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Clear crisis focus leads to a clear
definition of the crisis.  If we can
confidently answer the four focus questions, then we can define the
crisis.  We know what the crisis is, what
is wrong, how bad it may get, who is affected, and why our intervention is
required.  As we will see, knowing these
things gives us a firm foundation for the development of our intervention

Mrs. F calls the hot line.  She is crying and seems somewhat
desperate.  She had called the hot line a
few minutes earlier but had hung up rather abruptly.  You tell her that you are glad she called
back; you had been worried about her.  “I
was telling you about my son.  He is
still not going to school.  Just doesn’t
pay any attention to me.  I have told him
and told him that he is going to get into trouble.  Just won’t listen.  Kids these days think they know it all and
won’t pay attention to anyone.  He may be
involved in drugs.  I know he’s running
around with a no-good bunch.  They
already have been into it with the police. 
[You ask: What happened?]  Two or
three of them stole a car and went for a joy ride.  The police finally stopped them, but no
charges were filed.  He keeps doing it
and getting off.  I hope it catches up
with him one of these days.  I finally
talked to an attorney about it and decided to have him brought to juvenile
court.  My family thinks I’m
terrible.  They think I’m wrong.  They think I don’t love him.  ‘How could I do that to him if I really love
him?’  They just don’t know.  They don’t have to live with him.  He just comes and goes as he pleases.  He’s never home unless I have company.  Then he’s always around acting smart and showing
off.  He always messes things up for
me.  I don’t know.  Maybe if I had stayed with his dad, he could
have handled him.  I sure can’t.  [You ask: Are you and his father
divorced?]  About ten years now.  I can’t be mother and father both.  I tried, but the bills and the house and
everything are just too much.  I have
been dating a very nice man, and I’m afraid he’ll quit coming around because of
the way my son acts.  I think I have a
right to some happiness, too, and my son just keeps messing things up for me.

“He’s been stealing from me,
too.  I confronted him about it today,
and he went into a rage.  He shook his
fist at me, and I thought he was really going to hit me.  Sometimes I really get worried about him and
what he might do.  He had epilepsy when
he was little, and I’m afraid he really might hurt someone one of these
days.  I hope they lock him up or
something—no, that’s terrible.  I
shouldn’t say that.  I shouldn’t even
think it.  I just can’t stand him
sometimes; he keeps messing up my life. 
I just know my friend won’t be back anymore.  I really can’t blame him.  He’s a nice man with money and
everything.  He could do a lot better than
me.  I’d kill myself if I weren’t such a
coward.  [You say: I hope you don’t do
that.  Do you think about that a
lot?]  A lot more than I used to.  It just seems like nothing ever works out for
me.  [You say: Have you talked with you
boyfriend about the problems with your son?] 
I’m afraid to.  I’m afraid of what
he might say.  He might just say, ‘Forget
it.’  I couldn’t stand that.  [You say: I guess that would just be the
final straw.]  I don’t know.  I love my son, but I just don’t know how to
help him.  I don’t think anyone can help

As you talk with Mrs. F, a picture
of her and her situation gradually develops. 
She has been divorced for several years and has developed a relationship
with a man about whom she cares a great deal. 
She is having a lot of difficulty with her teenage son and apparently
has had trouble with him for quite some time. 
We know that he had epilepsy when he was younger and that he is getting
into a lot of trouble.  This is a source
of great stress to Mrs. F and puts her in a bind between her family and what
she thinks she ought to do about her son’s difficulties.  In addition, we know that she is feeling
overburdened by her various responsibilities, including paying the bills and
keeping her household in order.

If we think about the difficulties
she has had with her son and the fact that she has carried this responsibility
for him over several years, it would seem that Mrs. F is a fairly strong woman
who is feeling overwhelmed and trapped between her responsibilities for her son
and her own personal need for happiness. 
She is angry, frustrated, and confused about her present situation and
does not feel that things are going to work out very well.  She is clearly in a crisis.  The now potential is that she might do
something destructive.  The
self-resolution factor is fairly low because she sees no way out of the bind
between her son, her family, and her own desire to find happiness with her
boyfriend.  We know a little about her
past, understand about her present, and “feel” for the way she expects her
future to be.  The precipitating event
was her son’s going into a rage and threatening to hit her.  That was the final insult.  Our focus on the crisis combines with our
definition of that crisis as we gradually start to help her think clearly and
plan ahead.

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