Family Therapy: Not Just for Kids – An Interview with Adriana Rodriguez, LMFT
Curt and Katie interview Adriana Rodriguez, LMFT about the tendency of therapists (even Marriage and Family Therapists) to avoid working with couples and families. We talk about the challenges in working with groups rather than individuals, how to identify the most appropriate treatment unit, and the benefits of working with adult families. We also discuss the importance of assessing power, privilege, intersectionality, and global context when working with both individuals and families.
Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.
Click here to scroll to the podcast transcript.
An Interview Adriana Rodriguez, LMFT
Adriana is a queer, Latinx, first-generation licensed marriage and family therapist and relationship educator specializing in working with adult BIPOC and First-Gen adult children of immigrants. With extensive experience in helping individuals, couples and adult families navigate complex relationships, Adriana takes a holistic approach to therapy, addressing the systemic and cultural injustices and generational gifts and traumas impacting people’s mental health. Passionate about cultivating empathy, vulnerability, and self-compassion, Adriana empowers clients to create fulfilling, meaningful lives, careers and relationships that align with their values.
In this podcast episode, we look at relationship therapy
Our friend, Adriana Rodriguez is returning to the podcast to talk about therapy for relationships, including couples and adult families.
Why do therapists avoid working with families and only work with individuals?
“ I’ve had some amazing experiences recently, with adult parents with adult children sort of coming in and addressing the system. And it to me has been magical…there has been vicarious healing to be able to see these families working through some of these layers of themselves.” – Adriana Rodriguez, LMFT
- There seems to be an aversion to working with groups rather than individuals
- Avoiding overstimulation and conflict
- Concerns about a lack of training
- Not seeing adult family therapy as a typical treatment unit
- Insurance and the medical model suggest that treatment is for an individual
- Individualistic society of western culture
How can a therapist identify the most appropriate treatment unit?
- Making sure to recognize that everyone has people that impact them
- Working to identify the context and root causes of current concerns
- Gathering the people around for accountability and vicarious healing
- Identifying intergenerational transmission of trauma and of gifts
What can therapists do to support their clients most effectively?
“Why don’t I feel that I’m doing this work in a way that feels good enough?…why doesn’t this theory match the clients that I’m seeing in a way that…feels obvious or easy to just follow…step by step? And the answer to that question, always came back to the training, the trainer, the people that you’re in community with talking about these things are not thinking intersectionally about: how does this apply, but also how does this not apply, depending on the circumstances?” – Adriana Rodriguez, LMFT
- Understanding the systems within which clients move
- Looking at privilege, power, marginalization, and intersectionality
- Understanding what is typically missed in treatment: that the system needs to be addressed before change can really occur
- Looking for opportunities to engage family members in treatment
How can therapists better understand adult families?
“We need to go into the next layer, I think as therapists is: how do we respond to the differences and the similarities that exist between people and their systems, but also between us and our clients?” – Adriana Rodriguez, LMFT
- Move away from compartmentalizing couples or family work
- More in-depth genograms, with more context and self-reflection
- Looking at how we interact with our clients and how we interact with the systems
- Eco-map – the context around the client
- Timeline – historic events happening during your client’s life around them
- Incorporating accountability and compassion
- Increasing understanding and compassion before inviting in the family members into session
- Recognizing that many cultures have a strong focus and value related to family and honoring that in their healing process
- Helping families and couples come together as “team” members rather than opponents
Resources for Modern Therapists mentioned in this Podcast Episode:
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Adriana’s website: Adriana Rodriguez Therapy
Adriana’s Instagram: @adrianarodriguezwellness
Our Linktree: https://linktr.ee/therapyreimagined
Relevant Episodes of MTSG Podcast:
Who we are:
Curt Widhalm, LMFT
Curt Widhalm is in private practice in the Los Angeles area. He is the cofounder of the Therapy Reimagined conference, an Adjunct Professor at Pepperdine University and CSUN, a former Subject Matter Expert for the California Board of Behavioral Sciences, former CFO of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists, and a loving husband and father. He is 1/2 great person, 1/2 provocateur, and 1/2 geek, in that order. He dabbles in the dark art of making “dad jokes” and usually has a half-empty cup of coffee somewhere nearby. Learn more at: http://www.curtwidhalm.com
Katie Vernoy, LMFT
Katie Vernoy is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, coach, and consultant supporting leaders, visionaries, executives, and helping professionals to create sustainable careers. Katie, with Curt, has developed workshops and a conference, Therapy Reimagined, to support therapists navigating through the modern challenges of this profession. Katie is also a former President of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. In her spare time, Katie is secretly siphoning off Curt’s youthful energy, so that she can take over the world. Learn more at: http://www.katievernoy.com
A Quick Note:
Our opinions are our own. We are only speaking for ourselves – except when we speak for each other, or over each other. We’re working on it.
