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Thursday, June 29, 2006

Reframing

Life is pretty hectic right now. It's never too busy to think but it is difficult to find time to sit down and write material for the blog. In the midst of this process of adjusting to a 5th member of our family I am reading a book by Donald Capps called "Reframing". It utilises material derived from the work of the Brief Therapy Center of the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto, California.

"Reframing" in the context of the book is offered as a pastoral counseling technique. It is not suggested as an alternative to the exclusion of all others but, rather, as another tool in the pastoral counselor's collection.

The basic idea can be summarised with such phrases as "think about things differently" or "consider a different point of view". Most people, at some point or other, have used reframing to resolve a difficult situation but the difference with this approach is that it is a deliberate method as part of the healing process used in counseling.

The book is very thorough and clearly considers those situations where reframing may be more detrimental than useful. It also articulates techniques so that the process is methodical and not ad hoc. Reframing can be a useful tool in parenting. It can certainly help relieve the stress faced by parents.

The reason it came to my mind today was in regard to an incident that occurred yesterday. Due to the ongoing depression at the beginning of this year I was placed on extended sick benefits by my GP. This situation resulted in my obtaining government benefits. In order for me to receive those benefits I had to "prove" my situation. When I came to return to the workforce I needed to continue producing fortnightly forms to Centrelink, the Australian government welfare body.

Much of this process is an inconvenience that allows one access to much needed financial resources. I am only working 3 days a week and I was requested to attend an interview with an employment agency who were accredited by the government. My appointment was yesterday. I must confess that, little by little, I am becoming accustomed to living with bi-polar disorder but I am also becoming comfortable with my intelligence and so it was a surprise, to say the least, to be told by my "advisor" that I needed to undertake a 4 week Job Search Training course. This course involved such weighty matters as: filling out an application form, writing a letter and making a phone call. I explained my qualifications and experience and they were prepared to put me on a 30 hour fast-track course. Eventually, after more discussion, the "advisor" told me that if I returned with my resume and an application form that I had completed myself then she would consider waiving the "training" course.

Now, I am in no way dismissing those people who have a need of such training and facilitation. I also understand the need for standard procedures but my issue is that the primary reason for this situation arising was because I raised the issue of my diagnosis with mild bi-polar and suddenly my intellectual ability was gone and my potential was severely diminished.

I am fortunate in that I have a fantastic wife, supportive in-laws and excellent friends and so I returned home dejected and depressed and my wife was able to help me "see things differently". Where I saw a hopeless situation my wife "reframed" the incident and helped me to see it as an unfortunate situation that could encourage me to demonstrate my potential. I have also had some encouraging feedback from this blog which has spurred me on to further reflection and writing.

Today I arranged a couseling supervisor so that I can start to look for counseling clients. I could sit and wallow in my predicament or I could "reframe" and decide to use my experiences to aid others in their journey through life.

Reframing is not simply considering another perspective because the reframe, if successful, should lead to a positive change in circumstances. I want to encourage each of us to consider the benefits of reframing, of looking at things from another perspective, when we encounter someone with a mental illness, if we see someone drunk and unkempt or if we pass a prostitute in the street, for example. Life is not black and white.

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