Therapy is Collaborative



Collaborative Language-Based Therapies are umbrella terms for numerous types of therapies such as reflexive, solution-oriented, narrative, and experiential therapies (Rambo, 2003). The overall thought process behind these types of therapies is that through talking and walking with a client, anything can be understood and resolved. Because through talking and being there with a person, we can understand another’s reality.


Check that last statement out. We can understand another’s reality. Not take on. Not disagree. Not change. Just understand.


The idea of “multiple realities” (Rambo, 2003, p. 150) came about when Goolishan, one of the founders of said therapies, realized that, depending on what family member you were speaking to, there really could and would be various interpretations of the same event. That in order to understand the family, one had to do it collaboratively with all the family members through listening, empathy, and reflective listening.


Reflexive therapy is simply reflecting on a time that has already past. Solution focused, or what is now termed possibility therapy, focuses the attention of the family on not the problem at hand but on the time when that particular problem was not there at all (Rambo, 2003). Narrative therapy, on the other hand, is the most multicultural of these therapies. It takes into account the history of oppression, race, and cultural identity and is much more client directed. A counselor becomes an active listener and asks questions that are geared toward understanding the family members as cultural and ethnic identities first and foremost.


What’s appealing about these therapies is that the role of the counselor is to simply listen. The client’s story is the most important part and diagnosis of any kind is considered negative. By listening, there can be a collaborative solution through positive discussion and support. The client knows best and the counselor is there as an inquisitive team player only.


The biggest and most appealing strengths of Collaborative Language-Based Therapy approaches are the initial affirmation the client gets. From the very beginning, he or she is 100% supported and there is unconditional positive regard from the counselor. This therapy sets the stage for a client to feel confident and strong in resolve. The weaknesses of such an approach lies only in the counselor’s ability to have an open mind and an all accepting outlook into any client’s worldview and life overall. There is no room for judgment. This requires a counselor to be sure in his or her own ideals and the ability to put them on the backburner indefinitely for the good of the client.


Virginia Satir was the founder of experiential approaches therapy and, for all intents and purposes, seemed to be the ethereal mother of love and goodness and she promoted her therapy as such as well. I say this with the deepest respect. Experiential therapy is considered a “theory free” therapy and is based on the idea that all of us are here to grow. However, we are often stifled in that growth through communication breakdowns, emotional misunderstandings, and self esteem issues (Thomas, 2003). We must be reminded of our potential and our strength to move past whatever is holding us down and recognize how we are contributing to that wall. We do this by having a nonjudgmental soundboard to reflect on our lives and our stories.


Whitaker explained that change will only come from drive and worry that transfers into a usable energy (Keith & Whitaker, 182 as cited in Thomas, 2003). That energy and worry can make change, which is flexible and adaptable. Dysfunction is interpreted as simply no growth through a cyclical lack of viable communication, secure attachments, and self esteem issues (Thomas, 2003). Experiential therapy can be very free form and the counselor does not have techniques and tasks, per say. There are some ground rules and basic stages, such as noting body language, the use of metaphor and reframing, using “I” statements, and using touch (Satir & Baldwin, 1983 as cited in Thomas, 2003). However, many techniques are simply taken from a counselor’s creativity and a client’s desire.


For instance, both Whitaker and Satir were well known for following a client’s lead through experiential therapy – therapy may entail wrestling with angry boys on the floor, sitting at the feet of a grandmother telling a story, or holding hands with an angry couple. They are off the cuff and client directed (Thomas, 2003). My greatest moments of experiential therapy? They are too numerous to count and I never expected them to happen. Those have been turning points in therapy for many a client. And if truth be told, for me as well.


Collaborative language based therapy means understanding a client’s language. Even if they aren’t talking.


Which means you have to pay attention.


You have to understand their path of reality.


And then you walk down the path. Together.





Rambo, A. (2003). Chapter 6: The collaborative language-based models of family therapy: When Less Is More. In Hecker, L. L., & Wetchler, J. L., (eds.). An Introduction to Marriage and Family Therapy (1st ed.). Binghamton, NY: The Haworth Clinical Practice Press


Thomas, V. (2003). Chapter 7: Experiential approaches to family therapy. In Hecker, L. L., & Wetchler, J. L., (eds.). An Introduction to Marriage and Family Therapy (1st ed.). Binghamton, NY: The Haworth Clinical Practice Press

If You Wish that Politician You Don’t Like Would Shut Up, Think Again


In the United States, we take for granted our right to free speech. We can say whatever we like, however we like. Granted, at times, it may be distasteful, brutal, or lack sincerity and truth, but never the less, we are granted the right to say it. We can work and then come home and complain about work. And yes, again, it may get us fired based on rules of our employment, but it will certainly, in most circumstances, not get us arrested or put in jail. We can come home and then complain about our government’s policies with no thought of concern if we will have a job the next day. If that does indeed occur, we are within our legal rights to fight for justice. According to Article 19 in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (n.d.), we are all entitled to “the right to freedom of opinion and expression” (Article 19). In case there was any confusion regarding what this right entails, the document clarifies by explaining “this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers” (Universal Declaration, n.d., Article 19).  As wonderful as this sounds and as much as we would like to believe it is true, not everyone has the advantage of being granted such a right.


