Dr. Minuchin presents segments from three cases involving families who were receiving social services provided by government agencies. In these segments we will see how the entrance of well meaning helpers into these families serves to disempower rather than empower the parents, and further disrupts the effective functioning of the family unit.
Dr. Minuchin consults with the family of a 12 year old boy, who had been institutionalized for regressive behaviors, including an overwhelming fear of ghosts. Dr. Minuchin recommends changes to the family’s organization, so that the child can return home and maintain age appropriate behaviors.
Dr. Salvador Minuchin works with a step family seeking assistance with their daughter’s habitual lying. Dr. Minuchin initiates a challenge to the family certainty that the symptom was the daughter’s lying. The shift from daughters as a carrier of lying to the father’s control over the daughter will change through the session, moving to the parent’s control and then to the mother’s control.
In this session, Dr. Minuchin works with a couple who has two children, both of whom are in foster care. This case demonstrates ways in which the involvement of multiple systems of care can cause disorganization in a family, if the systems themselves fail to work in sync. In this case, we meet a mother who struggles with drug addiction, which has impacted her ability to care for her children and family.
A young man and his family enter a consultation session after the issue was raised of their son “rubbing his eyes”. The issue being that the young man had recently left a psychiatric hospital for attempting to gouge out his own eye. The intense involvement between mother and son is the matrix within which the son’s obsessive compulsive symptomatology has risen. The fathers evident disengagement from mother and son supports and maintains the over involvement between the young man and his mother.
Dr. Minuchin’s supervision of Wai-Yung Lee in her sessions with a family consisting of a father, mother, and two young men. The youngest was born with down-syndrome, and has recently shared his displeasure with the family by smearing feces in the bathroom.. Wai-Yung Lee follows up from their supervision 25 years later to reflect on the transformation of her style as a family therapist based on Minuchin’s supervision.
The Challenging Certainties collection features the only three remaining tapes of the 1982 Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic featuring Carl Whitaker, Virginia Satir, and Dr. Minuchin as they develop their idiosyncratic styles as family therapists. Two of the sessions feature the same family, of a boy who attempted suicide,
seen by Salvador Minuchin the first day and by Carl Whitaker the next day. The third tape is of Virginia Satir’s session with a case of two divorced parents mediating the custody of their son.