Six times each year, PEP offers a special workshop called Open Forum Counseling (OFC), featuring a family (or sometimes a couple, an individual or a panel of kids) talking with a professional therapist about a particular topic, in front of an audience. The therapist serves as moderator, asking questions and occasionally clarifying and summarizing the discussion. Recent OFC topics include “Turn That Thing Off!” (screen-time issues); “Being Friends” (a panel of middle-school girls); “When Parents and Kids Disagree About ‘Good Enough’ School Work”; and “When Eating Becomes a Food Fight.” Scroll down to see the OFC topics coming up.
Sound too much like “reality” TV? Actually, OFC is not therapy and it’s not new. It’s a model of psycho-education based on a legacy of Adlerian psychology that started with Alfred Adler himself. One of Adler’s goals was to make the benefits of psychotherapy available to everyone, not just the wealthy. His solution was to counsel individuals, families and teachers with their students in front of an audience at his Child Guidance Centers, so that the counseling could help many more people.
In PEP’s OFC format, the volunteer family members or panelists serve as co-educators, helping the therapist demonstrate principles of healthy interaction and problem solving that can help everyone who is facing similar issues.
The therapist usually talks with the whole family first, then sends the parents out of the room and talks with just the children. Audience members typically are amazed at what they learn from the kids—how much children really know about their own interactions with their parents. This has obvious implications for what goes on in your own family. It’s also highly entertaining.
Attendance at an OFC workshop is free for PEP member families. For nonmembers, the price is $15 per adult and $5 per child or $30 per family. Children age 9 and older are welcome to attend with their parents. Childcare is available at an additional fee for kids under 9. Children in the demonstration family or on a panel may be younger than 9.
The volunteer family, couple or individual, of course, gets free counseling with a professional family therapist.
Open Forum Counseling workshops are offered each season except summer. In the schedule below, click a title for detailed information.
“We learned so much from hearing both the parents AND the child give their perspectives.”