Virginia Satir lays out three sets of criteria for terminating treatment with a couple–criteria which, when met show that therapy has been successful. This is my favorite set, from p. 228 of Conjoint Family Therapy. The individuals in the couple can:
–Be direct, using the first person “I” and following with statements or questions which:
Acknowledge an observation
Identify being puzzled
–Be delineated, by using language which clearly shows “I am me” and “You are you.” “I am separate and apart from you and I acknowledge my own attributes as belonging to me. You are you, separate and apart from me, and I acknowledge your attributes as belonging to you.”
–Be clear, by using questions and statements which reflect directness and the capacity to get knowledge of someone else’s statements, direction, or intentions, in order to accomplish an outcome.
I find these criteria charming, but I don’t think I will be able to use them overtly, for a couple reasons. First, insurance companies want a DSM diagnosis and a clear resolution of the Mental Disorders indicated. Satir did not speak their language. She didn’t like to label people.
Second, supervisors tend to want behavioral definitions of specific problems, so our treatment plans can say things like “The couple reports arguments have decreased from 4 times a week to 2 times a week, and that the intensity of those arguments have decreased from 7 to 4 on a 10 point scale.” This can be more collaborative and transparent with clients. It can appear to make things measured and therefore authoritative and amenable to research. I will have to write my treatment plans like that during school and probably any time I’m working for someone else. I’ll get good at it. Maybe I’ll come to like it.
[First published on Nathen’s Miraculous Escape, June 22, 2010.]