A House Divided: Structural Therapy with a Black Family
by Harry Aponte
In this engaging video, Harry Aponte demonstrates his technique with a family struggling to overcome alienation, legal issues and the complications of step-family relationships. By “joining” intuitively with the family, Aponte warms the connection between everyone in the room and supports the family to identify the parents’ ability to be both a positive resource and a source of isolation.
In this involving session, Harry Aponte helps a family look un-defensively at the things that are not working in their relationships. The family originally comes into therapy seeking help for their ten-year-old son who has been caught stealing. Aponte asks about the family’s complicated situation insightfully, understanding each relationship, and each individual’s role. Soon Aponte shifts the focus from the children to the center of the family—Rosalind and Carl, the parent couple.

Once he understands the family structure, including each of the children’s cut-off relationships with their “missing” biological parent, Aponte identifies that the parents are not coming together enough to discuss their family and the decisions that matter. In an almost deceptively informal manner, Aponte helps the strong-willed parents key in on their tendency to live separate, self-controlled lives in the same house. As the distance is identified, it starts to close, and the parents have an action they can take to make things go better—they can get together to talk about their family. “You are both very strong people,” he says at one point, “As difficult as it is now to get together, I think you’ll be that much better parents if you can talk. I think you’ll be very effective parents to these kids. And they need a strong set of parents.” Both parents nod and agree. The task is thus identified and put before them; though not easy, it is a realistic goal.

In a follow-up discussion with the referring therapist, Aponte stresses that the therapist the family continues to work with must gain their trust—especially that of the father, Carl. He advises that the therapist must truly join with them or be left on the outside—ultimately ineffective. Aponte reveals that after the session was over, Rosalind (wife and mother) told him that she was “shocked” at how much her normally silent husband spoke in the session. Aponte clearly won Carl’s confidence and trust; a very moving thing to see unfold in a short time.
In Depth
Aponte uses a gentle style of confrontation to offer the family insight into personality traits and family histories and even religious beliefs that put distance between the two parents. His humor and the ease of his presence add to and enlarge a technique that inspires confidence in the family and the viewer.

By watching this video you will learn how to:
  • Join effectively in the family’s dynamic during the session, in order to help bring about changes in their relational infrastructure.
  • Confront family members with the impact of their actions without causing defensiveness or evasion.
  • Identify the strengths and areas for growth in each family group, find reason for optimism about moving forward together.

Length of video: 1:05:00

English subtitles available

Group ISBN-10 #: 1-60124-409-6

Group ISBN-13 #: 978-1-60124-409-3

Harry J. Aponte, LCSW, LMFT is a professor in Drexel University’s Couple & Family Therapy Department. He also has a private practice in Philadelphia. He has written several important articles and chapters in addition to his book, Bread and Spirit: Therapy with the new poor.  He has lectured and conducted workshops throughout the United States, as well as in Canada, Latin America, Europe and Asia.

Among other honors, he received the award for Distinguished Contribution to Family Therapy and Practice from the American Family Therapy Academy in 1992, and the award for Outstanding Contribution to the Field of Marriage and Family Therapy from the Association for Marriage and Family Therapy in 2001.  He also received the I. Arthur Marshall Distinguished Alumnus Award from the Menninger Clinic in 1997.

See all Harry Aponte videos.
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