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This educational approach to positive procedures within
areas of family life is centrally a teaching approach.  It is, thus, important to first focus on the
teaching process itself.  The skills,
techniques, and other content being taught will be of little value to the
client unless he is actively involved in the teaching process and has developed
a pattern of interaction with the consultant that facilitates and encourages

The teaching process begins with being sure that the client
knows what is expected in specific and general terms.  This knowledge must also incorporate a real
understanding of what is being taught – what is to be learned.  As the client is engaged in the various
activities in the educational approach, encourage feedback that lets the
consultant know that the client is focused on the activity, knows what the
general content area of the activity is, and has a good feel for the elements
within the activity in terms of what kind of elements will be involved.  For example, a later activity will ask the
client to look at his multidimensional style. 
The consultant should work with the client enough to be sure that the
client has a feel for what style is, what the dimensions are within
multidimensional, and what kind of statements would be responsive to the

It is also important that the client has some feel for what
there is to be learned through the process of completing the activity.  For example, the client will learn to look at
the six dimensions of his functioning, focus on aspects of those dimensions
that are most important to him, and begin to define those aspects in ways that
will enable the client to reflect the specific traits and characteristics with
style, all the time, on purpose.  The
result will be a more consistent personal presentation to others, resulting in
more consistent, positive feedback from others. 
Knowing and understanding what is expected within the activity increases
the likelihood of the client’s serious participation and the likelihood of a
positive outcome for the client.

Knowing and understanding what is expected then combines
with the client’s knowing how to do what is expected.  The consultant may want to go through one or
two elements of the activity and ask the client to respond verbally.  This will enable the consultant to see
whether or not the client is responsive, thus implying his knowing how to do
what is expected.  In a group context,
the same teaching goal can be accomplished by having two or three participants
respond to an activity item or so verbally before encouraging the group to
complete the activity on a pencil and paper basis.  If necessary, the consultant can offer two or
three appropriate responses, modeling how to do what is expected.

These steps will also avoid the client’s getting into the
activity and having invested time and energy in the activity only to find out
that his participation is inappropriate or nonresponsive.  The key to the educational process is the
minimization of the possibility of failure or of a non-responsive investment of
time and energy on the part of the client.

The educational approach used here is neither abstract nor
disconnected from the day-to-day life and experience of the client.  It is, rather, directly related to and
extended from things the client already knows, understands, or has
experienced.  A useful technique in
verifying this connection is to simply ask the client, “how does this relate to
you and your world today?”  A similar
technique is to ask, “how does this relate to skills you already have or to
strong points in your personality and style of relating to others?”  If the client is able to make the connection
in fairly concrete terms, all is well. 
If not, it will be important for the consultant to facilitate the
connection process.  For example, the
client may not immediately make the necessary connection when thinking about
his emotional style.  The consultant
might say, “Tell me something that you feel very strongly about, that you care
about, that really makes a difference to you.” 
Once the client has shared the specific content, the consultant can then
say, “How do you let other people know about your feelings, know that this
really makes a difference to you?”  Once
the client has shared additional content, the consultant can then say, “The way
you share this, the way you express it lets people know what you think but also
lets them know how you feel.  The “how
you feel” is what we call your emotional expression, your emotional
style.”  Once this idea connects with the
client, the consultant goes on to say, “Your emotional style is an important
part of who you are and has a lot to do with how others relate to you.  What can you say positively about your
emotional style?  To do this, complete
the sentence, ‘Emotionally, I am ________.’ ”

As the client and the consultant engage in the process, it
is important for the consultant to emphasize the client’s progress and to
de-emphasize any problems or how much there is yet to learn.  One way to maximize this strategy is to give
almost all emphasis to the learning task in which the client is involved at any
time.  Comment on the progress the client
has made and on your faith in his ability to make similar progress with the
content being focused on at this point. 
The client may say, “I don’t think I will ever get on to this.  The more I work on it the more it seems like
it’s going to take forever.  I’m not sure
I can do it anyway.”  The consultant
might respond, “I can see how you would feel that way.  I’ve worked with a lot of people who have
felt the same way.  I’ve found that they
usually are not giving themselves enough credit and are forgetting that even a
little progress will make a lot of difference in their relationships, in their
families.  I think you’re being too hard
on yourself, especially since you have been doing so well.”

