Browndale Philosophy IV


The philosophy and rationales of The Browndale Treatment Process

by JOHN L BROWN, FRSH, ACSW, AGFA Founder of Browndale

Part Four

  1. The child needs to find his place in the broader collective purpose in his society and to find a useful role. This is always a difficult problem for each of us, especially the pre-adolescent, the adolescent, and the young adult in our society because there is so little that is promoted by our society for the collective good. Our individual orientation and private advantage promotes attitudes that have to do with self-gain and we are left to depend on private charity or service clubs for opportunities to be involved in activities for the collective good. These organizations have very limited potential for an individual to experience being part of activities that affect the whole nation rather than just a "do gooder" orientation towards a needy few.

    Nevertheless, we can see in our culture the hunger that people have to be part of some pur­pose beyond themselves. High school students in the United Fund do a remarkable job, but it is short lived and always for the less fortunate. This separates the people that are doing it from the people who benefit by their doing as between the "haves" and the "have nots". This, then, cannot fulfill our need to be part of the collective purpose of our society. Compare this with the high school students from Havana who go out to help develop the undeveloped land into citrus fruit plantations. In Cuba there is a large popula­tion of young people working for the economic good of their country and themselves at the same time that they are acquiring the basic education that they need to fulfill their own individual lives. We can't just think of ourselves. We have to be part of something that is bigger than us. When this happens our life takes on a purpose-fulness that is similar to the tribal bond and commitment of earlier social organization. We are involved in positive, constructive activity that benefits everyone equally. In our society the children of the upper middle and upper classes tend to get this feeling of being part of a larger purpose by doing those things within their class groups that preserve and maintain the class structure of our society. The need to be part of something beyond our­selves has been altered to a selfish purpose that benefits a few at the expense of many.

  2. Even the most disturbed person's problems aren't present twenty-four hours a day. They are episodic with varying periods of time that are problem-free depending on the nature of the person's difficulties. In a normalized life style, with an orientation to health and latent potential, problems appear less than in specialized settings totally geared to the special pathology of the person.

    In settings that are focussed on the child's pathology rather than the normalized life style, there is a tendency to structure the person's daily time schedule around his symptomatology. There follows from this a tendency to treat symptoms rather than underlying causes. If the person's problems are not present constantly throughout the twenty-four hour day, it should be possible for us to have a variety of approaches to the person: One approach when his symp­toms are expressed strongly, another approach when his symptoms are not evident at all and, of course, surrounding all of this, an orientation to the person with consideration of those human needs that he shares with everyone. We found in our early work in Warrendale in the early 1950's, that we could ally ourselves with the positive and healthy aspects of the person and together work to control and eliminate those problems that were unacceptable and harmful to the individual. (See illustration on next page.)




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  1. We must always orient ourselves to build on the strengths and assets of the person rather than focussing on the weaknesses and deficits of the person. Often, becoming a professional gives us a license to be negative. One of the most common errors in training for professions is the assumption that all professional work will be free of negativity, criticism, and hostility. Professionals and non-professionals alike who are preoccupied solely with the symptoms and deficits of the person are guilty whether they are aware or not of negativity and hostility. There are many classist elements in this practice. Persons needing help are often put down and are sometimes seen and treated as though they were inferior. As a result, a person's potential is not realized and he is dragged down by the very process that is supposed to build him up.

    Of course, it is also a gross error to act as though there are no deficits or problems. The person is also violated if the problem is overlooked. The problems and deficits must be seen in the total perspective of the person's strengths and assets and because we know of man's remarkable power to overcome difficulties, we should always maintain a proper spirit of hopefulness and optimism regardless of any other factors.

  2. We must respect the person's need to know his ancestors and the history of his family and their ways in the here and now and through the past three or four generations. This is what we call an individual's rootedness.1 When a person doesn't know his roots, he suffers deprivation without knowing what he is missing. Knowledge of one's roots is as vital to a full life as are certain vitamins to a full diet.

    It is very good if one comes to know one's roots by knowing the people that are part of one's geneology, but it is enough to know of them if they are dead, or separated by insurmountable distance.

  3. We must remember that basic life patterns are set in the very earliest years of life and that these patterns will only change through a deep carefully monitored dependency relationship which has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Because this is so, we take only a limited number of children through dependency related treat­ment and only if they need it in order to make a satisfactory life adjustment. In excess of 80 per cent of the children who come to us, labelled as the one to two per cent most disturbed, do not need this intensive treatment. All normalized extended families provide ample opportunity for dependency nourishment of short duration as needed by the family members. The adults may need it only at times of great stress, or at times of illness, adolescents may need it randomly as they feel frightened, threatened.

