Session Four The Parent and Child Interview
Session Four: Setting the Stage The next step in the therapeutic storytelling process is setting the stage for the storytelling sessions. This includes an interview with the identified child and parent(s) in order to develop rapport, gather information, and enlist the support and commitment from parent and child. This session is divided into three sections: Gathering Information Defining the Therapeutic Process Contracting for the Series of Sessions
Gathering Information Adultâ€™s Perspective There may be occasions when including interviews with teachers, social workers, family members, extended family members, as well as significant adults may be necessary to gain sufficient data. I initially meet with the parent(s) in my office for about an hour. I always invite both parents and try to arrange a time when they both can attend. With separated and divorced parents, I most often see each parent individually. My preference is to meet with the parents first. This is a way of recognizing their primary role in the therapeutic process and allows me to access information about the child from their unique perspective. I also see the child alone, if the child is comfortable, so as to begin to develop rapport. In the case of the adolescent I usually see parents and youth together and for older adolescents I usually see the adolescent alone and may not need any parental input. During this interview I am trying to gather information in the following categories: Childâ€™s History
Strengths & Interests
Brief Developmental History
Pregnancy & Birth
Preschool & Primary Grades
History of Family Events Illnesses/Hospitalizations Child/Youth Family & Extended Family Births in Immediate Family Deaths Family/Family Friends
Strengths & Interests
Fictional & Non-Fictional
When Did It Start?
How Does it Manifest
Events That Preceded the Event
Events That Occur After
What or Who Do You Feel May Have Caused It?
Attempts to Remedy the Problem
Childâ€™s Perspective This initial session with the child is intended to develop rapport with the child, collect data for story selection, and introduce the therapeutic milieu to the child. Some children may be uncomfortable alone with the facilitator initially so mom or dad may sit in and I find leaving the door open and positioning myself so the child has an unobstructed path to the door helps. I will often attempt to write down some of the childâ€™s answers or common phrases verbatim and use them in one or two of the stories. For this reason tapping this interview is most helpful and it takes away the interview/interrogation feeling that sometimes occurs. This session is divided into two sections: Childâ€™s History
Strengths & Interests
Child’s History Brief History from Earliest Memories Problem Definition Description of the Problem What does it feel like? Sensory and Emotionally Cause of Problem
Strengths and Interests
Likes & Dislikes
Areas of High Interest
Friends & Influential Adults
What is Funny? Scary?
What Makes You Angry? Sad?
Defining the Therapeutic Process The final purpose of the parent child interview is explaining to the adult and the child the mechanics of the therapeutic process. It is important that the parents appreciate how this technique works and to be able to ask questions so that they are supportive of the process. Some adults are skeptical and if so I ask if they are able to suspend their disbelief for three sessions and agree to a meeting after such time. Therefore I ask for a commitment from the parent(s) initially at this phase and again in a session with the child. Below I have presented an outline for three approaches to defining the process:
Relaxation, Storytelling, Play, & Art Work
Child Relates to Characters in Story
Story Provides Options For Child to View Problem
Indirectly/Unconsciously Suggests Solutions to Problems
Children (5-10 years)
Play: Storytelling & Art Work
Help You To Think Of New Ways To Relax and Solve Problems
Has Helped Other Children in Past
Youth (11-18 years)
Relaxation, Storytelling, & Discussion/Artwork
Reprogramming Mind to New Ways Of Thinking & Understanding
Assists in Relaxation & Concentration
Discussion/Artwork Re Story’s Meaning & Message to Youth
Contracting for the Series of Sessions This step in the process is critical to the therapeutic outcome. The parent and in some cases other significant adults must be in support and agreement with the process. The child must also agree to attend the series. In the case of a resistant child I usually ask him/her for a three session commitment after which time we will all meet again for a review. I explain to both parent and child that I work from an eightsession brief therapy model. The first three or four storytelling sessions are conducted on a weekly basis. Then I often space the remaining sessions further apart to allow the child time to integrate the storiesâ€™ messages and strategies into his/her daily life. I indicate that if a significant change has been realized by the sixth session, I will discuss discharge the child and parent. I have them hold on to the remaining sessions in case their symptom or problem reoccurs. This â€œsession-in-the-bankâ€? technique often gives the children the reassurance that they need to deal with any anxiety that may occur once discharged. If more than six sessions are required, I include a two to three-week break between any additional series of sessions. This break helps children to integrate and assimilate the healing and learning process and also allows them to function on their own for a while, which ultimately decreases dependency and fosters independence. I use a written contract that I usually write as a part of the process making sure the wording suits all parties. Finally I ask all parties including myself to sign the contract.