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Therapeutic Alliance
The sacred space shared between Client and Clinician is a confluence of both people’s energies. Conventional literature suggests standard treatments such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) for treating Major Depressive Disorder and other similar mental health diagnosis. And while this and other accepted practices have proven effectual, it is my opinion that these practices must be modified when working with special populations. The Emotionally Disturbed (ED) population, in specific, requires a critical look into the similarities found across the board, but more importantly into the uniqueness found within the individuals.


Relationships are the fundamental root of all valuable work with this population. Many clinicians and counselors have come in and out of these young people’s lives and in so doing, have indirectly fortified the defensive walls built up for protection. In addition, many clinicians assume that by virtue of their title, the Client will submit to the relationship and automatically tender their trust. Redemption is not easy and most people try it alone. But to have the courage to take that journey with someone, demands a heart understanding of complicated passage. Relationship building requires a submission to the therapeutic process by both Clinician and Client. The energy proffered by the Clinician influenced the process just as much as the energy of the Client. Relationship building involves a sincere commitment to removing oneself from the path and allowing the natural healing energies to heal. ‘Removing oneself’ involves releasing one’s own “stuff” (guards, bias’s, pace, intention, etc.).

 Movement and Rhythm
Movement and Rhythm are essential to effective interventions with the ED population. Our youth are part of a subculture that has a set of accepted morays.  Music in general, and Go-Go in specific, is a common thread that can be weaved across the various individuals that comprise this sub-culture. And movement is one dynamic consistently found across all cultures for the adolescent stage of development. A Clinician can maximize the potential potency of the session by synthesizing these two significant elements. I have held group counseling sessions where the theme has been to explore how past relationships/experiences impact current functioning. This theme is not drastically different from any other session; however, it is the means by which the session is conducted that affects participants’ experience. In one particular group, we walked in a circle during the initial stages.  In addition to increasing physical activity, we circuitously lessened anxiety by focusing on observable phenomenon such as the path in front of them or the new sections of the room instead of the pressure and intensity of a seated question-response format. Rhythm is the heartbeat of the universe and speaks to the core of one’s soul. It can be a unifying force and if used accurately, rhythm has the potential to heal. Dr. Wade Boykins, a renowned educational psychologist, introduced into the professional literature invaluable information about African American learning styles and impact of culture in education. The findings from his work suggest that when aspects of students’ home culture are incorporated into academic learning contexts, strong academic performance and motivation result. I have simply applied the findings of his research and shifted them from a purely academic setting to a clinical one. Rhythm can be listened to in music or created amongst a group. Interventions that incorporate rhythm can enhance the potential for participation, retention, internalization, and most prominently enjoyment and shifted. I have had the youth select music of their choice for analysis/study, listening pleasure, and to serve as an intricate part of the group (to signify change, alert, commencement, incentive, etc.)

Dialogue and Structure
The selection of language and topics for discussion are vital to the development and maintenance of interest. We are aware that African American children are diagnosed with   Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) (Combined Type) at alarming rates, but within the ED population, this diagnosis is extraordinarily common. It is with this is mind that we construct our interventions. I have generated discussion with ideas germane to their sub-culture. It is imperative that the facilitator have command of the group because engaging youth in areas they feel you are not comfortable can lead to a disruptive and disorganized session.  I have begun sessions discussing drugs, dirt bikes, dogs, and funerals because certain youth feel they have information in these areas. Eventually, once youth are engaged and connected, I ease the discussion toward decision making, self control, self esteem, and impulsivity. The more skilled Clinician can guide the discussion so the shift goes undetected. Whether working with an individual or a group, sessions must include a well thought out plan.  Clinicians must prepare a multitude of activities to tap into the learning styles of different individuals and create a climate where one does not become uninterested. I prefer to use stations, whereby participants can be engaged, but then can physically move to another station and experience the excitement of another task. One station may be on the computer where participants have an assignment to retrieve information off the internet (ex. locate rap lyrics by accessing certain websites), while another station may entail the use of arts and crafts (markers, finger paint, etc.) to make a self portrait. The conclusion of the session always involves a dialogue, where participants surmise their experience, emotions, and ideas.  This allows for participants to reflect on what they have just done and add to their creative energies to the process. I have found that the more ownership one feels of their process, the more anxieties are ameliorated and room is room is created for truth and healing.        

Conclusion
These ideas and concepts have proven very effectual interventions with the ED population. I am certain they will emerge in the professional literature in years to come with the insight garnered from Special Education Schools serving this population. I acknowledge that not every Social Worker can do this work, but a select few possess the myriad of qualities commensurate to endeavoring this massive undertaking.


Contrary to popular belief, all children are born with the knowledge of the universe. It is our job as adults to ‘educate’, or bring out the genius from within, not to ‘indoctrinate’, or put inside, our information. The ED population has been given a unique perspective on life and different information than most mainstream children. Subsequently, they have developed a thinking pattern different from most of their teachers. As Teachers and Clinicians, we are charged with understanding their unique styles and tailoring our thinking and interventions to educate (bring out) their genius.  

 

 

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