    "Rootedness" by John L. Brown, Family Involvement, Vol. 6 No. 5, May-June 1974. Available as reprint, 5Q$. or challenged, younger children may need it many times a day. A person's need for dependency relationships must be assessed as part of a differential diagnosis and provision for the dependency needs of each person must be part of a proper treatment plan.

  4. We have said that the mind records the feelings attached to any event and that these feelings are mixed with the recording of the event itself and the sensory modalities through which it is experienced. These feelings are processed in exactly the same way as any event recorded in the mind is processed. They always attach to the original event, but that event is always classified with other events and integrated into all the accumulated data, experience, knowledge and mood that has preceded this particular moment. The feelings attached to any event can govern how it is processed by the mind and this influence may cause events to be classified together, or integrated with one another, more by the influence of the feelings attached to the event than the nature of the event, or the event itself.

    The development of the sensory modalities governs and reflects the psychological mile­stones of early childhood. The external world as we experience it and perceive it through various sensory modalities is coloured by the sensory modality employed as well as the experience itself. A developing person first takes in the world in a total way through those ex­periences that relate to sucking, eating, and taking nourishment and all the attendant stimu­lations that are associated with that. This is so because the child at the age of nursing, does not have knowledge, or experience, or language and has not identified and classified the object world by name or label and so the sensations and experiences that produce the sensations are recorded in the brain in non-verbal and pre-verbal ways. How the mouth and all the related organs encompass the child's experiences governs the data that the child collects at that time about the world around him and his experiences in it.

    I will give you an illustration of what I mean when I say that how we perceive the world influences what we see. The child is born with­out language, without knowledge, with all of his previous experience of having his total needs met within the body of the mother. When he first experiences the mother outside her body it is to experience not a person, but a service: Not a human relationship, but the fulfillment of needs. He experiences the world around him through his sensory modality. So the mother is seen through the sense of touch as something that holds him, changes his diaper, picks him up when he cries, fondles him, and makes strange noises which he doesn't understand. There are many other noises that he can hear that he doesn't understand. There are shapes that he can see that he doesn't understand. At the same time that he experiences the mother through the sense of touch, he also experiences the mother through the sense of touch in feeding and because this is such an important thing to happen, the mouth becomes the main sense of communication for the child.

    After a while he begins to connect with his eyes and ears, through the sense of sound, hearing, and sight, noises and shapes that are always the same, that always connect with the nursing, or the diapering, etc. And so the mother begins to be seen now as a certain shape that makes certain noises — the shape and noises being different from any other shape or noises that he experiences. The noises are strong and the shape is very large viewed from where he lies.

    As he lives and grows, he learns to compare one experience with another and to attach certain experiences to certain people. He then begins to see the mother as having a special function, as well as a special sound, as well as a special shape. This is what I mean by our experiences being influenced by the sensory modalities that are used in having those experiences.

  5. Most people achieve a healthy balance between dependency and independency during their child­hood and their adolescence, but there are some of us who fear dependency and others of us who equally fear independency and all of us some­times fear dependency and fear independency. It is obvious that the people who come and work in our program must have the capacity to allow others to become dependent on them to the degree that is necessary for the successful resolution of the children's problems. It is also obvious that a person cannot really allow dependency to occur unless they themselves are capable of establishing a dependency rela­tionship with someone else, or they themselves have experienced a complete dependency re­lationship between themselves and an older adult. Part of our task then is to help the children and staff learn how to use dependency relation­ships and learn how to move beyond needing them. A person's capacity to parent is very closely related to whether or not that person has received within his own family, the neces­sary direct experience of being dependent on or being parental for others.

    The ability to allow oneself to become dependent on someone is conditional on a certain degree of trust being established toward that person. The trust need not be 100 per cent, it may be only partial trust. We must be sensitive with new children to do those things with them that produce a feeling of trust in us. We must be truthful, we must be reliable, we must be respect­ful of their special feelings and circumstances.

    Of course it is obvious that if you are part of a large kinship group who are living with you then trust and dependency can be established with a number of people and you have choices which are not offered in the nuclear family. In the extended family, if you can't develop trust and dependency with your biological parents, there are other people around that it can be developed with. In the nuclear family, if you can't develop trust in and dependency on your parents you are just out of luck.

  6. Each child must perform certain life tasks and functions appropriate to his stage of growth. He needs help from his family and kin to do this. If a task is only partially done, or is left undone. it immediately affects subsequent tasks. We start having not existed, then we are born; we go through the ages and stages of growth and development that are part of our life's journey and we die. In that space between the beginning and the end of us we live out our potential to the degree that we are able and have the oppor­tunity to fulfill ourselves to our human potential where we are at, or at that point where we are at in our life's journey. It is this that I refer to as the tasks that we each must perform in our life. I don't mean that we know that we have an assignment and then carry it out, I mean that we carry out life's assignment unconsciously and to the degree that we do that, to that degree we are fulfilled. To the extent that we leave essential tasks undone, or only partially done, to that degree we carry forward the undone work of our earlier years into later years. The backlog of the earlier tasks interferes in the performance of the tasks that are part of our life's journey in the here and now. It is a truism that I must do those things that a child does when I am a child, so that I can do those things that a man does when I am a man. Just as it is true that a girl must do those things that a girl does when she is a girl so that she can do those things that a woman does when she is a woman. Life is a misery when we must do adult tasks when we are children and when we are childish in our responses as adults.