Our guests are also only speaking for themselves and have their own opinions. We aren’t trying to take their voice, and no one speaks for us either. Mostly because they don’t want to, but hey.
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Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide Creative Credits:
Voice Over by DW McCann https://www.facebook.com/McCannDW/
Music by Crystal Grooms Mangano https://groomsymusic.com/
Transcript for this episode of the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide podcast (Autogenerated):
Transcripts do not include advertisements just a reference to the advertising break (as such timing does not account for advertisements).
You’re listening to the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide, where therapists live, breathe and practice as human beings. To support you as a whole person and a therapist, here are your hosts, Curt Widhalm and Katie Vernoy.
Curt Widhalm 0:16
Welcome back modern therapists. This is the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide. I’m Curt Widhalm, with Katie Vernoy. And this is a podcast for therapists where we talk about the things going on in our profession, things going on in our clients, the trends in our field and these kinds of things. And we are joined once again by our great friend Adriana Rodriguez, LMFT. And we’re here to talk about what’s up with so many therapists just being like, I don’t want to work with couples or families, and totally just working individually with people. And we have all kinds of thoughts on this stuff. But thank you for joining us. Well, before we get to the complainy part of the episode, thank you for being here again.
Adriana Rodriguez 1:01
Thank you for having me. I’m always excited to be here.
Katie Vernoy 1:05
So the first question we ask everyone and we will link to Adriana’s first episode in our show notes, but to to catch everyone up that didn’t hear that one. Who are you and what are you putting out into the world?
Adriana Rodriguez 1:18
Yeah, you know, I always prepare for this question and then it’s like, what the whatever is gonna come is gonna come out. Is my pronouns are she /her/hers/ella. And I’m a licensed marriage and family therapist, and what am I putting out into the world? Right now I feel like this season is a little bit different than the last time I was in the podcast. And so the umbrella of everything that I do is still the same, which I would say is intersectional mental health, intersectional wellness. So all the axis of intersection of power, privilege, and systems. But this time around. Last time, I talked about supervision and some of the issues that I face, both supervising but also myself as a supervisee. Now I’m just and now that I’ve moved into private practice, I kind of have been focusing on working with couples and adult families. And so the systems work has become really in front of me. And so inevitably, I’ve been focusing on relationship: relationship education, it’s kind of what I’m calling it. So not only that, that therapy that we do with people in relationships, whether romantic relationships or family relationships, but more like the education of where do we learn to be in a relationship. And so that’s what I’m how I’m showing up on social media. And a lot of the work that I’m doing is like, where do our people learning to be in relationship with one another, and the bigger umbrella is the intersectional lens to look at our relationships.
Curt Widhalm 2:42
Normally, we asked question what people get wrong, but I’m gonna save that one for a little bit later in the episode, because I want to get to the core of a question. I saw you post this on social media, but: why are therapists just so focused on individual work? What kinds of, why are, why are people avoiding getting into some of this relational stuff? And I’ve seen this across licenses, even LMFTs, the people who are supposed to be doing marriage and family work, what’s up with them, just focusing on individuals?
