Oct. 3, 9:30 a.m.–Zoom: Hallie M. Williams, Sr.: Social Justice and Clinical Practice

​Awareness of social issues is often not seen as a necessary part of clinical practice. This workshop will address that deficiency, will present opportunities for clinicians to tackle the challenge, and will offer solutions through the use of Social Interest. 

Youth and adolescents will be the focus of this presentation.

Hallie M. Williams, Sr., Vice President of the North American Society of Adlerian Psychology (NASAP), is a Clinical Psychotherapist, graduate of Adler Graduate School and a doctoral student at Liberty University.

Hallie’s community work includes presentations regarding organizational, educational and social psychology. His main clinical focus and passion surrounds trauma and mental illness as it pertains to at-risk youth and their families and the trauma surrounding U.S. veterans.  He is an Army veteran. Hallie also is interested in the dissonance experienced by young people from mixed families.

Hallie originally is from Savannah, Ga., and now lives in St. Paul. Hallie’s free time is spent on family, fitness and friends.

What is going on in our country?

In 1961, Rudolf Dreikurs self-published a manuscript entitled, “Social Equality: The Challenge of Our Times”.  It is amazingly appropriate for today.  Here is an excerpt.

“Conflicting ideas, by themselves, do not cause hostility: a person with opposing interests is not necessarily an enemy.   He becomes so only in a struggle for power, for superiority.  Hostile emotions spring generally from fear, fear of losing out, of having no chance, of being slighted and deprived of respect and dignity.

Here is the crucial point in human interaction: It is not the issue that determines the form, kind, and outcome of a meeting of minds, as much as the attitude of the participants.  As soon as – or as long as – they are hostile to one another, no agreement, no satisfactory solution can be found irrespective of the issue. In a democracy, which requires cooperation instead of traditional submission, agreement is the only means of settling an issue in the interest of the common welfare. However, differences of opinion and of viewpoints can enrich the thinking and knowledge of all participants in a search for solutions.  They widen the perspective and broaden the understanding. Opposition then can be stimulating, not frustrating.”

It is important that as you read this, you avoid the temptation of applying it just to those who  oppose your view. What Dreikurs describes is occurring on both sides of the issues that we are all facing. The question is, can we put aside the desire for power and superiority and instead work together to solve the problem? Speaking from a position of power and superiority leads either to hostile conflict or no response to avoid the hostile conflict. I want to solve the problems, but I often find myself shutting down in the conversation because I believe that hostile conflict is not productive.  

How do you feel?

Susan Pye Brokaw, LMFT

Founder of the Adlerian Network

The Work Task

By Susan Pye Brokaw, LMFT

Founder, Adlerian Network

Adler stated that work is one of three tasks that every person must deal with.  Work gives a person a sense of self-esteem for their accomplishment.  When out of work, many feel that their value and worth are diminished because they are unable to support themselves and their families.

When I started out as a social worker, I became very aware of the problems when welfare reform was established.  Many will not know of the problems associated with that reform.  I noticed that this reform helped to support families with dependent children.  However, to get that assistance, the father had to be out of the home.  This forced men to leave their families in order to get this assistance.  This was the beginning of the break-up of the family.

The other thing that became apparent to me, based on client reports, was that women could not afford to get a job.  The job paid less than they would get on welfare and they would have to pay for child care.  This forced them to be taken care of by the government when they wanted to support themselves.  

This program did not give people a hand up but instead a handout.  This led to generations of people in poverty, especially minorities.  It affected their self-esteem, their self-worth and broke up families.

Regardless of your political preference, it is important to be grateful that the poor, especially minorities, are going back to work.  There are many new plans that are empowering these people to become financially independent.    

Finally, there are efforts to help people become financially independent, allowing them to increase their self-esteem and feel worthwhile as they take pride in supporting their families.  As there is so much negativity about what is going on in our country, this is something to celebrate.

Suffering for Change

Everyone suffers at times.  There is suffering that occurs due to something outside of one’s control.  I will not address that here.  There is also suffering that occurs due to the choices that are made. 

Many years ago, an older colleague of mine made a profound statement.  He said that through all his years working in mental health, he learned that it is pain that causes change.   Dr. Alfred Adler said it in a different way.  He was working with a  patient and the patient was suffering but was not changing.  Dr. Adler said to him, “I don’t think that you have suffered enough yet.  You need to go home and suffer some more.  When you have suffered enough and decide that you must change, please come back and I would love to work with you.”

There are degrees of suffering from mild to severe.  When there is something that needs changing and it isn’t addressed, the suffering begins.  When nothing is done, the suffering increases over time.  

Think of getting a ticket for speeding as a metaphor.  You made a mistake and the consequence is that you got a ticket.  You suffered for a minute, and threw it aside and forgot it.  Then you were called to court because you didn’t pay the ticket.  You suffered a bit more but decided to avoid the court hearing.  Then one day a police officer arrested you and took you to jail.  Then you started really suffering.  Finally, you decided you didn’t want to suffer like this anymore, so you did your time, paid your fine, decided not to speed anymore and started looking for a new job.  You lost the one you had because you were in jail.

