Accountability based practice – setting up a family conversation

In last week’s blog I talked about the concept of accountability based practice that I used as the basis of my address to the recent Violence Against Women conference in Brisbane. I suggested a number of core questions that accountabilty based conversations might seek an answer to. I want to shift direction slightly and explore the shape of such a conversation to ensure that those impacted by family violence are not further victimised in the process.

The set-up for a family accountability meeting is absolutely crucial so the question regarding the meeting being a safe place to engage in a conversation around challenging issues becomes an important first question to answer. Also knowing about the family history, dynamics, and who the key pro-social supports are provides a good starting point. Once agreement is reached about these issues then the focus upon when, where, how long, and who should attend, are the other parts of the set-up process. Once these are satisfied then the following process will provide a structure and the ability to stay focused on the task of accountability. It is worth noting that this is not family therapy.

Process for undertaking a family/whanau accountability meeting

  1. Contracting/Social stage – The facilitator begins this process by greeting each family/whanau member and engaging in some social conversation with the family/ whanau in order to socialise the situation.
  2. Reasons and goal setting – It is important to obtain from each family member a statement explaining why that member is there. The facilitator must make sure each person has the opportunity to be heard before the family enters into a wider discussion.
  3. Summary of mutual or different concerns – After hearing from all the family members the facilitator summarises what has been said and from it forms a common goal. If there are differences of opinion that seem irreconcilable, these differences become the focus of the reason for the meeting.
  4. Exploring impact of problem on family/whanau members – In this stage, the facilitator facilitates the discussion of how the problem has affected the entire family/whanau. Members are encouraged to speak with one another, and with the facilitator about the impact the issue has had on their respective lives.
  5. Exploring resources – In this stage the family/whanau resources and coping strategies are discussed. The facilitator asks what resources they have used in the past to deal with difficult family/whanau problems, and what resources they are using currently to cope. The focus is clearly upon coping strategies that involve safety.
  6. Closure – In this final stage the facilitator attempts to tie together the information gained in the meeting with a summary that family/whanau members can accept. Family/whanau strengths are emphasised, and negatively behaviours are again re-labelled in a way that helps the family move toward constructive solutions.
  7. Responsibilities of family members and the assignment of tasks – As part of closure, it is important to be clear about what family/whanau members should be expected to do.
  8. Follow-up requirements – Finally, the facilitator helps the family/whanau decide who will report back about the outcome of problem-solving strategies established at the interview and when this will happen.

Through the process the facilitator of the meeting is closely observing the family dynamics and ascertaining if these are increasing or decreasing risk. This is done by gathering information about the family life cycle, structure and rules. Where possible reframe feelings and behaviours to advantage both the client and the family.

This is a process that I have used for many years that allows me to stay on track with what are often emotional and difficult conversations. A well managed conversation can achieve many goals, the key two being: firstly, real accountability for past and future behaviour; and secondly, to allow for the beginning of healing of past injustices within the relationship and family.

These are my thoughts. Love to hear yours.

 

Published on Wednesday, August 29th, 2012, under Family violence, Practice tips and techniques

One Response to “Accountability based practice – setting up a family conversation”

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