Adriana Rodriguez 3:13
Good. So I decided to pose that question. So I teach at the University of San Francisco, I’m a adjunct professor there, and the class that is my favorite way to teach is family systems. How are families interconnected? How do families work with one another? What are the different structures of family? How do we define family in the western world versus in the global majority, right, like the definition of family, and how the system gets impacted by all the things around it, right. And so once I was I’ve been really excited reading and sharing with a couple of therapists friends, and everybody kind of has this aversion to working with more than one person at a time. And I thought it was sort of like a situational thing. I was just like, I like what’s happening with my core group of people, like why are they reluctant to work with groups, right, and families? And so I went on to Facebook, and I said, like, hey, anecdotal research, because I would like to talk to my students about what are some of the things that potentially may show up for them, right. And so things that people mention is I have a hard time with overstimulation and so the idea of having two people in front of me might overstimulate me; conflict, I personally don’t like dealing with conflict and so I find it really hard when people come with conflict, and I have to manage and facilitate and sort of mediate between the two of them. And the most common one that came up is the lack of training, poor training, even for the MFTs. Right, everybody that sort of was commenting, and I’ve probably like a small sample group of like, 50 people, right, that were actually really excited to share with me what their own challenges were. Across the board, as people kept commenting, it came across like yeah, maybe if I had more training, maybe this would have been a focus more in my classes. I would feel more comfortable. But as it is, I already know that personally, I don’t have this like desire to get into conflict, to get into managing of people and because I don’t have the training, that’s not something that I’m prioritizing at this moment. So I think from my anecdotal research is that people realize that there is this need, but they, there’s this personal sort of intersection of personal reasons, but also poor training that the most of us have received around system work. And that’s being reflected, I think, on the lack of providers who are doing couples work and are doing adult family work, which is sort of like the secondary bucket that I I’m really advocating that we need to be doing adult family work. When we think about family work, mostly we think about little kids and their families coming to therapy. I’ve had some amazing experiences recently, with adult parents with adult children sort of coming in and addressing the system. And it to me has been magical. And, you know, we talked about vicarious trauma, I would say there has been vicarious healing to be able to see these families working through some of these layers of themselves. And so that is sort of like the space that I’ve been in in wondering, why are not more people interested in doing this work? Because I find it really exciting. And I really love it.
Curt Widhalm 6:04
You think that there’s some systemic issues on this? I know, at least here in California, it seems like even a lot of the MFT master’s programs are kind of like clinical psych programs with an emphasis in marriage and family therapy, where it’s almost like, here’s the training to become a junior psychologist, where there’s even just kind of a lack of just family systems people even in the education positions.
Adriana Rodriguez 6:31
I think so. I think that there is a focus that even in the MFT programs that I teach in where we are over emphasizing a lot of the diagnosing a lot of the the things that I know, on this end, are very much for insurance, right, insurance compliance. And so this is kind of those moments where systemically I think that many people, even the ones who just are not accepting insurance, sort of replicating that through our training, we learn to think about individuals as one unit, right? We did take the cup, the couples class, and we took the family class. But what I’m seeing is this lack of integration, that throughout the different stages of what you’re learning, scaffolding, like scaffolding, this idea that people still exist within a system, whether they come with those people into therapy or not even as individuals, when I work with folks individually, there is a focus on the system that they come from, because especially for the populations that I’m working with BIPOC folks, queer folks, women, right, anyone who is minoritized, but also part of the global majority, right? Like there’s this way that we cannot ignore, the systems around us are impacting us. And so that includes our family system. And I’m like macro level, and then the system’s just of the world a more meso level, right. And so, there is this emphasis in our training in education that is focusing on individuals in asilo. And I think that’s very aligned with just sort of how the, you know, the United States and the individualistic culture of the United States works. And so it’s like the system replicating itself within our therapy system.
Katie Vernoy 8:02
Yeah, that’s what I was hearing a lot of when you’re talking, I kept thinking, oh, yeah, this is rugged individualism. This is this is people being completely responsible for, you know, everything. Not, not really looking at systems, necessarily, and identifying the problem within the individual, and the solution within the individual. And I feel like that is limited. I mean, I love doing individual work, don’t get me wrong, but I have a strong respect for the systems and the circumstances folks find themselves in and, and to me, it does seem very limiting if people will not or, or refuse to do adult family work or couples work when even within the work that they’re doing with a quote unquote, identified patient. How do you set up the structure for figuring out the best unit of treatment for folks that come in to see you?
