Richard Bromfield, PH. D, is a psychologist, he is also a faculty member at the Harvard Medical School, and he specializes in therapy with children and adolescents. He is a writer and wrote several best sellers about children, adolescents and psychotherapy. This book is one of Bromfield’s many award winning writings. Introduction The book I chose to review for this assignment is entitled: Teens in Therapy: Making It on their own: Engaging Adolescents in Successful Therapy for Responsible Lives, by author Richard Bromfield.
This book offers therapeutic advice and key insights into overcoming difficult clinical terrain. I selected this book based on my passion and fervor for working with adolescents. It is my belief that working with adolescents and being quite young myself would be a challenge. This book’s key focus is to help clinicians engage adolescents in therapy as most individuals are coerced into the activity, and are reluctant at giving their all during therapy sessions. The backbone of the book consists of clinical case material, which explores real stories, and events that take place in most therapeutic sessions.
Bromfield uses adolescents and their stories as authors of the book, as their experiences shape the stories making them vivid and noteworthy. The book’s content is highly comprehensible, realistic, intellectual, and honest. It caters to an audience of beginner therapist, as it explores the essentials of adolescent therapy without jargon or over reliance of theory. Critique “ Only when people realize what is in their lives can they make decisions to continue their old ways or choose active paths towards change. ” (Pg. ) this was one of the many quotes that stood out for me during the course of readings as it is one of the first concepts that all therapist need to accept and acknowledge. The author emphasizes that adolescents, like all people, do not change until they want to, and only after they see and accept their challenges can the therapy begin to progress. Each chapter mirrors the therapeutic process, from treatment planning, confrontation, opposition, motivational assessment, to crisis management, boundary setting, and enduring failed therapy sessions.
Each chapter is well laid out with the order and content that it covers, as it explores various different scenarios in a step-by-step process. The first three (3) chapters echo the first stages of therapy, such as creating the correct settings, going through the initial greeting and meeting phases and addressing the preliminary difficulties that may occur during therapeutic sessions. Just as it is difficult for us to trust people and let them into our lives so to he says is the case with adolescents.
Building trust has been described as one of the earliest developmental task and the foundation on which all others are built (Erikson, 1980). Establishing a trusting relationship is fundamental to the development and the progress of any therapeutic relationship. The therapist is portrayed in this book as someone who enables the adolescent client to take control of their life, by recognizing and regarding them with all their weaknesses and the challenging systems it may take, setting parameters, and meeting these adolescents wherever they are, sympathizing and interacting with them on their level using their jargon.
A major technique that Bromfield describes in his book as he speaks about interacting with adolescents is creating a shared language. He depicts this by using a case study of a boy named Karl. “Bitch Alert, Headache no 25 and pretending to strangle his own neck were like minded key words used by my teenage patients to speed dial how they felt”( pg. 116) . Bromfield adds, “ Whether embodied in a word, catch phrase, play scenario, secret world or entire world of metaphor, languages and world that therapist and their adolescent patients mutually create can become their own.
These shared meanings become the powerful routes through which the therapist and teenager communicate best” (pg. 117). This suggestion has allowed me to broaden my style and approach to creating a more comfortable space for adolescents to open up and share. This he adds would serve as a shortcut for difficult events and the way they express those events verbally, allowing a more unique and connected space for the teenager and myself. Empathy is a central theme that runs through the entire book.
Dr. Bromfield highlights the importance and significance of empathy, understanding adolescents while balancing the need to challenge and push them. Empathy is an emotion, I value highly as a future humanistic counselor as I believe it can be a very potent tool in therapy. “ As to this day I am awed at empathic understanding’s near miraculous power to soften children’s and adults’ defensive resolve” (p48), he describes the miraculous power of empathy and how it can allow persons in therapy to uncover those other emotions that they may have suppressed quite well.
In chapter six (6), Bromfield points out several small gestures that therapist may do to create a more comfortable and secure environment for adolescents. I concur with this belief, as feeling a sense of security and importance in therapy are key in its progression. He claims that simple gesture such as; offering a shawl, opening a window or simply adjusting the heater can assure these teenagers that their needs are important and valuable to you. Bromfield’s passion for helping adolescents are mirrored in every case study that he describes, where he goes the extra mile to ensure that the engagement in therapy is successful.
His patience, fervor and persistence are what ensure most therapeutic sessions are successful. Those characteristics are the ones that should be heeded and exhibited by each new counselor. Bromfield uses a whole chapter to discuss a key subject in therapy, honesty. His chapter entitled, “ Truth or Consequences: Assessing and Promoting Honesty in Therapy”, assesses one significant moral characteristics for me as; I believe honesty is a key moral characteristic that is needed in therapeutic sessions.
