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THE INTERACTION

We have focused on the individual and on his total situation; next comes the interaction between the two.  He is a whole person, and his total situation is everything affecting or affected by him.  The affecting or being affected by is what is meant by interaction.  As seen in Figure 1, the interaction is between the individual and his total situation.  Conflict, then, from this social interaction perspective, is in that interaction.  The difficulty or problem is with some conflict or tension in the interaction between the individual and his situation.  This is the first focal point in understanding crisis intervention.  The type of conflict considered here is neither in the individual nor in his total situation.  It is, rather, in the interaction between the two.  As we define crisis later, this interactional understanding of conflict is essential to understanding the crisis intervention process.

Ann, age fourteen, seems somewhat drowsy and is not speaking very clearly.  “I don’t think it will help any.  My friend told me to come talk with you.  That school—I’m not going back.  I’m not going to hassle it anymore. [You ask: What happened?]  He did it again.  That damn Mr. Z thinks he knows everything—he is the only one that knows anything.  Kids are nothing.  He thinks he’s a real big man hassling kids.  [You ask: What happened?]  I don’t know—the same ol’ thing.  He got on me.  He said I was using dope.  He said he was going to turn me in to the ‘pigs.’  He called my mom; that’s the end of that.  [You ask: What did your mom say?]  I don’t care what she says; she’ll probably tell Dad.  [You ask: What will he say?]  He’ll have a fit; that’ll really be something.  There’s no way I’m going home.  You can’t make me go home.  [You ask: Was I trying to make you go home?]  No.  But I’m not going home.  I’m not going back to that place.  [You say: That place?]  I can’t stand it anymore.  There’s too much hassle.  [You say: What’s the problem?]  Dad’s been laid off, and he’s drunk all the time.  He’ll kill me if he finds out about this.  I’m going over to Jane’s house and drop some acid.  I’m going to get so high and so out of my mind.  [You ask: Will that make things better?]  It won’t hurt anything, that’s for sure.  We do it all the time.  It’s fun.”

At first glance, it may be difficult to see that Ann’s conflict lies within the interaction between herself and the situation.  She has difficulty adjusting satisfactorily at school, is using drugs, and seems to have a negative attitude.  It would be tempting to conclude that she has deep emotional problems that need intensive and long-term psychiatric treatment.  In terms of her situation, it is clear that Mr. Z has difficulty in dealing with Ann and has threatened to turn her over to the police.  In addition, her home life is not good.  Her father is out of work and is apparently drinking excessively.  It would be tempting to say that the real problem is with Ann’s home situation and with the way Mr. Z is coping with Ann’s drug involvement.  In terms of Ann’s present crisis, though, the conflict is in the interaction between Ann and her situation.  Her interaction with Mr. Z and at school has deteriorated to the point where Ann has run away.  Her relationship with her family is so bad that she is either unwilling or perhaps afraid to return home.  She has chosen to go to a friend’s house and to use more drugs, at this point, the only way she is able to cope.  The school and Mr. Z are getting along fine without Ann.  Her family is having its own continuing difficulty regardless of her.  Right now, Ann is talking with you and is all right.  Her family and school are not dealing with her and do not have her problem.  The problem or conflict comes up only when Ann interacts with her family or school.  As you look at this and other examples of crisis, it is important to see that the immediate conflict, the kind of conflict being discussed here, is not “in the individual” or “in the situation.”  It is, rather, within the interaction between the individual and the situation.

An important point has been introduced here.  Part of your objective in crisis intervention will be to reduce the immediate conflict, which means here, in part, that you do not want to increase Ann’s tensions by becoming angry with her, moralizing about her use of drugs, telling her that she should show more respect to Mr. Z, or insisting that she return home.  The result undoubtedly would be increased conflict in the relationship between Ann and you.  Anything you could do to reduce the conflict in her interaction with her situation would be offset by the fact that your behavior would increase the conflict between her and her immediate situation, that is, between you and her.

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