Adriana Rodriguez 8:52
So on Instagram, there is this meme that has come across. And so maybe the two of you have seen it, but it says, I go to therapy for the people in my life that don’t go to therapy. And I feel like a meme always comes up in my individual work. And then also when I’m doing the either couples work, poly group work or adult family work, right? When I’m doing group work, here, we have the people that we are supposed to be going to therapy individually, right. And so for me, it’s like there’s this from the get go naming that you belong to people, you belong to systems, you belong to society, whether you’re involved in it or not. And so from the get go in the structure is we are going to be thinking about the root causes, the origin, but not like, who do we blame, but rather, who do we hold and who do we share responsibility and accountability for where we find ourselves with people, right? For a lot of the bipoc folks in the communities that I’m working with, one of the things that we’re commonly we’re talking about us imposter syndrome, and I mean, I can work with you individually on impostor syndrome. But if I’m not talking about how you being a person of color, or you being queer, how you being a woman, how you, whatever intersection and I’m not holding those parts accountable, then how are we going to address your imposter syndrome, because then it would allude that there is a problem that you have the power to handle, or the change or to do something about. And then he leaves, I think a little bit of gaslighting of, I’m doing all the work, I’m putting all of this effort, but the system is not changing. And unless people know that the system is not going to change, or it’s going to change very slowly, and still, you got to do this work, right? We’re like, I feel like we’re having a gap. And so when I’m doing that individual work that’s present all the time talking about where did you learn this from? Where does it come from? Where did you see it replicated, whether in your family or outside with your co workers, with your friends? And then when I’m doing relationship work, intimate relationship work, or adult family work, it is about sharing the knowledge also, even though intergenerational passing down both traumas and gifts, right? The resilience, the strengths, the families get passed along the ways that the system prepares us to deal with the system, right? How do you participate in capitalism in a way that still honors and respects your rest, your needs, right? But recognizing that your tiredness, you’re burned out, it’s not self created, but it’s, it’s also being contained by larger things, right. And so at all times, when I’m doing work, the systems thinking is always present. And that’s just kind of how I’m holding the space in the therapy room nowadays.
Curt Widhalm 11:30
I want to encourage other therapists to get here. To get to this kind of an approach, because, inherent, you’re starting to uncover that question that I said that we were gonna save for later, which is like what people do wrong, and not not shaming anybody, but like, you know, don’t don’t get to this great thing that you’re describing. So this is kind of that two in one, like, what do you see people doing wrong? So that way they can stop making those mistakes? But also, how do you get more people to start thinking in this more global way, as far as that systems interaction with the clients that they’re working with?
Adriana Rodriguez 12:10
How did we get here? I think this was kind of part of the introduction that I said, were like, the bucket that holds all the work, because the other day I was somebody was asking me, oh, you’re a therapist or speaker, you’re a workshop facilitator, your relationship educator. There’s this list of things that I do, right, that it’s just like, it’s just too many. But it kind of made me think, take a step back of: how do I do the many things that I do right? And is this intersectionality this acknowledgement that there is power and privilege, at all times are all in all layers and all levels, right? And so for me, when I’ve had other focuses like supervision, or I’ve had even my own therapy as a, as a, just a person, right? It has been inevitable to talk about me personally existing within the systems. And so I would say that the first step for me has been to recognize that the system impacts me and that, inevitably, my work is impacted by the systems that I exist in as a person, right? When we internalize individualism as the way of being and we forget that there’s others around us, or we’re not paying attention to it, I think that it becomes harder to be present in the room with our clients. And especially I think people who are not obviously marginalized, or that perhaps don’t feel that they belong to the categories of group that are being oppressed or that are being impacted, they may not feel that this is a topic for them, or that is something that is necessary for them to examine first with themselves, right? And then so if I’m not examining that, I’m not acknowledging that, then how am I going to have that precedent for my clients? And so I think my process has been kind of this learning and unlearning after grad school, I know how I got trained in grad school. I know the trainings and certifications and all the things that I’ve done. But throughout the years, the question felt like why don’t I feel that I’m doing this work in a way that feels good enough? Like why doesn’t this theory match the clients that I’m seeing in a way that is that feels obvious or easy to just follow this step by step? And the answer to that question, always came back to the training, the trainer, the people that you’re in community with talking about these things are not thinking intersectionally about: how does this apply, but also how does this not apply, depending on the circumstances? And so I think that a big gap in our field is this idea that, you know, maybe it’s not even an idea it’s just like the the way that we’ve internalized our privilege to think that these system issues are not our issues and therefore not, you know, influencing or impacting our client.
Katie Vernoy 14:50
I like that idea that we we need to understand ourselves to be able to do it. But I also like the idea that we’re missing a big part when we’re not working intersectionally or we’re missing a big part when we’re not paying attention to the systems and that there is an element of this when we’re just working with the individual in front of us, that we’re missing a lot. Let’s talk a little bit more about like what is actually being missed.
