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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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