sexually moving through one foster home to the next.
She could not trust anyone because they were not her biological parents, she announced. Profoundly, she cited several instances whereby people were exploitive of her situation of being parentless. Obviously, she expressed a feeling of rejection from everyone; never feeling loved neither a sense of belonging.
In addition, she pointed out that his strengths or passions were not validated as a human expression so she confessed to stealing, getting into fights; becoming disrespectful at home and school; subsequently getting into trouble. When she was through I asked her to listen to my story and how I was raised as a child.
I disclosed, like her I was fostered by people who were not biologically related to me. They were my parents’ friends. Since I was an illegitimate bi-racial child I was excluded from the family being considered an outcast. I developed the theme of gratitude to subtly show how we were raised in similar situations, but reacted differently.
Our conversation developed along the trend of self respect, integrity and self control. My truth as I expressed to this 18 year old was that as a child I used my bitter experiences of physical abuse to strengthen my values of love for myself. Once I could love myself I would not engage in any acts to demoralized me. Therefore, I could not steal to get into trouble, neither be disrespectful or violent. In concluding she was encouraged to listen to others as I listened attentively to this truth and she listened to mine.
Substitute Rather than Suppress
As our therapeutic interaction continued for over a few days, my client’s eyes began to glitter with excitement each time we had a planned intervention. Following through from hearing her truth and helping her listen to mine as well as others, the focus changed to substitution rather than suppression.
My goal as a Child Youth Worker (CYW) is to intercede in helping this client replace stealing; disrespect; tantrums and violence with more positives reactions to his emotions. As such, we were engaged in games she was interested in. It was discovered that playing indoor games was her hobby.
She developed skills in arranging dominoes to ensure a win and also a pack of cards. From our conversations she was self taught being unable to interact positively with peers and parents. This passionate cards player engaged me in techniques I never knew existed in the game.
As we interrelated I commended her unique skills, encouraging her to compete in tournaments. Besides, I validated her as a sure winner and proposed to my supervisor strategies for involvement in community activities. This young lady showed marked improvements within weeks of therapeutic interaction.
Ungar, Michael. (2006). Strengths-Based Counseling with At-Risk Youth. Montreal: Corwin