Adriana Rodriguez 15:14
So, one of the things that became really obvious to me, I used to be a school based clinician, right. And so I work with elementary middle schoolers. And so adults would come all the time and bring me Mrs. Rodriguez, can you please work with this kid, they’re having behavioral issues, they’re having this and that, right. And, like the realisation that was the most powerful to me, it’s like, I can’t make any movement on this kid. I can’t work magic, unless the system is also being addressed, understood. And if the system is not moving, there is no magic wand that as a as a child therapist, I can wave to fix this kid, right. But a lot of the adults in and that bring kids to therapy are beginning with that lens of the individual, right, like fix the kid do this for the kiddo. And they’re themselves not accounting themselves into the equation of what might be going on, what we’re seeing, right, and they’re not thinking about it. So when I was in the school, in the schools working with kids, I became really like a fierce advocate that family work was necessary. My associates, my interns that are supervised, they were all required to make sure that they were involving the families actively, that they were having family sessions, whether consistently, or occasionally, right, because there was a part of how do we close the gap between what a kid might be learning might be responded really well in therapy. But if the family is unaware, is unengaged, is I was gonna say uninterested, but I don’t even know that it’s uninterested, if they’re not even know what they’re missing out. And so falls the responsibility of, for us as the clinicians, as the therapist to let the family know that we need them. And that’s kind of what for me began, right that when I was working with kids by themselves, one big part of what’s missing was the family. So then when I moved from being school based clinician and went into working with adults, that meant that mindset of when I’m only talking to you about your problem as an individual problem, and we’re not taking into consideration these other things, we’re missing a big part. And I began doing couples work sort of by happenstance, when I started inviting my individual clients to bring people as a collateral, right, like, that’s what we would call it, encoding collateral meeting to help them bridge some of the things that they were learning in therapy that were relational in nature, and that they maybe were struggling and how to be able to bridge that in their life, right. And so we were talking about, well, why don’t you bring them in? And it would be my job to hold environment and all this is not couples therapy, this is not family therapy, this is therapy in support of your goals and support of the direction that you’re going. But immediately, it dawned on me like why am I not actually officially offering this thing, like the people that want to do this work in the field, are compelled, ready available to do this work to just come in. And that’s how I even, you know, the most obvious one, I think, is couples therapy that more people do. But there’s like a huge gap and adult families needing to manage and deal with their adult family issues. And there are not a lot of therapists doing that work, available to do that work. And so, because of the work that I did with kids, and the inevitability of involving everybody else, or somehow they existing even when they weren’t present, I have not been able to remove that type of mentality, and I don’t want to I think is really what makes my work personally really special is that other people get to come to the couch, even if they’re not there physically. They’re here with us and we’re including them and understanding them. And when they get to come in, I find it so rewarding when I see people being able to like, create those bridges with each other and then be able to be in relationship in healthier ways with one another, I find nothing more rewarding than that. Because in even in individual therapy, sometimes that is frustrating that your client is doing all this work, but their family, their system, their work is not changing. And it leaves people frustrated, defeated at times, disappointed, right. And so from the work with kids, I think is the translation into this next step for me in working with adults that we all have been somebody’s children. And so we still remain their children, even if we’re in contact with them, even if we’re in a healthy relationship with them, right. So it for me has been inevitable to extend in that way, in my private practice.
Curt Widhalm 19:34
How did you try to do this in your teaching? I’m thinking back to a lot of the family systems classes that I have. And it’s like, alright, here, here’s a theory developed by some people back in the 60s and 70s and go and do this and then go and get licensed and have some experience and then do things that Adriana is talking about. So assuming that you’re trying to help the next generation of therapists; How do you weave this in with educational objectives that are stuck in a different millennium?