A quick search on the internet with “human rights violation” as key words brings up a surplus of articles in which this right Americans take for granted is seen as both an immoral and illegal practice in other countries. One such article from the Associated Press in The New York Times (2012) is a prime example. A man in Vietnam named Le Quoc Quan was recently detained for what, on the surface, is a charge of tax evasion. But upon further inspection, the Vietnamese government may have detained him for another reason – to hinder the gentleman’s writing. Le Quoc Quan posts an online blog that has negative opinions against his authoritarian government, making the public aware of human rights violations in the country. This he does, as the media is not allowed to (Associated Press, 2012). Two other Vietnamese bloggers, both highly respected by the community, were arrested in 2011 and denied their appeals. They have received 10 and 12 years in jail, respectively, for being “found guilty of posting political articles on a banned website” and “posting articles critical of the government on their own blogs” (BBC News, 2012). Further investigation indicated that Le Quoc Quan has had numerous run-ins with the government and been harassed repeatedly. He was arrested once before, was brutally beaten in August by unknown assailants, and was detained from reentering his country after a trip to the United States.


Another human right listed within the Universal Declaration is: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile” (n.d., Article 9). Those initially arrested were also charged with tax evasion and have had numerous dalliances with the government. The female blogger sent to prison for twelve years had a mother who was so distraught over the lost appeal that she set herself on fire in front of a government building in protest and died on the way to the hospital. The Vietnam media never reported the incident (Associated Press, 2012). This particular blogger was a police officer. BBC News indicated that she was “praised by campaigning groups for her work in exposing official corruption.” Article 23 in the Universal Declaration (n.d.) states: “Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment” (Section 1) and indicates that “[e]veryone who works has the right to just and favourable remuneration ensuring for himself and his family an existence worthy of human dignity, and supplemented, if necessary, by other means of social protection.” It is quite clear that the company and government for whom this woman worked was not taking these rights into consideration upon her arrest and subsequent twelve year sentence for writing a blog about the injustices she saw. Here, in the United States, we may expect to get fired, but certainly we could still continue our blog with no threat to our freedom. The Seattle Times indicated that both President Obama and Hillary Clinton had brought forth pleas regarding the initial bloggers’ cases to have them all set free (Associated Press, 2012).


Why am I talking about this? Well, we are in rough political waters these days. And people are saying all sorts of things – some we agree with and some we do not. Some we chose to listen to and some we do not. Sometimes, we wish the person who was saying those things would just shut up. But, they don’t have to. And neither do you. It’s their right to speak and lo’ and behold, you get to say you agree or disagree and say stuff right back. I think it’s often times a good thing to remind ourselves that we have this right. That we all have this right. Even when maybe we wish the “other” person didn’t.


We must remember the battles that people are fighting every day to gain this right in which we all should be entitled. And be thankful that we, as a country, do have this right. So next time a politician, or your mother, or your boss says something you don’t like, well, it is their right. And you have every right to say something, too. It’s a bit of a Catch-22, isn’t it?





Associated Press. (2012, January 3). Vietnam blogger’s mom self-immolates before trial. The Seattle Times. Retrieved from

Associated Press. (2012, December 28). Vietnamese Dissident Lawyer Arrested. New York Times. Retrieved from

BBC News. (2012, December 28). Court appeal of dissident Vietnam bloggers is rejected. Retrieved from

Postema, G. J. (2006). Interests, universal and particular: Bentham’s utilitarian theory of value. Utilitas, 18(2), 109-133. Retrieved from

Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (n.d.) Retrieved from

Does Your Child Have a Reading Disability? Don’t Assume Until You Exhaust All Possibilities


Pinpointing specifics about reading difficulties can be challenging and there are numerous things to consider before diagnosing a child with a reading disorder. For instance, could it be a focus issue, a recognition difficulty, a memory problem, grammar misunderstandings, or a hearing problem?  Is it a cultural issue? A medical condition gone unnoticed?  How long has it been going on? Many questions must be answered and involving the caregivers, the teachers, and the child is conducive to getting the answers needed before making a determination.


In assessing anyone with a concern surrounding a possible reading disability diagnosis, there may be a need to begin with intelligence testing. It is an easy thing to get out of the way and can help determine if there is an intelligence factor within the problem a child is experiencing. It is important to note that most children with learning disabilities are just as intelligent as any other child that does not have a learning disability (Mash & Wolfe, 2005). Along with a WISC-III assessment, a Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale can be added as well – they both measure general intelligence with a focus on verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, abstract/visual reasoning, and short term memory.


Assuming that these tests are within normal range, the next recommendation would be to add a few tests that are specifically geared to reading problems. There are a million assessments that test reading skills and it can become overwhelming. One test to be considered is the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test (PPVT-R) which uses picture recognition as a means to measure vocabulary and non-verbal reception.  A few tests geared more toward specific age groups are the Formal Reading Inventory (FRI) which tests silent reading comprehension and oral reading accuracy and the Gray Oral Reading Test-Diagnostic (GORT-D) which measures reading comprehension, decoding, cipher knowledge, and syntax. A talk with teachers and caregivers would give a better insight into what precise reading tests would give the best measures.


Depending on these results, and maybe even despite them, a Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL), which specifically evaluates behaviors associated with learning disabilities could also help with insight into what may be more (or less) than a reading disability. This would help involve parents and teachers, as there is a checklist for them, amplifying the interaction they have with the child. Low self-esteem, shortages in social skills, and embarrassment can be large factors in children that have been struggling with reading.  The older the child, the more suffering she or he has likely been dealing with, possibly since the beginning of his or her school career and consequently, the child may have many more issues that have arisen and reading difficulties may be a symptom of something else altogether. The Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale (VABS) is another test that can be used if this is suspected and assesses social competence such as communication, daily living, socialization, and motor skills.


After adequate talks with all parties involved and a chance to look at numerous factors such as the interaction of the family (how is their verbal and non-verbal communication?) and the family history (is this child in a stable home or has he been uprooted numerous times?), decisions can be made about how to best serve the child.  With so many tests available, it is hard to determine which ones to choose without taking every avenue into account first. So, if you are being told your child has a reading disorder after one, simple assessment, please know there is more there to be discovered. One test may not say it all.