In this session, Dr. Minuchin consults with a family consisting of a mother, father, and a 15-year-old son who is in treatment for depression. The session focuses on shifting the family’s sense of belonging to allow son to begin to become more autonomous. The social worker of the son’s treatment unit sits in on the session.
This series of sessions showcases Dr. Minuchin’s involvement with children from a homeless family. Dr, Minuchin meets with the family with the goal to empower this family. The family treats Minuchin with a paradoxical combination of openness, suspicion, and passivity. This paradoxical posture is one that the family has learned to assume in response to the constant and uncontrolled entrance and exit of multiple helpers into their lives.
A session with Dr. Minuchin as he works with an Italian immigrant family with five children. The family began therapy as the daughter, 16, was diagnosed with anorexia two years previously and the symptoms were still present. From the first moments of the session, the mother’s undisputed power emerges, leading to a polemic between belonging and autonomy.
This session with Dr. Minuchin is with the family of a 12-year-old boy who has been hospitalized in a psychiatric unit for children. There are two disturbed systems that Dr. Minuchin addresses in this session. One is the family who needs to change. The other is the psychiatric unit where the child is hospitalized, that in hopes will be perturbed by the intervention.
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.
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.
In the 1990s Dr. Minuchin conceived and led a project to demonstrate a different way to conceptualize and practice foster care. Dr Minuchin envisioned this new system where the agency would allow and encourage the two families to function as they expanded their work on behalf of the child - sharing information and solving problems together. The core strategy of Dr. Minuchin’s project was to capitalize on the natural talents of experienced foster parents, who often go beyond what is required of them by the agencies, and find ways to help the natural parents maintain and develop their relationship with their children during the time their children are in foster care.
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.