The video Child Therapy: Case Consultation with Dr. Violet Oaklander offers the viewer many important considerations to have in mind while working with children. Through the combination of Gestalt and expressive arts techniques, this renowned therapist guides the consultant into creative ways to accomplish their work. The process of supervision also is visibly demonstrated in the video. Three cases are presented and through the dialogue the advantages of supervision are exposed.
Oaklander’s film offers a number of stimuli that emphasize important aspects of therapeutic work with children. Special attention is drawn to the fact that children speak through actions much more than they do through words. The cases provide evidence that what children share about their lives is often not consistent with their realities. The importance of facilitating emotional expression through play and other artistic or creative means also is stressed. Following along this line, it is stated how simply letting children become aware of their feelings is not enough. Dr. Oaklander highlights the importance of taking as much time as necessary to establish a significant relationship as the basis for the therapeutic process. Yet, she also affirms that sometimes it is necessary to be somewhat directive so that conflicts are actually addressed.
Three cases are presented in the video. In the first case Sue, the supervisee talks about an 11 year-old boy whose parents are divorced and who has behavioral problems in school. Issues concerning the separation of parents, secret-keeping, expression of anger and feelings of loneliness are explored. The second case involves a six year-old biracial girl who has been in foster care half of her life. This client presents “significant behavioral problems” as well. Amy, her counselor, has been asked to facilitate the reunification of this client with her biological mother. In the third case, Cathy presents the case of an 11-year-old boy molested at age 4. His mother is worried about how this past event may affect his transition into puberty.
The supervision of the three cases, provided by Dr. Oaklander, sheds light not only on the specifics of these cases, but on the processes of working with children in general. Dr. Oaklander’s guidance demonstrates how the supervisor facilitates the counselor’s attention to mindfulness while at work. Being fully present is crucial to identify and understand the child’s feelings so that the best interventions and techniques may be chosen. Her comments stress the importance of being flexible to ensure therapeutic tasks are carried out, while trying to avoid pushing the client too much towards the counselor’s agenda. As a supervisor, she blends theory, practice, and her own experience to enrich the viewing of the cases and to suggest interventions, while respecting the counselor’s personal views and their therapeutic judgments of cases. Her interventions clearly demonstrate the respect a supervisor must have towards clients, counselors and the processes. Dr. Oaklander shares with the viewer that she normally uses the expression, “I don’t fix kids” when she sees children in the first session with their parents. She then clarifies that her work simply makes them feel better about themselves rather than change their nature. “I don`t fix counselors” would suit her, too. For not only do children find in her a strong advocate, but also supervisees receive effective feedback that allows them to better understand their clinical processes and the work they are carrying out.
Psychotherapy.net (Director). (2011). Child therapy: Case consultation with Dr. Violet Oaklander [DVD]. Available from https://www.psychotherapy.net/video/gestalt-child-therapy
Reviewed by: María Amparo Oliver-Garza, Asociación Mexicana de Orientación Psicológica y Psicoterapia, A.C.
The Professional Counselor