An Interview With the Father of

Adolescent Multiple Family Group Therapy,

George H. Orvin, M.D.

Transcript and Video Links


ã1994 By Lewis N. Foster

(Note: Two videos of George H. Orvin, MD are on George H. Orvin, MD, Interview on Adolescent Psychology and MFGT 1994 about 2 hours. George H. Orvin, MD. "Presentation on Human Life" at the Annual SC Conference on MFGT 1994 38 mins.


George Henry Orvin, MD "Father of Adolescent MFGT" August 6, 1922 to August 29, 2014 Charleston, S.C.


On March 14, 1994, Lewis N. Foster, the Founder of the Multiple Family Group Therapy Resource Center

talked with Dr. George H. Orvin, a Psychiatrist specializing in the treatment of adolescents.  Dr. Orvin

is recognized as the Father of Adolescent Multiple Family Group Therapy.  In this interview he talks

about his model of therapy with adolescents, as well as his working with families in multiple family

group therapy.  Dr. Orvin has been doing multiple family group therapy for three decades.  He is the

Founder and Chairman of the Board of New Hope Treatment Centers.


Dr. Orvin:    I tell a story about the Pope.  It's about a man who  

spent his life tailoring clothes and when he retired he told his

friends that arrangements had been made to have an audience with

the Pope in Rome.  They flew him over and paid all of his

expenses and he had a private audience with the Pope.  This

fellow had spent his life doing nothing but making clothes for

men.  He was thrilled to be able to meet the Pope and when he

came back all of his friends were eager to find out what it was

like.  They said to him "Tell us what sort of a man is the Pope?"

He said he was a 37 regular.  Tailors do that, they see people

according to their view of the world.  Psychiatrists do that.

People in the Mental Health field do that.  We bring certain bias

to our work and that influences how we think and how we manage to

deliver care.  So it helps if people have some idea about that.


L. Foster:   Are you be willing to say how Dr. George Orvin got to

where he is today, maybe a resume'?


Orvin:    Sure, it's all a part of truth in packaging.  I would

sort of alert you to the fact that, first of all I am a

physician.  Because of that I view so much through the eyes of a

physician.  I can't help that.  I have been trained in medicine

and that is what I am supposed to do, see problems as a

physician.  Secondly, I am a physician who deals with mental and

emotional disorders.  I am a psychiatrist.  Because of that, it

causes me to look at problems as psychiatrists do.  On top of

that, I am not just a psychiatrist but I am an adolescent

psychiatrist.  Now let's clarify, I am a psychiatrist that treats

the adolescent rather than a psychiatrist who still is an

adolescent.  I am a psychiatrist who specializes in the treatment

of the adolescent.  All of those things conspire to influence

what I think and how I manage to become the conduct of my career.

On top of that, I am a husband, a father and I am a grandfather.

All of those things have had their influence in shaping the way I

view the world.  So having spent ten years in general practice,

it's hard for me to forget all those things that I learned in the

bosom of a family that was having some sort of medical problem.

I found that I was spending a lot of time with families.  When I


would treat a family in general practice, before I went into

psychiatry, I found that periodically I would sort of run behind

schedule.  And low and behold, it was always because the patient

had some sort of emotional problem, something other than his cut

finger.  I would get so engrossed in what was happening in that

person's life that I would lose track of time and run behind

schedule.  I finally decided the best thing for me to do was to

get trained properly.  I was practicing psychiatry without a

portfolio and I needed the training so I went back.  Closed my

practice in Charleston and went back to the University and spent

three years studying Psychiatry there and then took another year

at the University of London and spent a little over a year there. 

Then came back and joined the Medical University where I taught Psychiatry. 


Foster:   In Charleston?


Orvin:    Here in Charleston, at the Medical University of South

Carolina.  I taught Adolescent Psychiatry.  I started in l961.