Adriana Rodriguez 20:08
Oh, man, I’m dealing with a very sticky situation with that right now. I’m thinking about some of my frustrations that I’m facing in the academic environment around seeing the way that I think the educational system in the professor’s were getting wrong is that we’re compartmentalizing couples work, relationship work, family work to specific classes, versus being able to overarch that people belong to people, are around people, interact with people, and in all different aspects of their life. And that we’re we’re missing something right. And so for me and my class, my my class is family system, so is that famous genogram. And where I started that I’m vulnerable about my genogram. I talk about, what are the family dynamics? What are the secrets, what are the things that people are not talking about. And over the years, even when I wrote my own genogram, back when I was in grad school, like that piece of information has been so valuable, but it has morphed over the years about the value that I find in it. So in my class, I began with really role modeling the necessity of understanding who we are and where we’re coming from, in order to then learn the theories and then learn the so it’s like the theories and the modalities, and the interventions are secondary, to understanding how you’re gonna get in the way purposely or unintentionally, it doesn’t matter. Like if you’re not aware of certain things, right, to the best degree that you can, we can’t be aware of everything. But then my genogram project is really intentional. In my class, also, something that I am trying to do is how to, I’ve asked myself is a how do I prepare the students to be 21st century clinicians, right, I got trained in the 20th century, and I can feel the differences of what the 20th century needed versus the 21st century needed, right. And so what is the areas, how to supervise, how to public speak, how to create social media content, how to and network, have tough conversations with clients, right. And so there are different parts of my class where not only are you reflecting in yourself, but also as I go back to like the outside world and notice how the things that you’re learning here are happening around those, with those around you, whether you work with them, whether you live with them, whether your romantic relationship with them. So I focus a lot on the self reflection, in-part. And kind of the next step, I would say is the culturally and gender responsive practice beyond just the concept of intersectionality. I’m at the place where somebody shows me the wheel of power and privilege one more time, I’m gonna walk out with that training. It’s not enough. Because at this point, we have been talking about power and privilege and intersectionality plenty. But now we need to go into the next layer, I think as therapists is: how do we respond to the differences and the similarities that exist between people and their systems, but also between us and our clients? Right. And so I think we need to go into the next level, but it can only be done. And I’m maybe I’ll get some heat for this. But I believe that it can only be done as the depth that you have understood how the system’s impact you. And so I tried to role model that for my students. That is the the vulnerability of sharing that but also the real life application of how this would show up clinically, right, like it’s not about the just the sob story, you’re telling me how what your traumas are, how would you then deal with a situation in your clinical practice that is this multilayer. So for my genogram project, one part is the genogram. The second part is an eco map, which is mapping all the systems that the family has around them. And the third part of the project is a timeline of any socio political issues that are relevant in terms of your family timeline. So for example, for me, when I was seven years old, my family left El Salvador, my parents left, and they left not because they wanted to, there was a whole Civil War. I was born in the middle of a war. When I was five years old I remember sleeping on the floor, because there were bombs being dropped in my neighborhood. And so if I, when I got to grad school, this actually happened to me, we started going into looking at your family. And I remember being mad at my parents, that they had failed me, that they were not good enough. And what I wish my professors would have done then would have said, but stop what was going on around your family in those moments when you felt failed, when they didn’t show up at their best, what was what else was going on around because that’s the work that I’ve done, post grad school, which is to situate my family within the context. That this experiences that happened to me individually, where were rooted from and that has allowed me to find a sense of self compassion for them, for me, and for our history and then also address the parts that are me problems, that are we problems, but our society problems and sort of bucket them appropriately where they go. And that is the skill that I’m trying to teach my students, right. It’s just that when you’re looking at the person, there are going to be things that are individual, but then there are going to things are relational in and they’re gonna think gonna be things are just bigger and larger, that you’re just kind of this is where you were born in the timeline of the planet, of the world. And these are the ways that those things are affecting, at a micro level.
Katie Vernoy 25:31
The thing that kind of stuck out for me when when you were talking right, there was this element of challenging old stories that are very separating or blaming, you know, my parents failed me. And I feel like a lot of the Zeitgeist I guess, or social media, things are talking about how we have to cut off our families, or there’s people that are toxic, all that kind of stuff. And it feels like, yeah, there are definitely people that cannot have contact with their families. There’s there’s some pretty gnarly stuff that’s happened, and I get that. But, but what you’re describing is, is potentially fairly confronting. And I’m assuming at points, you take that further and invite these folks in to a session, right? And so how do you navigate kind of that, that work? Because it seems like it could be hugely healing, but it could also, it’s also I think, part of why some therapists might feel like this is dangerous is that, well, my client feels like their parents failed them, I’m going to support their story. And we’re going to stay in individual work versus the type of work that you’re talking about.