Bromfield points out that honesty in therapy should be a two-way communication, and that both the therapist and the adolescent need to adhere to this trait. The importance of respecting someone’s honesty is also highlighted in the books as to not be judgmental or disappointed when the truth is revealed in sessions. He reveals that being genuine and real with adolescents aids the therapy, as they are quite keen on detecting when therapists are being fake or unreal with them.
The aspect of sincerity have always been a hurdle for me, as I often ponder of what may occur if I demonstrate negative facial reactions to any information that a client may reveal to me during a session. The author gives insightful and detailed suggestions as to how to avoid or rather prepare oneself to hear the most outrageous and absurd stories, in so doing, avoiding the element of surprise. Reading some of the stories that the author portrays has helped me overcome that hurdle as he offers other suggestions and avenues for avoiding judgmental comments or expressions.
The author cautions “ Therapist do not take the fact that a teenager has opened the door a crack, as an invitation to kick it down with critical and probing questions”, instead he gives alternative responses that may show adolescents recognition for their bravery of telling the truth. The subject of balancing between clients and their parents is also discussed whereby he examines the importance of confidentiality. This being another main battle that I see myself having a struggle with as being pressured for results from some parents, and then balancing the confidentially and trusting relationship the child and I may have developed.
Sending parents out the room is never an easy task; Bromfield fails to elaborate on this key aspect of therapy and the mechanisms one may use in order to address such an issue. The issue of clients ‘falling in love’ with the therapist is an important issues that Bromfield doesn’t take into account in his book. The age of adolescence is quite a complicated stage, during this time hormones begin to release and new feelings and motions are experienced. Therefore, having an adolescent ‘fall in love’ during sessions is quite a prevalent phenomenon.
One of the most engaging chapters —“Failures, Missteps and Lost Causes” — it sets a tone of consolation, as it highlights that having failures is normal and that not every therapeutic session will always be a success. “ Do your best and forgive yourself when you fall short”, Bromfield argues that therapists, can only do as much as they can and not always their attempts in fixing a situation is successful but each failure should be looked at a lesson and a chance for growth as a therapist. Bromfield claims “ When I began doing psychotherapy with teenagers and children I was naive, I saw myself as a purist” (pg. 29).
An increased sense of comfort came when he added that he found himself being taught by his young patients and he needed to find other methods of helping them. He learnt a little, by little after each session where he added new skills and tools to his repertoire, in an attempt to help adolescents engage in successful therapy. This assertion challenged my misconception that therapist had to know it all and helped to realize that everyone has to start somewhere and not always would we have all the answers r solutions for the problems that are presented to us, but as time goes along we would add to our knowledge and experience. However this chapter fails to address the topic of recognizing professional limitation, where a counselor must recognize their inability to work with a specific client or deal with specific problems. When a client’s personal dilemma, begins to cause a counselor personal difficulties to a stage at which their own effectiveness is compromised, then a referral should be considered. This issue of “burnout” is also deficient in this chapter.
Burnout may affect many counselors and can compress their effectiveness of their professional life Grosh and Olser (1994) The book does contains a few grammatical errors which occasionally requires the reader to re-read a sentence to work out its meaning. However, this book is a well-written, pragmatic guide for beginning therapist or students pursing courses in therapy, psychology or counseling. It can also be a beneficial guide for parents of adolescents as it offers advise on coping with many difficult situations. It teaches and addresses minor situations to extreme situations, from introvert issues to violence.
However, I disagree with the author’s recommendation for it being suitable for seasoned professions, as I believe they would have already had the knowledge and experience into most of these scenarios that he has revealed in his book and the information maybe monotonous to them. The book also lacks theoretical framework, as it is highly reliant on simply clients that Dr. Bromfield interacted with. It is a highly subjective book and as it is based purely on his perspective and experience as a counselor. I would highly recommend this book to students and beginner therapist, as it is easy reading.
Bromfield is a humorous writer, his use of witticisms, vignettes and unfiltered language would entice and hold a readers attention. This book led me to find myself taking every free opportunity to engage in further reading; at no point did I ever feel confused or unable to comprehend the messages that were being illustrated. The use of real life situation deepened my understanding, as I tend to be a visual learner. I have already ordered another of Bromfield’s books, as I believe his writing has a lot to offer me as a future child and adolescent counselor as it has made me feel more confident and prepared.
Courtney from Study Moose
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