As the consultant gets more experienced with the educational
approach it will become easier and more natural to modify and adjust the
approach and techniques to the unique client. 
Especially at first, however, the consultant may feel a little uneasy
about the process.  Others who have felt
that way have tended to become a little mechanical and distant form the
client.  It has been found that
encouraging the client to take a little more active role in shaping and
directing the educational process is a good way to guard against this tendency.

As the client participates within his family and within
specific family relationships, one of the goals is to encourage the client to
take the role of the other person, look at things from the other’s point of
view.  In the consultation process, this
can be done through asking the client, for example, “Now that you see what the
idea is, I would appreciate it if we could stop for a couple of minutes so you
can help me think about this particular technique or approach.  What other ways of going about it can you think
of that would be more comfortable to you or that you think most people would
relate to more easily?”

In addition, the consultant will find that some clients are
more comfortable with a pencil and paper approach while others are more
comfortable with a verbal, interactive approach, while still others are more
comfortable with the consultant’s taking the more active role in the
process.  For example, a few clients will
find it most comfortable if the consultant would go through the entire
activity, sharing with the client typical responses to the items, what
interpretations might be given to different responses, or how the consultant
thinks the client might respond based on the consultant’s experience with the
client.  Some clients are self-starters
and ready to take an active role in the process.  Others are only prepared to take a quite
passive role and must be lead along one small step at a time.  Just be sure not to expect the client to be
further along the continuum of active and interactive participation than he is
at any point in time.

The points discussed above begin to merge into a positive
learning environment for the client. 
Although education is sometimes difficult and frustrating and requires
an investment of energy and self, the environment within which the process
occurs can and should be a positive experience for the client.  Along with positive feedback, affirmation,
and an attitude of helpfulness and caring, other aspects of the environment are
also important.

Is the client physically comfortable?  Is the consultant managing the environment in
ways that discourage other people in the situation from pushing, criticizing,
or otherwise conveying to the client any sense that the client is not okay and
doing okay?  Does the environment make it
easy for the client to hear and for him to see everyone as they talk or as the
client interacts with them?

One technique to be used here is to simply ask the client
from time to time if there is anything uncomfortable or negative about the
environment, the experience, or about his participation in the process.  Importantly, the consultant needs to be quite
sensitive here to any subtle or nonverbal clues that suggest that the client
may not be being completely open and candid about his feelings and perceptions.  A positive learning environment is essential.

Along with knowing what is going well, the client also needs
to understand and appreciate why some things are wrong, inappropriate,
counterproductive, or ineffective in terms of his behavior, actions, attitudes,
and interpersonal participation.  When
the consultant says to the client, “That particular behavior or action may not
be your best choice in this situation,” an explanation is in order.  First, the message to the client should not
be that what he has done or how he has behaved is bad.  Rather, the message needs to be that
alternative behavior or actions would likely better serve the client’s needs,
wants, and interest.  These ideas and
suggestions are , of course, combined with discussion and explanations relative
to their value and benefit.

At the same time, the client needs to know and appreciate
“why” his current style is not as useful or effective as it might be.  A useful technique is to focus with the
client in terms of the desired effect or outcome.  The approach is always results-oriented.  Once the consultant and the client have come
to some agreement about the desired results, then it is considerably easier to
talk in terms of means to the end, ways of achieving the results.  Here, experience is usually the best
teacher.  Focus on the results the client
has been getting.  The new or modified
approach is an opportunity to possibly achieve results more nearly in line with
those desired by the client.  At a
minimum, the suggested approach may be worth a try, giving the client the opportunity
to compare the new results with the results he has been getting.  This test is then the participatory
explanation as to why the new approach is preferable to the approach that has
been used.

Again, the emphasis is in terms of the personal experience
of the client and the connection between that experience and the new
learning.  The consultant wants to
consistently avoid any simple appeal to his expertise and experience in ways
that suggest that the experience of the consultant is somehow better than or
preferable to the life experience of the client.

The consultant’s familiarity with the techniques and content
may tend to lead to the client’s being overwhelmed or feeling as if he should
be moving faster than is comfortable.  It
is, thus, important that the steps or learning pieces are very clear and small
enough to make it easy for the client to succeed.  Remember that success is always the
goal.  Among other things this means that
the goal should be less understood in terms of general improvement in
interpersonal functioning and more understood in terms of the development of
specific skills and behaviors.  For
example, the general goal may be to develop a closer sense of interpersonal
involvement between the client and his spouse. 
Keeping the steps or learning pieces small, the consultant might work
specifically on helping the client learn to talk more quietly when interacting
with the spouse.  Frequently, simply
talking more quietly makes it easier for people to develop an increased sense
of closeness and intimacy.