Adriana Rodriguez 26:39
You know, for me, how it has shown up is that we hit a limit. You know, recently I was having a session with one of my my longer term clients they came in, they’re like, I need to keep it real with me and tell me what I’m not doing. And I said, Well, what gives you the impression that I’m not keeping it real, right? And then this comes out accusation, that I am too nice, and I love them too much to actually be real. And I think this is such that it says like, how am I being nice, right? When I’m holding you accountable? And so we have we do that whole part of like, are you just used to learning through like the finger wagging, getting in trouble, and you’re expecting me to be like the bad parent, right? And like, get you in trouble. So part of the the inviting the family work, is also inviting people to understand why do they feel this idea of fault, this idea of guilt, this idea of blame, right, and how they have internalized these things from their family system. That’s accountability. Then I invite compassion in. That many of these things are not on purpose. They didn’t even if they’re really crappy, really shitty action. They’re sometimes nobody’s fault. There are responsibilities that come once you have awareness. But if I am expecting my parents to have the type of awareness to me, a therapist who’s trained in systems thinking, and who has done all this therapy work on myself, if I’m expecting my family to show up at that level, I’m going to be really disappointed, right. And so I help people level up their understanding of their family systems before inviting people in, in a way that leverages compassion, not to remove accountability, but to sort of ask for accountability in a way that is going to be able to match the timing, that matches where people are. So I wouldn’t invite a family for a session, second session in just like, Let’s confront them, because it’s not about confronting, if anything, in my experience, when I’ve invited the families of individual clients is that they also welcome the compassion to not be the bad guy in the story, but to also say I also had bad people like bad guys in my own story, and I can see how what I learned, I pass it down and it has harmed you. And so this, this, compassion is not paths for accountability, and for responsibility, and then for action that is aligned with what you have discovered in your work. But some of us are not used to thinking compassionately about our issues, like self compassion, right, but also with compassion about the world that we live in and how it has impacted others and that that has led to harm. Now does that mean that you have to accept this type of behavior, that you don’t put boundaries, that you don’t take distance if needed? The watch the action post having this realisations with compassion, that’s where you come into your power, right? Your ownership that’s more like the individual work. What do you want to do? Me working with majority Latinx immigrants, first gen people if I ever told my clients you got to cut your family off, I would be fired. Like that is just not something that you do, you know?
Katie Vernoy 29:50
Adriana Rodriguez 29:51
We have the concepts of familismo in Latino culture, right. We have marianismo, we have machismo. And so family comes first. And this is, I think, a big part of how the global majority works and why the global majority is having a hard time with white therapists. That white therapists are not thinking about for the majority of us in the globe, we are inevitably connected and remain connected to people. My my own therapist, that something really interesting that just popped into my mind, which was because I, at some point, I, I was struggling with some family things. And I said, I don’t have a family, da da da, like, I’m so mad at them, right. And then she said something like, Well, you know, unfortunately, you’re still connected with them, whether you’re actively in a relationship with them or not. So it’s more like a light switch, that your relationship with your family is either on or off, and you get to decide. And so I like to empower or I want to empower my individual clients to sort of understand why they’re turning the light on and off, but only after they understand the system, and they can compassionately understand the issues within the system. And then when I’m doing couples work, relationship work, or family work, it’s about sharing the compassion with everybody of how did we get here? And then how do we actionably enter into different ways to being in relationship with one another?
Curt Widhalm 31:13
So when you’re working with new clients, or you’re starting to talk about how you work with people, and you’re met with those families that are like, but I want you to fix my kid. This seems, this is ultimately a question of like, how do you sell this to clients that are still very much in that individualism, sort of: But I don’t want that.
Adriana Rodriguez 31:38
So I’m not the right therapist for you. That would be like,my simple my simple question, my simple answer, because, you know, from the get go, even on my consultation, as we’re talking, you know, from that perspective, at the consultation, I make sure that I’m talking about that I am systems trained, and that we’re going to look not only your family system, or your individual issues, but also the societal systems, right? My social media, my, so I have set up like my practice and sort of my person, as a therapist, that, you know, if you’re coming to me, you’re going to be talking about these things. And, you know, in fact, some of my best conversations about the patriarchy that I’ve had in couples work has been with straight sis men, because they have never had to confront how the patriarchy is showing up in their marriage and how it’s impacting them as individuals, but also their families or children, right. And so, I don’t know that, I guess I’ll just say that the best formula for me to find the people that want to do this work, that at least want to be thinking about this work has been for me to embody that everything that I do is always questioning, challenging, or having compassion towards the system and how the system has impacted. So I’m not running into much of that issue nowadays. I am not taking people necessarily, for example, that are coming in, in the in the consultation, there will be fighting, you know, like the management of the conflict. I think, for me, it’s one of the more like the weaving in and out, can they actually conflict be managed enough to be able to get deeply into what’s happening. And maybe like, that’s one of the things that we’re doing wrong is that the training is about skill development, or like understanding, but this kind of in the present, and I think that much of the relationship issues that I see, they’re not necessarily pressing issues, but their past history, systemic issues are just showing up and that we are not even aware that they’re existing. And so therefore, we don’t know how to address them.
