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The Challenges of Measuring Up Part 1

Video Type: In Practice

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John Winslade works with Laura, a single mother who feels she is not “measuring up” to being a good parent. Her family members are critical of her parenting skills with Nate, her 4-year-old son. On top of this stress, Laura's father recently died, and Laura feels guilt over exposing her son to her father's death in ways that may not have been age-appropriate. She feels tremendous guilt and is second-guessing herself. Winslade helps Laura realize that her feelings are not something that Laura produces but are rather a response to messages around her. Winslade invites Laura to think not only about what is problematic and undermining for her but also what is sustaining and resource-giving. He draws out a “counterstory” from Laura whereby she rejects the criticisms of her and focuses on what can help her. Laura finds strength through her connection with her now-deceased father, to whom Laura was very close. She talks with Winslade about emulating her dad's good parenting skills while working to ignore the people who undermine and criticize her. Winslade uses narrative therapy and acts as a collaborator with Laura in his work with her. He uses deconstructive questions to find out where Laura's ideas of self come from and helps her uncover values that are situated in a larger cultural experience. Winslade's focus in this session with Laura is on the concept of personal failure and not measuring up. He argues that very often personal failure is brought on by external factors—that is, systems in place that evaluate and assess people according to a certain standard. This feeling of not measuring up has dramatic implications on how people see themselves and how they live their lives. It causes people to feel an increasing sense of anxiety, worry, guilt, and shame. Many issues clients come in with can be traced back to this concept of not measuring up. Winslade encourages therapists to work with clients to raise their level of awareness of this issue and to find strategies to counter it. John Winslade, PhD, is a professor of counseling at California State University, San Bernardino, and associate dean of the College of Education. He is also a part-time associate professor at the University of Waikato, in Hamilton, New Zealand. His fields of teaching and scholarship are in counseling and conflict resolution. He is particularly interested in contributing to the growth of social constructionist, poststructuralist, and narrative ideas in counseling and conflict resolution. He has coauthored eight books and many articles on narrative therapy, narrative counseling in schools, multicultural counseling, and narrative mediation.

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