Michele Weiner Davis’s ‘Divorce Busting’ – a response

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Divorce busting is a short and very easy to read book that lays out a linear and pragmatic method for avoiding divorce. The book starts with a beautiful explanation of the author’s position for resolution rather than divorce. Of course she offers examples of exceptions such as when there is a serious safety concern involved in staying in the marriage. Michele is applying a brief solution-focused intervention specifically to the issue of avoiding divorce (I enjoyed the consistency in that her book is literally and figuratively brief and solution focused). Solution focused in based on the idea that if you get people to start solving and to stop over analyzing the problem they will be more likely to reach a resolution in the present and they will be more likely to seek out solutions or to put the majority of there perceptual energy towards solutions in the future. In short if you focus on problems – you live within problems… if you focus on solutions – you live within solutions.

To find out more about Michele’s psychotherapy services or to purchase her literature you may visit her website at http://www.divorcebusting.com/ 

The basic components of the Solution focused method

 If people start using solutions they will be rewarded naturally and the person will therefore engage in more solution-oriented behaviors. The idea is to get some momentum behind the process of solving.

Successful treatment – resolution is created by adding solutions as opposed to removing problems.

The goal is to help the client to focus on the positives that will arrive in their future as they focus their attention on solutions.

I very much agree with the main tenants of Michele Weiner Davis’s brief solution focused model for couples thinking about divorce. I also believe that Michele did a very good job of offering a more practical solution to such a complex issue. I do not believe in a ‘one size fits all’ approach and I am therefore thankful for the diversity of approaches that are at my disposal. There are certain people who have very pragmatic and logical personality types that could be considerably less resistant to this approach.

 Michele helps people to focus on solutions. She uses the solution-focused method which is based on the belief that people can get trapped in cycles of problematic thinking… this means that people are spending most of their cognitive and therefore perceptual energy on problems. The premise is that a greater understanding of a problem does not necessarily help in the creation of a solution… as such her method (or the solution focused method) suggests that therapy should focus on solutions as opposed to spending time: dissecting the specifics of the problem, investigating family history related to the problem, and/or investigating the emotional impact of the problem on the individuals in the system.

Earlier in my career I worked as a vocational trainer with the goal helping individuals with developmental disabilities to develop new effective behaviors to be successful in the work place. I can absolutely relate to her ideas that you do not need awareness of the problem to learn a new vocational skill, you don’t really need to know what impact your family history has in the roadblocks to developing that skill, and it really doesn’t matter what your feelings are regarding your lack of accomplishment so far in developing that vocational skill. That being said I was a bit stuck (and yes I can get very cognitively stuck) on the fact that solution focused intervention can look very similar to behavioral intervention with a new name.

I thought that Michele did an excellent job in explaining her position that divorce is not a solution. With divorce being so normalized in our culture I believe that it is important for a substantiated voice to call for people to look at things from another perspective such as what about the kids, why are 2nd marriages likely to fail as well, and do we all really believe that happiness is solely the result of external forces?

I absolutely agree with her position of fixing yourself, and in relation to successful behavior in marriages, I have scene her point first hand. Gottman observed that house work is correlated to sex. Michele seems to have broadened the idea to if you want sex don’t bitch about sex … clean the house. Again this is behavioral intervention to a tee… don’t say what you do not want… say what it is that you do want or even better compliment what you do like that is already happening. Hopelessness seems correlated to the perception that one lacks control and I think that Michele does a good job in advocating that people stop blaming and start taking some personal responsibility.

In my opinion, and it is just an opinion, the main operation component of Michele’s intervention in ‘Divorce Busting’ is what the behaviorist have termed behavioral momentum. Essentially when one reaps the benefit or rewards from an easy and very doable behavior they are more likely to continue seeking new behaviors to achieve that desired sense of reward. We all use behavioral intervention all the time. When I was employed in a school setting where part of my job was crisis management behavioral intervention tools were very important… I will absolutely defend there efficacy. But… every time a ‘new method’ can be broken down to a fancy form of behavioral intervention I notice significant internal resistance. I think this comes from a few sources…

  • Narcissistically I probably want for my work as a therapist to be more complicated than simple behavioral modification.

 

  • Spiritually I find myself insulted by the way the behaviorist simplify the human condition.

 

  • Lastly, my at times insubordinate nature can resent the fact that the managed care gravitates to the observable and measureable at the expense of other equally helpful interventions. (ex. happiness, acceptance, compasion and love etc are abstractions that can not be measured unless you break them down into observable behaviors – what does happiness or love look like?)

 

Every time that I read about such specific therapy interventions my mind starts to travel to the idea of having a menu option of therapy. What if clients got to pick from the following headings: and intervention to think different, an intervention to feel different, and intervention to behave different, and an intervention to be different etc.

I have no disagreement with Michele’s approach or with solution-focused interventions in general as they are a great means to create new observable patterns for more effective function in a relationship.  I guess I wish that society would allow itself to consider the fact that therapy can have many functions. Therapy could be used to make bad better, good better, to increase self-awareness, to find insight, to create meaning, or for the maintenance of good etc.

            The more I do family therapy the more I agree that people simply want you to help them get the system working again… humans want the quicker solution. To my dismay people are rarely asking you to help them reach transcendence, and it is my acceptance of this which will help me most as I continue my therapeutic development.

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