Katie Vernoy 33:35
I know we’re running a little bit short on time. But I have another more practical question, too. And so I want to throw this in before we finish up, I think, you know, kind of speaking to Curt’s question and like, how do you convince parents that want, you know, just fix my kid. I think there’s a lot of stuff and maybe we have a kids, their kids family episode to go deeper into that, because there’s a lot of well, and this is you have them this amount of the time, and I need you to be my ally, and we’re going to fix your kid together. And da da da da, right? Like we can, we can sit there but I think about engaging adult families that are potentially not necessarily thinking that’s where we start, right? Like their adult child comes in, invites their family into session, like how do you explain what’s going to happen there? How do you and I’m not saying they’re coming in saying now just fix my kid, but like coming into a space not knowing what to expect? How do you talk about what adult family therapy looks like?
Adriana Rodriguez 34:33
I think I’m thinking about one of my cases where I had a younger adult experiencing very severe depression and how they were going back home and after therapy, and their family really just saw them like crying and sad and sappy and so the family started avoiding them because they were too sad. And so this kind of kept coming up in our individual sessions and at some point I was like, I wonder how your parents understand your depression? Like, are they aware that you’re depressed? Like, do you think that they understand what does it mean to be experiencing severe depression? Right? And like, what does that look like? And so when we started thinking about what it would be like to invite the family when the family came, I began by, you know, thanking them for coming in, for taking the risk of potentially having to hear some difficult things. But that ultimately for me was that great appreciation that they had taken like a like a courageous step to face this, like the monster of depression that was living in their house, but that everybody was kind of dancing around. And so I removed in that particular scenario, the pressure that this is about them, or that I’m going to blame them or that this, but it’s rather, how do we collaborate? How are we team members? With couples? A lot of the times I’m like, Okay, you’re going at it like your opponents, not like your teammates, right? And so this idea of like, we’re all in the team. It’s something that exists in my language. And a lot of the analogies when I’m doing the family work, or the couples work, it always comes back to this idea of like, are we teaming up to address the issue? Or are we going in opponents in different directions? Because that’s how you got here. And that hasn’t worked out. So what about we try it differently? So this people respond really well to the compassion of this is this is old this is not something you meant to do? This is not something that anybody intended to like, ruin their kid or in so, like the compassion for them, that I’m not coming into, like, finger wagging at them and tell them in but rather invite them is, I really think the sweet spot for people to be more bought in. They’re afraid of us therapists, because of the troubles like mommy issues and daddy issues, right? I think a lot of adult families are just afraid that they’re going to come in into a blame class. And who would want to sign up for that? I mean, like that…
Katie Vernoy 36:50
Adriana Rodriguez 36:50
…for that. So it’s like the teamwork, right, the teamwork approach. And how do we address the thing that’s happening in between all of us that we’re not talking about? And most of the times people don’t know how. It’s not that they don’t want to. That at least the people that have come to me, it’s like, they don’t even know how to have these conversations. And they find like relief and gratitude in having a facilitated space to, you know, for everyone to be heard.
Curt Widhalm 37:16
Where can people find out more about you and all the wonderful things that you’re doing?
Adriana Rodriguez 37:22
Yeah, so I’m on Instagram @AdrianaRodriguezWellness, that’s like my relationship education sort of like channel where I’m putting in those kind of basics of like, if you want to have a conversation about boundaries, here’s a couple like conversation starters, right? You know, it’s like this very basic thing that I think would be useful for anybody, or that would normalize maybe some of the issues that they’re having. Because if I hear something in, in therapy that is like I’m saying it a lot I’m like, Oh, like that would be worth sharing with people. Right? So that’s what I do on Instagram and then my website is AdrianaRodrigueaTherapy.com and that’s where you can find me for therapy related stuff.
Curt Widhalm 37:59
And we’ll include links to that in our show notes. You can find those over at mtsgpodcast.com. You can follow us on our social media, join our Facebook group, the Modern Therapists group to keep this conversation going. And until next time, I’m Curt Widhalm with Katie Vernoy and Adriana Rodriguez.
Thank you for listening to the Modern Therapist’s Survival Guide. Learn more about who we are and what we do at mtsgpodcast.com. You can also join us on Facebook and Twitter. And please don’t forget to subscribe so you don’t miss any of our episodes.