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Dodge, E. (2000). Talking Cure: Programme 2. Psychoanal. Psychother., 14(2):175-177.

(2000). Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 14(2):175-177

Talking Cure: Programme 2

Elizabeth Dodge

BBC 2's ‘Talking Cure’ brought a range of the therapeutic work of the Tavistock Clinic to television. The second programme, featuring family therapy, showed Barbara Dale's and Jenny Altschuler's work with families where a parent has a serious illness. A major aspect of the programme was to show the importance of offering therapy for seriously ill parents (Altschuler & Dale 1999). Families may need the opportunity to address relationship issues with therapists who are not responsible for treatment of the illness itself.

Juliette was such a parent. She was awaiting a heart-lung transplant following a late diagnosis of cystic fibrosis made at the time of the premature birth of her daughter Amy, a few years before. Juliette became critically ill at this time and nearly died herself. Over the course of therapy the audience was shown the way the therapists worked as a team, on this occasion Barbara in the room with the family and Jenny behind the one way screen, taking a consultation break during the session. Working in this way as a team, although very familiar to family therapists, can feel quite alien to others, but brings the opportunity to offer a different perspective in the course of the work.

The first meeting between Juliette and Barbara showed her telling her distressing story as if it were yesterday, giving a sense of being stuck in the pain of the time of the diagnosis, her daughter's premature birth and her own critical illness. Barbara avoided being overwhelmed by the “dazzle factor” of Juliette's distress (Dale and Altschuler 1999) in order that she could be free to draw out the ‘inside story’.

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