Albert Ellis used to offer “Five Buck Friday” night presentations in New York. What a cool idea. People would show up and he would teach them Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT).
I do lots of presentations. I like to think I do lots of presentations because I’m good at doing presentations, but I also know I’m not a perfect presenter and need to be consistently open to feedback and new learning. Anyway, lately I’ve been doing more consultations with young professionals on how to do presentations. This humbling new “gig” is related to our work on the Montana Happiness Project (click here for to see the MHP website: https://montanahappinessproject.com/). Our MHP vision is: “To help create a world where people listen to and value one another while also living lives that are personally meaningful and saturated with eudaimonic happiness.” To help move toward our vision, Rita and I are doing more training of young professionals who want to help infuse more positivity and happiness into the challenges of life.
The young professionals are amazing. Sometimes I wonder when they sleep. Today, as part of supervising and consulting one of our amazing presenters, I responded to some specific questions he posed in an email.
This is my free blog-version of Ellis’s Five Buck Friday consultation.
The staff of this organization works directly with parents. Some things they struggle with are listed below:
- The staff struggles with self-regulation
- The staff would like to be able to be curious (and not activated) when a parent is yelling at their kid, etc.
I’m glad you got this information. One key to a great presentation is to dovetail the process and content to meet the group’s specific goals.
Issues 1 and 2 are great topics to focus on in a staff training/presentation. Self-regulation is almost always adversely affected when there are surprise triggers. Although break-out groups would be good for discussing staff triggers, because the director said the staff doesn’t like break-out groups, you could do live polling on the staffs’ “buttons” or triggers. The goal would be for staff to become very familiar with personal triggers so they can develop a plan for their “best possible responses” to their triggers, and then practice their best possible responses with imagery and rehearsals or role plays. You can’t be curious (Item 2) unless you’re READY for the trigger and have a plan for what your curiosity will look like.
The other issue is that sometimes the staff will need to enforce behavioral limits. When presenting, you are the parent/role model; when working with parents, the staff members are the parent/role model figures. They need to be clear on inappropriate parental behaviors and have a plan for setting and enforcing limits will help them (and possibly the parents) with self-regulation. As I sometimes say about nightmares and tantrums, it helps when the adult “looks forward” to the dreaded incident/trigger. I know that sounds weird, but the incident is inevitable anyway and when it occurs, it provides an unparalleled opportunity to try out the new plan.
In the context of Family Based Services, the staff could use help with:
- How to engage when parents don’t want to be there.
- Going to be transitioning to going back into the homes of clients – this could be hard on clients and counselors.
Using a positive or meaningful frame for parents who are “involuntary” or un-enthused about therapy is essential. Below I’ve listed and described some positive framing ideas and a couple strategies that might help.
- Thank the parent for being there.
- If the parent appears negative or reluctant, thank them even more sincerely and with empathy by acknowledging the reality in the room (e.g., “I REALLY appreciate you being here especially because I can see you don’t feel like being here.” – Obviously tweak that wording and all other wordings to fit your own style.)
- Identify at least one positive reason why the parent showed up (e.g., “You must really love your son/daughter to get yourself here to work with me even when you don’t feel like it.” Or, “Lots of parents don’t follow through on the commitment to show up for these sessions. I really appreciate you showing up. It tells me how committed you are to doing the right thing and being here to do the work.”)
- Bring gifts. Find out the parents’ favorite non-alcoholic drinks and bring them along. Find out their favorite salty snack and bring it along. Hardly anything calms irritability better than sincere positive gestures that include food😊.
- Listen, listen, and listen to the parent’s perspective and complaints and paraphrase the heck out of them before moving on to issues of substance.
- Before, during, and after you share these ideas in your presentation, be sure to be prompting the group to add to the list, while acknowledging how much insight there is in the room.
- Consider helping the staff to establish a positive family-based therapy dynamics checklist to think about before doing family sessions.
I hope this info is helpful!