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Helping Adult Clients “Grow Up” In Their Families of Origin. Ruth Wetherford, PhD June 28, 2011. Division 42 Virtual Happy Hour. Basic Concepts

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Helping adult clients grow up in their families of origin

Helping Adult Clients “Grow Up” In Their Families of Origin

Ruth Wetherford, PhD

June 28, 2011

Division 42 Virtual Happy Hour

Basic Concepts Origin

Focus: Instead of trying to change family members, we change our own reactions to family interactions and situations. Our goal is personal authority in the family.

Basic Concepts Origin

Personal Authority: A pattern of abilities which enables one to assume responsibility for the totality of his/her experiences with life; to experience and relate to all others as peers, not higher or lower on a hierarchy of authority; to initiate, receive or decline intimacy.

PA = DS + I Origin

Personal Authority Combines Differentiation of Self with Intimacy

Differentiation of Self in the family is the ability to know what one feels and thinks about every important thing in the family, separate from social pressure.

Intimacy is the ability to share the meaning of one’s life experiences with another person, assuming the other is accepting and non-critical enough to be emotionally safe. Intimacy includes the ability to recognize when others are not safe and to choose when to not reveal.

With personal authority we can be ourselves and stay connected to family members.


STUDY THE FAMILY, learning about client’s relationships with each member.

IDENTIFY THE PATTERN of repeating sequences of interactions of client’s triangles.

IDENTIFY THE GOAL for client’s emotional and behavioral change.

PLAN THE STRATEGY for client’s de-triangulations, always moving toward the goal.

ANTICIPATE/PLANforfamily pressure to change back.

UTILIZE humor and compassion for self and others. Keep it positive.

  • References Origin

  • Murray Bowen, M.D. Family Therapy in Clinical Practice, Jason Aronson, 1978.

  • James Framo, Ph.D. Family-of-Origin Therapy: An Intergenerational Approach, Brunner/Masel, 1992.

  • Donald S. Williamson, Ph.D. The Intimacy Paradox; Personal Authority in the Family System, Guilford Press, 1991.

  • Donald S. Williamson, Ph.D., James H. Bray, Ph.D., Paul E. Malone, Ph.D. PAFS-Q: Personal Authority in the Family System Questionnaire. To order, contact James Bray, Ph.D. 3701 Kirby Drive 6th Floor, Houston TX 77098. (713)798-7751.

  • References Origin

  • Ellen Wachtel, Ph.D. and Paul Wachtel, Ph.D. Family Dynamics in Individual Psychotherapy: A Guide to Clinical Strategies. Guilford Press, 1991.

  • Patrick Gannon, Ph.D. for a description of “cardio imagery and rehearsal”

  • Rick Hanson, Ph.D., Richard Mendius, M.D.. Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom, New Harbinger, 2009, for conscious stress-reduction.