“The King’s Speech’, an Academy Award winner historically based, can be reviewed through the lens of Adlerian Psychology. As mental health practitioners, we adopt a modality, a theory, a general road map, for our treatment of clients. I am an Adlerian, but not exclusively. Using one approach limits the effectiveness of the therapy. Rogers and Freud are among the modalities from which I glean now and again.
In this film, Lionel (who was not a real doctor) exhibits an Adlerian approach in order to align with his client, none other than the King of England. From cognitive strategies, he treats George, his symptom, stuttering. First and foremost however, therapeutic alliance is the foundation and prerequisite for effective outcome. Therefore, the therapist’s Adlerian approach and application sets the stage on which the King will be treated.
As the film progresses, it becomes obvious, that Alfred Adler’s cornerstone concepts are manifested. Of the many, I will address: family constellation, democratic alliance, organ inferiority, Gemeinschafgefhul, that is, social interest. (Sweenney, M. T. Adlerian Counseling: A Practitioner’s Approach. 1998. Taylor Francis, Philadelphia PA, Chapter 7.)
King George VI, or Bertie as he is nicknamed as a child, was a product of his Royal Family, a rather confining one. An autocratic father, a disengaged mother, and an older brother. The latter is portrayed as a tormentor to Bertie, a rebel of unorthodox lifestyle. George contrasts Edward, as is typical of 2nd born child, being the responsible introverted son, forced to become King. Resentment and loyalty wrestle within the new King. His thin skin, brought on by years of teasing and critical fathering, have left him with low self-confidence.
Organ inferiority. (Mosak, H. & Maniacci, Michael. Adlerian Psychology: The Analytic, Behavioral, Cognitive Psychology of Alfred Adler. Taylor Francis, Philadelphia PA. 1999.pp.34-35.) Theorized by Adler, addresses the physiological predisposition one inherits. He himself, a sickly child, was considered a cripple, and as such socially inept. From this organ inferiority, sprouts the development of personality. The mix of nature/nurture creates the finished product. However as contrary to Freud’s determinism, Adler postulated a soft-determinism,(Manaster, G. R. Corsini. Individual Psychology. Adler School of Psychology. Chicago Il. 1982, p. 65-67.) that is, the possibility of editing the basic weakness. As the shock is precipitated in one’s adult life, the opportunity for editing becomes apparent. The creed adopted as a child, needs to be changed to meet the present circumstances. George conquers his sense of inferiority to Edward, manages his stuttering, and lets go of his father’s tyrannical parenting. Around age 4, George began to stammer, a result of anxiety and a coping mechanism brought on by the pressure set upon him. The more he is teased, the more he delves deeply in his escape, that is, stuttering. As an adult, through behavioural and cognitive practices, the King commands his speech, sans stuttering.
An Adlerian therapeutic alliance is grounded in democracy. The two experts, the client in his narrative and the therapist in his knowledge and practice, align to discover and to deal with the issues. There is no pecking order. During sessions, Lionel, manifests as an equal to the King of England, this being controversial to say the least. However, through this egalitarian stance, George ceases to evaluate himself as a failing King, but a comrade at war against stammering. “You may call me Lionel” he says, expecting, “you may call me George”. From the light hearted humour of building a model airplane, to owing a penny, it is on equal footing the Lionel meets with the King. The disappearances of echelons, provides an equilibrium producing responsibility for each player, each in his own expertise.
The climax of the movie precipitated by the therapist confronting the King, while sitting in his throne no less, peaks with: “I have a voice!” At this point, George has aligned his self-ideal and his self-concept, taken his ownership of life tasks, triumphed over stuttering. Complexes of inferiority and superiority are positioned appropriately, not in a reactionary way, but in a responsive, logical and grounded fashion. Lionel offers encouragement, lives encouragement for George. The power of encouragement is understated too often. (Mosak and Maniacci p.l & 146.) The client manifest of his own power, his recovery. It is not the result of the therapist’s work. The latter offers, it is up to the client to work through it if he chooses. Advice giving, convincing, or badgering the client on the contrary blocks a healthy encouragement in which the client self-determines.
Simply put, cognitive therapy deals with those emotions, behaviours and beliefs which are not serving you. We try to change the thought process in order to bring about change.