As the consultant interacts with the client, it is important
that the consultant accept as much or more responsibility for any difficulties
or problems related to progress as is attributed to the client.  When difficulties arise within any
intervention process, there is a strong tendency to attribute the difficulties
to the individuals involved.  More
specifically, the tendency is to see the problem as the client’s fault.  When using the educational approach, however,
“finding fault” is both counterproductive and inappropriate.  Rather, the emphasis needs to be considerably
less on “why” the problem has come up and considerably more on “what will we do
about it.”

Extending the point a little, focus is not on “why” things
are problematic but on what is accounting for the problematic piece.  Once the client and the consultant have the
area of difficulty in focus, they then jointly accept responsibility for moving
the process along.  Sometimes the client
takes a little more responsibility; and sometimes, that role is taken by the
consultant.  The educational approach is
a shared process, including shared responsibility.  In this sense, the client/consultant relationship
models a positive, effective relationship for the client.

As the consultant and the client work together in their
shared activity, it is important for the consultant to use that which actually
motivates the client in terms of developing a payoff for the client.  Here, it is not enough to simply assume that
the client is motivated, is interested, and wants to pursue the learning
process.  A more specific understanding
of motivation needs to be developed.  Ask
the client, “Why do you want to do this? 
What is in it for you?  How do you
think you will be better off as a result of the energy and effort you are

At this important level, attention is on personal payoff or
personal gain from the involvement.  It
is this level of motivation that will sustain the client at those points when
the process may become difficult, when learning is somewhat less than easy, and
when it comes time to practice and practice again.  At these points, the consultant, knowing what
the payoff is, can bring the client’s attention back to the payoff, can use the
payoff as delayed reinforcement, and can point out to the client those points
at which the client actually gets the payoff, receives the personal benefits of
the process.  These points may be small
and can easily go unnoticed by the client, since recognizing positive feedback
from others and responding to it may be part of the difficulties
themselves.  For example, if the client
perceives having his child be more cooperative as something that would increase
the general comfort level of the client, progress may be hard to see at those
points when the level of cooperation is quite low.  Knowing that the level of cooperation
develops personal payoff for the client, it may be possible to point out to the
client that the points of low cooperation are getting fewer and farther
between.  The consultant might be able to
say, “I can tell that you are feeling really quite frustrated right now.  It feels like there is no cooperation at
all.  At times like this, it is hard to
remember that you really are making progress. 
I did note as you were talking, though, that you and your son had been
working together for almost two hours before the bottom dropped out of the
cooperation level.  Progressing from five
minutes without things falling apart to two hours is an amazing amount of
progress in such a short period of time. 
You should be really pleased with how well you are doing, even though it
does feel frustrating right now.”

As the consultant moves through the education process, it is
important for him to be well organized and prepared for each opportunity with
the client.  This preparation takes
several forms.  First, it is important to
have in mind specific learning activities and opportunity with the client.  This preparation takes several forms.  First, it is important to have in mind
specific learning activities and opportunities that fit with the needs and
interests of the client.  Of course, this
teaching plan will be modified and influenced by the particular interest and
focus of the client during any educational episode.  Nonetheless, preparation includes an
individual lesson plan including the most likely points to be covered,
techniques to be developed, and other specific content.

In addition, the consultant needs to look at the educational
opportunity relative to both the client and the other members of the client’s
family.  At times, “what would be most
useful to other family members” strongly influences the approach on any given
occasion.  Beyond that, the lesson plan
should take in to consideration past involvement of the client, where the client
is likely to be personally and interpersonally at the beginning of the session,
and which small pieces and little bits are likely productive points to
pursue.  The educational approach is not
a happening or existential encounter.  It
is, rather, a planned and guided learning experience.

As part of the consultant’s style, consistent calmness,
patience, and supportiveness with the client are important.  The key here relates to the more general
importance of a positive learning environment. 
The point may seem small but is actually central to the process.  The client’s emotional state will tend to
fluctuate or vacillate.  It is, thus,
important that the consultant remain reasonably calm and even dispositioned
avoiding any tendencies to become anxious, hostile, aggressive, frustrated,
disengaged from the process, or to convey any other feelings or emotions that
might tend to alienate the client or cause him to begin to react negatively to
the consultant.  The consultant’s
feedback to the client is always neutral to positive.