When suffering occurs, it is important to examine the choices that were made that resulted in this suffering.  Dr. Alfred Adler said that you are not a re-actor, but you are an actor in life.  You can’t change others, only yourself. Others make choices about how they will behave and you choose how you will deal with their behavior.  Sometimes several different choices have to be tried until one is found that works.

Clients come to us when they are suffering.  Have they suffered enough?  Are they ready to change?  I read a statement recently that was very profound.  It said that a teacher is responsible for teaching but is not responsible for whether the student chooses to learn.

Some clients are eager to learn and change.  Some need to be taught the lesson many times, and maybe from several teachers, before the learning sticks.  Others  aren’t ready to learn yet.  They would like others to change or life to change.  They don’t understand that they need to learn from their suffering and change themselves and become a better person and help to create a better community.  

Sometimes we, as therapists, will be one of many teachers that they see before their lesson is learned.  Sometimes, we have to be patient with clients who are suffering and help them realize that not changing leads to more suffering.  Some stubbornly refuse to change and we have to honor their decision, as Dr. Adler did.

Susan Pye Brokaw, LMFT

Founder, Adlerian Network

Notice what works

Susan Pye Brokaw, MA, LMFT

Adlerian Network Founder

Adler emphasized that we should work together as equals, cooperating with others for the commonweal (the common welfare).  What I notice during this difficult time is how everyone is concerned with the common welfare and taking action.  People are doing what will stop the spread of the virus.  They are working together to create and produce solutions.  Even the Congress is working together for a change and have quickly passed the much-needed bills to help out.  Amazing!

Let us remember and point out to those around us that this is what works.  Look what happens when we put aside our differences and all work together for the common good.  What amazing things could be accomplished if this was continued after we have gotten through this difficult time.

Fear and the coronavirus

Susan Pye Brokaw, MA, LMFT

Adlerian Network founder

This is a time when it is important that mental health professionals help their clients deal with the coronavirus.  Fear compromises the immune system. Let’s focus on how we can be encouraging and optimistic in this difficult time.

We are told that if you keep six feet away from others and wash our hands a lot, we can avoid getting the virus.  Staying at home as much as you can will also help. If you follow the instructions you won’t get sick. That is good news.

Let’s look at other good news.  The malaria drug was found to be 100% effective in France and is being used here now.  If you get sick, you can ask to be given the drug. If everyone who is sick gets tested in two weeks and is isolated, there will be no one out there to pass the virus to others.  So be sure if you have symptoms to be tested immediately. If you aren’t sick, keep your distance from others. 

The important message is that this is a temporary problem.  Fewer people have died from this than from the regular flu. We will get through this soon.  So, encourage clients to follow the rules and they will be fine.

I’m a grateful American

By Susan Pye Brokaw, MA, LMFT

Adlerian Network founder

I hear all the negativity spoken, on TV, on Facebook and even from some of my friends and colleagues.  This is really profound discouragement that is pervasive in the best country on the planet. It discourages me when I keep hearing it and reading it and hearing it.  Alfred Adler emphasized the use of encouragement. How do we do that in this situation?

I am a grateful American.  I will share one thing that I am grateful for regarding our country.  I started out as a social worker in the ‘60s. I was disheartened as I saw how black and Native American people were given a hand out instead of a hand up.  Welfare was discouraging and it was almost impossible to rise out of poverty under the system that was created. It is hard to feel worthwhile in these circumstances.  The plight of minorities has been disturbing to me for years. Nothing changed until recently.

I am so grateful that unemployment in this country is the lowest that it has been in about 50 years.  Finally, these folks are able to take pride in supporting themselves and their families.

Could we all start expressing on social media our gratitude for the good things that are happening in our country?  What would happen if we all bombarded social media with what we are grateful for in the country? I think it would be a refreshing change and maybe others would join us.  This is a very simple exercise in social interest.  

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Social interest: Adler’s words lead to a blog

Alfred Adler, in his paper entitled  “On the Origin of the Striving for Superiority and of Social Interest,” made the following comment:  “The goal that is best suited for perfection would have to be a goal which signifies the ideal community of all mankind, the ultimate fulfillment of evolution.”

We can do this by ourselves, in our family, at work or in our community.  We can teach our children to do this as well. We should always keep in mind ways that we might contribute.

I have recently cut back to working part-time while all my friends are fully retired.  With some additional time on my hands, I pondered the question of what more I could do.  It came to me that with all the expertise that I have in dealing with ADHD, I could start a blog.  That is rather humorous when you know that I am so technologically illiterate that I know almost nothing about a blog and have never known how to even find a blog.

However, it seemed like that would be a good use of my talent and could help a lot of people who struggle dealing with this condition.  So, I found someone to help me and I launched my blog. I don’t know if many will find it. But I know that those who do will be helped and with help, they can make the world a better place.

We all can ask ourselves if there is another way that we can contribute in a way that makes the world a better place.

If you would like to check out my new blog or know someone who might be interested, go to https://www.adhdexperthelp.com/.  I hope you like it.

Susan Pye Brokaw

Founder, Adlerian Network

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