Psychiatrist Aaron Beck developed cognitive therapy in the 1960s. The theory behind the process is that “wrong” thinking triggers a self-defeating behaviour or inappropriate response to a situation. By examining the rationale (or lack thereof) behind these thought patterns, the therapist and client can alter the thought process and thereby the outcome.
Cognitive therapy can be useful for those suffering from fears or phobias, anxiety and mood disorders, insomnia, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), social phobias – and even anger management. We can use it for clients of all ages.
Role play is one way in which to utilize this form of therapy to benefit a client. For example, with a client who is dreading an interview, the therapist takes on the role of the interviewer. By analyzing his/ her responses after enacting the mock-scene, the client can see what s/he tends to do. The next step is to consider how to do it differently next time.
I like to role play the scene several times, for 2 main purposes. First, each subsequent re-enactment pushes the client out of his/her comfort zone. They build-up confidence levels and deal with fears (often a fear of authority). Secondly, it can help to desensitize the client, so s/he actually feels less fearful of the interview and the interviewer. Often we do this in increments so it doesn’t become too overwhelming and frightening.
By the time the client actually goes to the interview, his/her responses will be much different from how they would have acted without the role play. Much of the self-defeating behaviour has been “worked out” and the client stands a much better chance of responding in ways that will result in a positive outcome.
Fear of an interview is, of course, only one example in which role-play can be useful. We can use it to play out a scene in which a client is dreading a conflict with another person. A lot of people with “parent issues” find this form of cognitive behaviour therapy useful. “parent issues” go beyond necessarily dealing directly with one’s mother, referring to issues wherein their relationship with their mother lies at the core.
Whether you have “parent issues,” an impending interview, or you simply dread an upcoming “difficult” conversation that you must have, I would urge you to consider role-playing the scene with a qualified therapist who can analyze with you the patterns you tend to exhibit…and how you can change your response to arrive at an outcome different from what you “normally’ get in similar situations.
Written by: Jan Kasperski, CEO of OPA
Ontario, December 3, 2013 – The holiday season can bring added stress to the many Canadians who already experience high stress throughout the year. Money, in particular, can be a cause of stress, as people feel demands to purchase gifts, prepare decadent meals and spend money entertaining or travelling to visit family. The American Psychological Association’s (APA) Stress in America(TM) survey has repeatedly found that money is a significant stressor for many people, and it is important to recognize its heightened effect during the holidays.
“The holidays can be a stressful time for everyone, but there are some steps you can take to help manage your stress.” Dr. Connie Kushnir, President of the Ontario Psychological Association (OPA), said. “You can begin by developing a simple approach that helps you set realistic goals. Then, be sure to make time to relax and enjoy low-key celebrations with good friends and family.”
APA and the OPA suggest the following strategies to help manage your holiday stress:
Reframe. Refocus the holiday season on spending time with loved ones by creating a realistic budget for gifts and reminding your children that the holidays aren’t about expensive toys. This reframing can help you better manage your spending stress and redefine the celebration around what’s truly important.
Volunteer. Make the primary focal point of the holiday about helping others in need. Go to a local Charity, such as a soup kitchen or shelter, where you and your loved ones can volunteer together during the holidays and throughout the year. Helping others can put your challenges in perspective and build stronger community relationships.
Be active. No matter where you live or weather, going for a family walk will help manage your stress and perhaps start a free and fun holiday tradition. If you have snow, bundle up for riding sleds or building snowmen. Many local parks and community centres have holiday activities for the family, which can keep your family active and away from the constant temptations of fattening foods and expensive gifts that appear around the holidays.
Take time for yourself. Taking care of yourself helps you to take better care of others in your life. Go for a long walk, take a needed nap, relax by reading something that interests you or listen to your favorite music. By slowing down you may find you have a better outlook on the season and more energy to accomplish your holiday goals.
Seek Support. Talk about stress related to money and the holidays with your friends and family whom you trust. Getting things out in the open can help you navigate your feelings and work toward a solution. If you continue to feel overwhelmed, consider talking with a psychologist, who can help you develop strategies to better manage your stress. A psychologist has the skills and professional training to help people learn to manage stress and cope more effectively with life’s problems.
For additional information on stress and lifestyle and behaviour, visit www.apa.org/helpcenter, read the blog www.yourmindyourbody.org and follow @apahelpcenter on twitter. To find out more about the Ontario Psychological Association, visit www.psych.on.ca and “Like US” on Facebook.