The point extends to patience on the part of the
consultant.  The client learns that his
idiosyncratic pace will allow him to understand and respond to some things more
quickly than others and will not always reflect smooth and continuous
progress.  Patience on the part of the
consultant conveys an acceptance of the client, the client’s progress or lack
of it at any point in time, and conveys a sense of respect and appreciation for
the client.  Calmness and patience
combine with positive interaction and feedback to support who the client is,
how the client is doing, and the effort the client is making.  The supportiveness of the consultant is,
perhaps, as important as any other single attribute of the client/consultant
relationship.  The role model being
projected for the client is of similar value.

Believing that he understands and can work with the client
and that the client understands and can work with the consultant are additional
essential ingredients in the educational approach.  The dynamic here tends to operate as a
self-fulfilling prophecy.  To the extent
that either perceives a lack of understanding or experiences a lack of faith in
the other, the process will suffer.  It
is also clear that the self-confidence and self-esteem of the consultant are
important aspects of a positive learning environment.  The usually unspoken message to the client
is, “Through what I say and do, I am conveying to you my understanding of you,
your needs, and your interest.  This
understanding combines with the belief on my part that I can help you
learn.”  This confidence is picked up by
the client and is, through identification, translated into the client’s belief
in himself.  The interaction of mutuality
and shared belief, then represent powerful positive drivers that move the
process along.

At a more personal level, mutuality and shared belief
translate into a sense that the client and the consultant like each other.  When engaged with families, this becomes an
even more complex part of the process since the development of a “we like each
other” pattern of interaction needs to be developed with each family
member.  Of course, the shared feeling
will be stronger between some family members and the consultant than with
others.  Nonetheless, serious difficulties
can quickly develop at any point that the “we like each other” understanding
does not develop or begins to break down. 
This is a point that is usually best approached directly.  The consultant might say, “I get the feeling
that you don’t like me very much right now.” 
Always add the “right now” in order to draw attention to the immediate
point of interaction.  Alternatively, the
consultant may on some occasions need to say, “Right now, I am feeling that I
do not like you very much.  I really want
for us to spend some time talking about that so that we can get past this point
with each other.”  The discussion then
needs to focus in terms of specific behaviors or self-projections that seem to
be contributing to the perceptions.  The
point in the process is, in short, managed as an important learning opportunity
for both the consultant and the client.

The underlying theme here is for the consultant to manage
his relationship with the client in ways that allow the relationship to be used
as a standard of comparison from the client’s point of view.  It is also important for the consultant to
facilitate and encourage the comparison. 
For example, if the client and the consultant should reach a “we do not
like each other” point, focus on that point and successfully work it through in
terms of a more positive interaction. 
This process then becomes a referent or “how to” example for the client.

If the client is experiencing negative gain in one of his
family relationships, the consultant might say, “This is a little like when you
and I were talking about liking and not liking each other.  I was impressed with the skill with which you
were able to work through that point in our relationship. It seems to me that
the same skills could be used by you in this situation in your family.  What do you think?”  Sensitivity to potential points of
comparisons, will increase the opportunity for the consultant to reinforce this
use of the consultant/client relationship. 
Progress is evident when the client begins to make the comparisons

Given the best effort on the part of both the client and the
consultant, difficulties and problem points will arise.  The important point here is for the
consultant and the client to evaluate and try to understand why a problem or
difficulty has come up in the learning process before trying to do something
about it or making suggestions for its resolution.  It is tempting to assume no one would try to
resolve a problem before understanding what the problem is and what may account
for it.  Nonetheless, this type of
response, trying to fix before understanding what needs fixed, occurs more
frequently than one might think.

Falling into the trap, the consultant hears the client say,
“I am having a problem with this.”  The
immediate response on the part of the consultant is, “You ought to try…”  Alternatively, the client says, “I am having
a problem with this.  I think I will…”  The issue is that the solution is simply a
response to having a problem but is not clearly related to an understanding of
or sensitivity to the problem.  The
client should be discouraged from this approach either within the consultation
relationship or within his family involvements.