In l967 I limited my practice to the adolescent and was given the

opportunity of setting up an all adolescent inpatient psychiatric

service at the Medical University.  At that time there weren't

any adolescent psychiatry beds in the Southeast that were

designed just for inpatient adolescent psychiatric care.  There

were eleven or twelve other facilities in the entire country that

were university based and dedicated to the treatment of the

adolescent.  So we set up that program in the Department of

Psychiatry at the Medical University and began an all adolescent

service.  Ten beds, that's all.  My job at that point was to

treat dysfunctional or sick adolescents, but that wasn't the full

extent of my job.  My job was to treat sick children.  It was

also to teach others how to treat sick children, which added a

dimension to what we were doing that made the job more fun, but

enlarged the challenge in that, at that time, there wasn't much

in textbooks about the adolescent.  Child psychiatry was fairly

well established at that time and child psychiatry took care of

the adolescent when they had to, usually against their wishes.  I

recall flipping through some of the charts and some of my old

books when I began working with adolescent's.  I would go back to

the word 'adolescent' and sure enough they would have two

references in the old book and juvenile delinquency usually was

what it was about.  So at that time there was really nothing that

you could prepare yourself adequately for.  So I learned about

adolescents by groping in the dark.  I and my staff began to

learn some things about treating the adolescent.  The thing that

I learned, first of all, quickest, was the most powerful

recuperative force in the treatment of dysfunctional children.

It is the bosom of that child’s' family.  The family is supposed

to do three things.  The human family is to produce and

autonomize children.  New recruits for the future. Society looks

to the family for that and they look to parents to indoctrinate

these replacements and get them ready for when they are needed

when other parts of society die off and the new recruits are

coming on.  The human family is supposed to create children and


autonomize them.  Raise them up, that is number one.  Number two,

the human family is supposed to provide for the care, the

physical safety and the physical needs of it's members.  And

thirdly, the human family is supposed to stabilize and

fulfill the development of the personalities of the parents.

Family is the place where children grow.  The family is also the

place where adults are supposed to grow.  It is in that context that

we find dysfunctional children.  We find them in families that

are struggling, struggling to keep their heads above water. 

If we want to understand the child and the problems that he is having,

we must of necessity, thoroughly understand the context in which that

child is struggling.  What is going on with this child is a very legitimate

question.  What are the barriers he is encountering, but also what is

going on in that family.


Foster:   So you are thinking in systems already?


Orvin:    Absolutely.  And that is the system.  You think of the

family as a system, it has it's own boundary, it has its own

location.  It has its way of communication. It has its feedback

groups and it touches on other systems ‑ the educational system,

the occupational system, the governmental system, the religious

system, and other families and other systems.  So I think in

understanding what's happening with families, we need to have

some understanding about what is it that families are supposed to

do.  Not just really the general responsibilities but how do

families change,  what are the things that happen within families

and how do those events influence the growth and development of

this particular child.  But also, how does events influence the

growth of the people who are taking care of this particular



Foster:   In l967 you put families together in multiple family

therapy groups.  I understand that this social setting has

significant impacts on individuals and the families.


Orvin:    Absolutely.  I sort of fell into multiple family group

therapy.  I didn't know anything about it, nobody else did.  Only

one or two other people in the entire world were doing anything

like that.  Peter Laqueur, up in Vermont, was bringing together

families of adult schizophrenic patients.  I didn't know he was

doing it.  When I organized the adolescent inpatient service I

had ten beds and ten children.  We notified those children's

parents that we were going to have an all adolescent service.

They came to learn some things about what to expect.  I would

have a room a little bit larger than this one, three o‑clock on a

Friday afternoon, and I spent a hour telling them what they could

expect.  They sat around in chairs and I sort of explained things

to them.  Then the hour was up and they were ready to pick their

children up and I had completed all that I wanted to tell them,

so I said we will meet again next Friday and I'll finish up.  So,

the next Friday we met again and I was going forth with some

ideas about what we were doing and what the adolescent services


was going to be like.  I made a statement.  I said, "You know,

all parents love their children".  One of the fathers snatched off

his glasses and said, "Well let me tell you something.  If I've got

to come here every week and listen to garbage like that, count me out,

I don't want any part of this silly thing" and got up and walked out

and slammed the door behind him.  Well, there was a silence. 

Some nervous clearing of throats.  I was, it's hard to believe,

at a loss for words, but I managed to finish it out and said to

the group that we would meet one more time; next Friday will be

the last.  The next Friday we gathered together again and, lo and

behold, there was the father of that boy that had stormed out. 

I began to sort of give my little explanation to the families about

what we were going to be doing and he said, "Wait a minute before

you get started, I have to apologize.  I'm sorry that I said what

I said and I am embarrassed by the way I behaved and I want to

apologize to all of you here.  I hope you will forgive me for that". 

I started to say something and he said, "You know, when I was a

little boy, my father abandoned me and my mother when I was seven

years of age.  Then my mother and I lived together for a year and she died. 

I was taken by members of her family and his family.  I spent the rest

of my childhood going from pillar to post and it was terrible, it was awful." 

