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Case: Juvenile Justice
Alan Ernesto Phillips, Juvenile Justice Counselor, California, USA.
(the names below have been changed)
“…It gave real hope to a fractured family to want to find understanding…”
“I worked with a 16-year-old male who dropped out of mainstream education systems, abuses alcohol and marijuana, has a single mother and a younger female sibling. "John" was mandated to my Victim Awareness class clearly disinterested, angry and somewhat oppositional. He had victimized a classmate by physical assault and terrorizing threats (Bully-like). John had been told that his father was a "drunk, a promiscuous adulterer and a deadbeat dad". After John attended my class he opened up more to me and gave me permission to ask his mother to meet with me about the death of his father.
John's father and mother divorced when he was about 11, the mother had full legal/physical custody and the father moved and lived in another town. John indicated to me that he was really mad at his mother because she had said "a lot of things that were untrue about my dad! I've hated her for that for a long time!" (John's father died about two years ago from an automobile crash in which he was the victim of an alcohol-related incident - the other driver was at fault.)
With everyone's permission, we played 'All the Stars Above' recently with "John", his mother "Jane" and her boyfriend "Jim". It was awkward at first for Jane and her boyfriend Jim. John, however, seemed interestingly confident. The component of giving and getting permission to talk (or not) and using the "Talking Stick" really helped the process of balanced disclosure and feedback. Ultimately, it appeared the mother felt guilty and was very sorry for "alienating John from his birth father". She felt she was "protecting" her children from someone with whom she was VERY angry. John was coincidentally VERY angry with his mother for keeping old letters from his father, not allowing visits and for making frequent disparaging remarks about his father. John learned from others, after the father's death, that his father was not like the characterization the mother had laid out for so long (about five years).
I felt this family needed a higher level of counseling than I was trained to give and referred them to appropriate agencies for further help. Yet All the Stars Above brought out a lot of stories, repressed truths, anger, confusion and love. It gave real hope to a fractured family to want to find understanding and - hopefully - reconciliation. This therapeutic tool is a perfect medium for beginning dialogue and discovery and - with a trained, competent therapist - a great opportunity to help foster openness, coping and acceptance... of any loss, I am sure.”