    I don't want to leave this section without empha­sizing the difficulty of doing the tasks that we must do in the earliest parts of our life. Learning our mother tongue without going to special classes and without having the language or tuition is a very hard job that we all have to do. The job of learning to share our family and our siblings and our parents, the job of becoming civilized and giving up our pleasure principle impulses, the job of becoming a sexual being and carrying out our sexual roles, the job of finding an occupation and the means for making a living and caring for our people — all these things are incredibly difficult tasks. The job of finding a mate, of having children, of knowing what the tasks are in each stage of our life — this is what I mean by the work that we have to do in living. It differs for each age and stage of our growth and, of course, it carries with it unbounded joy and pleasure when we do it well and in its proper time.

  7. Our world is accelerating in terms of knowledge and awareness and power and control at an astounding pace. More has been learned in the last thirty years about man and nature than in all of previous history. Our physical and psycho­logical being has evolved over millions of years. It took time and we had time. Now we are in danger of not having time. To the extent that we can normalize our life style we can alleviate this pressure. At the same time the mind is finite and as the pace of life increases, the mind is handed an ever larger assignment of data, experience, and feeling to manage. We have not yet found a way to rid the mind of useless facts and irrelevant data. We have not yet found ways to alter the feelings that we have collected through our life experiences that may be hinderances or blocks to our function­ing. In the western world of television, adver­tising and excessive consumerism, each person is subject to a vast number of stimulations that are false and misleading. To cope with all this worthless input takes a great deal of energy. As we approach the limits of our finite mind we may have to think of a more selective and desirable input to keep from cluttering it up or burdening it with useless false information.

  8. In all of life there is a need for the specialized knowledge of the experts being integrated at important intervals in whatever activity we are engaged in. Later the specialized knowledge tends to be defused to the broad mass of people at the same time that the expert becomes more expert in the area of his expertise. We need the machinery established in the social and psycho­logical sphere to make available to all of us the knowledge about ourselves that is being discovered each day at a greatly accelerating rate. This can best be done if we develop a structure similar to the Browndale Professional Resource Bank.

    The Browndale Professional Resource Bank is based on many years of practical experience in industry and commerce around the best use of experts, whether they be engineer, psychiatrist, chemist, or meterologist. We borrowed from these groups and from the field of private medicine when we established The Professional Resource Bank. Simply stated, the principle advises that the more expert a person is, the less he has to do with the direct production, or service. His special knowledge, insight, and awareness should be made available to the planners, designers, and production staff, but the decisions of how this is used should not be his.

    From the field of medicine we borrowed the practice of contracting between the private practitioner and a family for medical services. So our Professional Resource Bank is made up of people with many specialties who are on call to the staff and children of a treatment house as they have need for this input. This practice takes the professional expert in the Browndale system out of the direct authority line and out of the position where he can prescribe specific treatment. Just as a private family has the final decision, so the Browndale Therapeutic Family has the final decision over what is to be done with the child. We prefer that the child's own parents be very much a part of this process whenever this is possible.

    One of the seldom recognized benefits that is a by-product in this organization for professional input (especially if there is good rapport be­tween the staff of the Professional Resource Bank and the staff and children in the therapeutic family homes) is that much potential exists for the practice of preventive intervention while the problems are just beginning. The trust and confidence that the child, the staff and the pro­fessional person share with one another is hard to achieve in any other structure for profes­sional input.

  9. Somehow there has to be an integration of our normalized existence with new knowledge. The concept of normalization rests on the premise that we do those things that are natural and useful and that have been tested in practice. Implicit in this is the inference that if we are doing things the way we have learned to do them best, how do we ever get change? It should be understood from the outset that it is our duty and our nature to question whatever is new and to first make our judgement on the basis of comparisons between that which we know and that which is being newly introduced. Despite this, man has the capacity to incorporate new and startling things into his life style provided their usefulness is easily discernable by him. If the new things are of a material nature, they are more easily absorbed and integrated into his life than if they are of a philosophical, socio­logical, or conceptual nature.

    So much of what we do in our therapeutic parent­ing of children and in our relationships with the biological family of the child is contrary to common practice in the community, especially in those areas where we are tolerant of behaviour and where we hold people accountable and responsible (the extremes of the spectrum)