He began to weep and he began to shed tears about it.  One of the

mothers in the group said, "Now hold on Mr. Smith, let me tell you,

yours' sounds a good bit like my childhood except I was a little bit

older when it happened to me and I had the same kind of experiences

until my maternal aunt offered to take me in".  She talked to him

and he listened to her.  Another parent chimed in and offered some

advice.  I was standing there listening to what was happening and

watching the interaction between this distressed man and these

comforting people.  It suddenly struck me, my what a powerful,

powerful instrument this is. We've got something valuable here. 

We finished up that session and in May of l989 {over two decades}

 I was still holding that Friday afternoon session for families.  Because,

what we had done, we had created a family of families.  You see, a

family really is a psycho logic support system designed to sustain

its members during periods of adversity.  Think about that.  A psycho

logic support system designed to sustain its members during periods of adversity. 

Home is where the wound is healed.  The balm applied.  And here I have

a system of systems, a group of families and they were applying the balm

and they were helping to heal all these wounds.  Someone has said that

marriage itself is an attempt at healing.  We get married for various

reasons and a lot of times we get married to make life better.  If I get

married everything will be all right.  But here these families came

together and I quickly saw that this was something that was very powerful. 

I could get Mr. Jones to talk with Billy Brown.  The families would sit in

chairs and the room wasn't big enough, I never wanted the room that is

big enough.  Don't ever do multiple family group therapy in a room that is big enough.


Foster:   How come?


Orvin:    Don't ever have a party in a room that is too big.


Make people sit close to one another.  Make them touch one

another.  Don't scatter them up.  You do what you can to enhance

the intimacy of that experience.  I never would have enough room

or enough chairs.  The kids would come in and flop on the floor

and the parents would sit in the chairs and I would conduct group

therapy for fifty people.  Aunts, moms, dads, brothers, and

sisters, an occasional uncle or grandmother, grandfather, and do

multi‑family group ‑ one hour ‑ once a week.  I could get Mr.

Jones to talk to Billy Brown and Billy Brown could not say,

"There goes my old man again ‑ treating me like a little boy" ‑

the dependency issue would be short circuited.  Mr. Jones can say

things to Billy Brown that Mr. Brown has already said, and it

went in one ear and out the other.  His son had to prove that he

wasn't daddy's little boy anymore.  I've had men in group, and

father's in my group, listen to a new arrival.  "Well yes, we're

here, and we're unhappy, our daughter has been doing this and

doing that and doing the other.  My wife and I are just worried

to death and we want to do something to get her straightened out"

and so on and so on.  I've had an old veteran of the multiple

family therapy group sitting in there.  He starts shaking his

head and he says "You know, you sound a whole lot like me".

"What?".  "Yeah, you sure do, I brought my daughter in here six

months and I've been coming to this thing ever since then and I

said the same things you were saying.  I was just here to see

about helping my daughter".  And he said "You are going to find

out that you are going to help more than your daughter and you

are going to find out that you can benefit from what is happening

here.  Let me tell you what is happening in my family with me and

my wife."  And then he would talk and help this newcomer

understand that we are all struggling.



Foster:   He could see where he came from and the newcomer had a

place to go.


Orvin:    That's right.  And we always had a family that would

leave at the end of the treatment, take their child and go home.

We made them come back for six more sessions because it's

different back there.  We wanted people here to see that you do

get well and someday you do leave and so they could come back and

offer some encouragement.


Foster:   That was continuing care.


Orvin:    That's right and not only that, as they were struggling

to make their adjustment back in the real world, they could file

in their mind, "Well, I want to talk about this when we go to

multi‑family group next week, by golly, she did this, and he did

that, and I'm going to see what the rest of the group says".  And

they would come and bring up circumstances that had arisen in

their home and we would talk about that.  There are a couple of

things that are important about multi‑family group.  One of my

favorite rules is that nobody has to talk.  You don't have to

talk.  You have to come but you don't have to talk.  It's hard to

talk.  People freeze up and a lot of times if you don't have to


do it, it's a lot easier.  So sometimes one group member would

say, "What's the matter, you never say anything, you ought to be

contributing something".  Because sometimes that particular

person will be helpful by saying one or two words.  So that, in a

multi‑family group I try to avoid the suggestion that you've got

to contribute a certain number of words each time.  Certainly you

have to kind of use yourself as a therapist and lend some of your

strength to this one and then to that one and then to the other

one and to that one.  When I began my training, my supervisor,

helping me to learn about psychiatry in the late fifties, and I

were doing couples therapy, family therapy and we had a patient

who was depressed.  We were at the hospital and we were treating

her and she had talked to me about the problems she was having

with her husband.  So I told my supervisor that I would call her

husband and the three of us were going to sit down and talk.  And

he said "Don't do that".  And I said "What do you mean?", and he

said "If you try to do therapy with your patient and you bring in

her husband, you are not going to do any therapy, you're not

going to be a therapist, you're going to end up as a referee".

