Communication: Marriage and Family Therapy

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Dr. Amy Yates

Have you ever felt alone, stressed, or filled with anxiety? Have you ever felt like you have so much to say, and there is no one to listen? Well, I know the answer to all of your questions. This answer comes in the form of a woman with experience, integrity, and confidence: Dr. Amy Yates. One of her many accomplishments is when she became a certified Marriage and Family Therapist (MFT). Yates, has helped many families all over the world. In 1996 she even moved overseas to continue her career in making others life better.

Marriage and Family Therapists encounter different challenges within their field of work. Dr. Yates in particular struggled at one of her jobs. She worked with a company who was run by partners. They would disagree and argue, which left her stuck in between all of their commotion. This made it difficult for her to communicate issues to them. Another challenge MFT’s face is the state laws around the scope of their practice. One question Yates mentioned includes: “Can we diagnose a client? If not, how can they treat them?”

“Communication is extremely important in this field of work,” says Dr. Amy Yates. Trust, collaboration, and transparency are all most effective ways to communicate within this field. When working with clients Dr. Yates prefers to take a Narrative Approach. With this method she helps her client create an alternate perspective or story. This is to help them see that life can be different than it is at the moment and will get better.

Therapists are required to do paperwork and case notes, because everything has to be documented. Yates stated, “You have to be very careful about documentation.” Case notes have to be very detailed. Anything a therapist documents in their sessions can be subpoenaed.

“In therapy you should never ask questions that seems as if you are giving them advice.” This sounds strange, because when you think of therapy you immediately think of giving advice. Yates informed me that “giving advice to a client is what their mother, significant other, and best friends do. I am their therapist and they are paying me to be a professional.” Therapists should not give advice, but guide their client in making the best decision for them.

Therapists and clients have special and complex relationships. Yates mentioned how important it is for the therapist and client to be open. She said, “Secrets are okay to have until the client has reached a level of confidence, but a therapist should never keep a secret from their client.” Building a relationship with someone takes a lot of trust. If a therapist is withholding information from their client, then it makes it difficult for the client to trust them. To start a client and therapist relationship correctly it is important to go over what is expected from both the client and therapist. There should never be a time when the client/therapist have to guess their roles.

All therapists have certain skills. There are times when they don’t have the necessary skills to help a client. In this situation there are necessary actions that has to take place. Dr. Yates stated, “I would refer them to a better resource and walk them through the process of letting me go.”. This statement seems as if the therapist is forcing the client to fire them, but in actuality it is to help their client get the help they need.

Communication is a key factor for Marriage and Family Therapists. Yates stated, “Helping people realize they already have what they need to solve their problems makes my job worthwhile.” There is definitely more oral communication that comes with this profession than many others. It is very important that communication between therapists/clients are clear and therapist are careful with their written communication.

Tianna Turner, guest blogger

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The Role of Communication in Human Ecology

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Dr. Katie Barrow in Carson Taylor Hall

Dr. Katie Barrow is an Assistant Professor of family and child studies at Louisiana Tech University. With a passion for the understanding of the complexities within society, Dr. Barrow holds a Ph. D. in human development, a M.S. in family and child studies, and a B.S. in psychology. Throughout her educational and professional career, Dr. Barrow has devoted countless hours to researching family diversity, sexuality and gender, and marriage and family relationships. Dr. Barrow enjoys teaching at the college university level, where she encourages students to explore sensitive issues, while challenging social and cultural norms.

As a Professional

While obtaining her graduate degrees, she wrote a 160-page dissertation on LGBT family relationships and a 60-page masters thesis on the lives of Jewish lesbian women. Her research and findings have landed her several publications in academic journals. Dr. Barrow has acquired the practice of writing in several different styles by composing manuscripts, reviewing textbooks, participating in research studies, writing grants, and creating workshops for organizations.

“Writing is a craft; it’s not only being smart enough, but it’s also oversimplifying concepts, like intersectionality, to my audience who may comprehend at a high school or even middle school level.” -Dr. Barrow.

When asked about her day-to-day tasks, Dr. Barrow says that she always has a paper or manuscript in progress and is always looking for possible conferences to submit her writings to. Her frequent use of written communication has taught her the discipline of efficiently structuring her writing for her targeted audience.

As an Educator

Dr. Barrow admits to preferring oral communication over written in classroom settings. Although she incorporates powerpoints in her lectures, she finds the use of models, visual aids, and videos to be more effective. She favors in-depth discussions with her students because she believes that nothing can truly substitute the interaction of talking. As a professor, she makes sure to educate her students both visually and orally, including students with communication disabilities. Dr. Barrow builds her students’ oral communication skills, while getting them into the practice of talking about sensitive issues. Her students’ coursework often includes creating brochures and writing research papers. She also requires her students to submit daily exit slips, teaching students the art of being succinct in their writing. For her courses, Dr. Barrow spends about 2-3 hours creating each lesson plan. She forms her lessons around the textbook, current events, academic journals, research studies, and even social media. She routinely updates her lesson plans because her field, like society and culture, is constantly changing.

As a Communicator

Dr. Barrow frequently emails her students addressing any questions or concerns they may have. She tries to respond to students as quickly as she can. When asked on negative forms of technical communication, she states that sometimes students lack formality in their emails to her. Dr. Barrow also exchanges emails with editors of journals regularly. She admits that the process of collecting her writings and getting published can sometimes become intense. It often entails submitting a cover letter, uploading a cohesive manuscript, receiving feedback, and sending revisions. From her recurrent practice, Dr. Barrow has learned to communicate with editors punctually considering this process will last weeks at a time. In addition, she often exchanges memos and emails with faculty members, however her colleagues are often more understanding of her busy schedule.

Summary

Communication not only turned Dr. Barrow into an educator, but it also made her into the accomplished, motivating woman she is today. On a daily basis, she influences the lives of her students, whilst shedding light on important cultural and societal issues through her writings and publications. She has effectively used communication in her career to share important matters on a professional and academic level. My interview with Dr. Barrow was extremely inspiring and gave me a lot of valuable insight on what becoming an educator in this field will be like.

Stephanie Daigle, Guest Blogger.