# 100 June 2008

"I think of making love and making art as being very parallel. Even the most amateur attempt can be thrilling."

Julia Cameron
from the Artist's Way

(continues below)

mental health professional trainings
primary care professional trainings
psychological assessment supervision and consultations
Shawn Christopher Shea
links and recommended readings


# 100 June 2008

Helping the Client to Pinpoint Problematic Behaviors or Situations

TISA Description of the Problem: As we continue moving through the year 2008, we have a very special series of "Tips of the Month." In 2007 our TISA website was honored by having the following article, "My Favorite Tips from the Interviewing Tip of the Month Archive" published in the Psychiatric Clinics of North America (Shea, SC: Psychiatric Clinics of North America, June 2007,Vol 30:#2, 219-225). The tips in this article all appeared on this website. During the first eight months of 2008 they will now be re-posted with some additional comments - exactly as they appeared in the journal. Congratulations to all of the contributors whose tips were chosen as the very best! Let us now look at our sixth tip from the article.

Trying to help clients recognize and focus upon specific problematic behaviors and times can be difficult, for patients may feel threatened by admitting weaknesses or bad decisions from the past. Caryn Platt Tatelli, AM, LCSW, has developed a nice question that addresses this issue.

Tip: "When trying to focus a client on his or her role in the creation of specific problems or difficult situations (such as substance abuse or parenting problems) I find that the following question is often gentle and effective:

'If you could turn the clock back to any one point in time, what would you do differently?'"

TISA Follow-up: This question is simple and sensitive. It is very different in tone from asking, "What did you do wrong?" for it is already allowing the client to distance from the behavior by allowing the client to take the lead in supplying some different approaches. A variant of the "miracle question" from solution-focused interviewing (see Article #2 in this issue of Psychiatric Clinics) can also be effective, "If by some miracle, one thing you did in the past could be turned back, what would you choose it to be?"

Tip provided by:

Caryn Platt Tatelli, AM,LCSW
Forensic Social Worker, Illinois