Taking time to evaluate and understand the problem point
avoids the real likelihood that the client will simply use old strategies, old
approaches, and habitual ways of responding. 
Better are responses that are thought out, related to an understanding
of the problem, and developed as a specific way of handling or working through
a specific set of problems, difficulties, or interactional tension points.  If a problem is worth responding to at all,
it is worth the extra thought and attention it will take to respond in ways
that maximize the likelihood of effectively and positively resolving the
problem along with minimizing the likelihood of the difficulty’s recurring.

A point already made in other ways needs reiterated in more
specific terms.  It is important that the
consultant believes that the client can and will make progress.  One way of approaching this is to go beyond
the level of intuition and subconscious perception to develop a chart listing
the strengths and assets the client already has that will be useful and
beneficial in terms of progressing through the learning process.  This listing approach is best accomplished in
conjunction with specific later activities and includes those areas of
strength, special ability, or interpersonal capacity emphasized in the
activity.  A similar listing should be
developed in terms of those factors, characteristics, or other elements that
result in the consultant’s belief that the client will make progress.  The two lists combine to develop an analysis
of what might be thought of as the client’s progress potential.  The same approach can then be used in making
two lists including elements related to what might be thought of as the
client’s failure potential.  The task of
the consultant is then to actualize the client’s progress potential and to minimize
the interference or deterrent capacity of the client’s failure potential.  More specifically, this type of approach
assist the consultant in maximizing the strengths and minimizing
weaknesses.  The educational experience
should then be directed to the elements if the client’s progress potential and
away from his failure potential.

In order to accomplish the above, the consultant must keep
the approach flexible and responsive to the client.  He must be especially alert to any appearance
of elements related to the client’s failure potential and prepared to deal with
those comments in ways that minimize their effect or impact.  At the same time, the consultant needs to be
able to shift to focus on progress potential elements.  Making the same point in somewhat different
terms, if elements within the client’s failure potential begin to appear and or
interfere with the process, it is clear that the process is emphasizing
counterproductive elements, resulting in less than useful responses and
reactions, or focusing in areas with which the client is not yet ready to
deal.  An important part of flexibility,
then, is the ability to back away from the current approach and content and
toward more productive and useful areas.

There will be times when it is important to change
methodologies, activities, or other aspects of the approach to develop more
concert or a better fit with where the client is at at the specific point in
time.  For example, if the client seems
to be getting bogged down, appears to be resisting the process, and doesn’t
seem fully responsive to what is happening at the time, it may be useful to
shift focus to some of the earlier points in this discussion, move from one
activity to another, go back to activities that had been processed earlier,
change methodologies from more verbally oriented approaches to paper and pencil
oriented approaches, or simply suspend the process long enough to talk with the
client for a few minutes about how he is feeling and what the process looks
like from his point of view at the time.

The above is facilitated through consciously using a variety
or mix of techniques and approaches. 
This helps for two reasons. 
First, the variety will be more interesting and stimulating to the client.  Second, using a variety or mix gives the
consultant the opportunity to both tailor the approach to the client and
develop experience with those techniques and approaches to which the client
responds most effectively and positively. 
Beyond that, the strategy presents to both the client and the consultant
the opportunity to deal with the same concepts, techniques, and content areas
using different methodologies.  This
facilitates learning through repetition as well as learning through developing
and understanding that several approaches can and do lead to nearly equivalent
ends.  The effect is to expand and extend
the learning experience for the client in ways that most nearly assure that the
client will be able to identify with the learning process, the content, and the
approach.  The modeling value of this
strategy for the client is also important, especially in terms of his learning
to use a variety of techniques and approaches within family relationship.

The key to all of the above is the consultant’s
understanding of and familiarity with the skills and content being taught.  Teachers must be able to teach but they must
also be very familiar with that which is being taught.  Most consultants will be very familiar with
most of the content areas and with most of the skills and techniques being
taught.  It will also be important for
them to supplement this knowledge and understanding through reading and
continuing training.  In addition, it
will also be useful and at times critical for the consultant to assure the
availability of other consultants with whom the client is able to interact
relative to specific content or skill areas.

For example, functioning as a lover within the marriage
relationship requires specific knowledge and skills related to the sexual
functioning of men, of women, and of sexual interaction between men and
women.  The same is true in terms of
parent/child relationships, especially where the child involved has some type
of special problem or difficulty.  The
consultant need not be all things to all people.  It is enough to have a good knowledge and
skill foundation and a willingness to seek out and make available other
resources that may be needed by the client.

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