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Solution Focused Narrative Therapy with an Adolescent: Finding Meaning and Strength in the Client's Story

Video Type: In Practice

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Diana Chung works with Jessica, a 16-year-old girl who was born in Mexico and immigrated with her mother to the United States at 1 year of age. Jessica is bilingual and her family subscribes to traditional values, such as family unity, collectivism, and respect towards adults. Jessica is often left in charge of caring for younger siblings while her mother and stepfather work long hours to provide for the four children in the blended family. She feels overwhelmed with the tasks and pressures asked of her. Her grades have been falling in the past semester, as conflict in the home has increased. Jessica has been skipping school and has been missing out on class time. Her mother is concerned about her irritability and short patience with family members, isolation from the family, anger outbursts with siblings and adults, and Jessica possibly smoking marijuana when with friends, though Jessica denies any substance use. Jessica was referred for therapy by the school counselor for spotty attendance, a drop in grades, and a comment made in passing that sometimes she “is depressed.” Chung uses a narrative and solution-focused orientation and applies different skills to create space within the problem-saturated story to allow room for new possibilities. She uses de Shazer’s “miracle question” and variations of this question for assessment and to discuss goals. Chung also asks questions to assess the “preferred self”—a technique used to allow for less blaming and more space to talk about alternative stories. Chung emphasizes the present and future, with the client’s local knowledge at the forefront. She searches for the client’s strengths, exceptions to the problem, and self-derived solutions to create space for new realities and new ways of talking about the client’s life. Diana Chung is a marriage and family therapy therapist practicing in a community-based children’s hospital program for children, teens, and their families. The majority of her clinical experience has been with youth in clinic and school settings. She also provides clinical supervision to student therapists in a community clinic. She operates from a postmodern perspective, with a strong emphasis on cultural and contextual factors. She gravitates around narrative and solution-focused theory, while drawing tools from a variety of models. She identifies as a multilingual/multicultural Chinese American person, with the bulk of her clinical work with Mexican families in English and Spanish.

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