And that made a little bit of sense.  I understood that, but I

said "I'm going to do it anyhow".  And I went ahead and did it

and he was right, they were going at one another.  Here I am

refereeing.  It struck me that the one thing a referee must do is

to make sure he isn't on one side all the time.  He needs to blow

the whistle when the blue team gets off and he needs to blow the

whistle when the red team gets off base.  As a therapist I began

to develop that skill to be able to have this person angry and

upset and to keep this person from terrorizing this one and to

help this one understand some of this but at that particular time

we weren't doing anything like multiple family group therapy.  So

as a therapist I did that for thirty years running a multi‑family

group.  One needs to use ones position as that powerful figure to

bring some protection and to strike a posture of understanding.

One of the parents listening to things we were talking about in

the early days was coming in wearing sun shades in the group, he

pulled them off and said, "You know, you are always on the side

of these kids.  You never think about us."  He was giving me a

hard time about it.  That didn't sound like good news to me, it

didn't make me feel real good but I stopped and thought this man

needs to be able to say some things.  I then realized he wasn't

going to jump up and come hit me so I helped him.  I said to him,

"I think maybe you're right.  We probably make some of those same

mistakes you'll make.  You know they are important to us and

sometimes we get so caught up in their problems that maybe we

overlook the problems that you folks have."  Immediately somebody

in the group came to my rescue and said, "Wait a minute there.

You know you are wrong; I've been in this group for such and such

time and...,"   I would love to have some controversy.  I would

never try to stamp it out.  I would give it some air and let it

grow because invariably you are going to find somebody else is

going to jump in and help take part in that.


Foster:   When you are starting a multiple family therapy group,

do you have a way of joining with the group, of having everybody


introduce themselves and are there some stages to a group



Orvin:    I didn't make people wait.  If you had a child in my

care, you came into the group right away.  What we would do with

new families is have them say who they were, and then each person

in the group would say like "I'm Harry Jones, this little

red‑haired boys daddy".  Mama would say, "And I'm his wife, I'm

Helen" and I'm this, that and the other. "We've been here for

about three months and we've been pleased with what's happened".

They would go around and do some kind of Welcome Wagon. That is

what I called it.  I'd send out the Welcome Wagon and they would

welcome this new neighbor who just moved into the neighborhood.

They would tell them where things are, where the grocery stores

were, the dry cleaners and all that.  They would tell what this

neighborhood is like.  Then the new family would say, well I'm so

and so and she is so and so and this is our daughter so and so

and we've been having these kind of problems.  They would talk.


Foster:   Would you move from the Welcome Wagon to problem



Orvin:    That's right.


Foster:   And from problem definition, maybe into everybody

interacting with everybody else.


Orvin:    That's right.


Foster:   And the leader himself becomes less central.


Orvin:    That's right, and it's delightful to have a nice one or

two folks  ‑ I had one woman who was in my unit and she was there

for maybe six months.  He (her husband) was there for every

session and he was there for five years after she left, he kept

coming.  He was able to get something out of it every time he

came.  So, yeah, I would have them say what they were up against,

and would offer to the new families some word of encouragement,

but I would then say, "You all make it sound so nice and easy and

it isn't nice and easy.  Tell them about what happened on so and

so".  Well, yeah, then they would lay out one or two of the

problems they had had in the group or in the hospital.


Foster:   Laqueur had a name for what you were doing.  He called

that type of leader an Orchestra Conductor.  You would focus on

the process, direct, and they (the families) would add the



Orvin:    Absolutely, I orchestrated it.  I would bring in the

woodwinds and sometimes I would bring in the brasses and I knew

what my musicians were capable of doing.  I knew where I could

go.  I had one member I could just look over there and wouldn't

have to say anything and he would start.  I learned some

wonderful things from those people.


Foster:   If I understand correctly, your assessment of these

families actually took place in the multiple family therapy



Orvin:    Oh, yes!  I could bring a child into my office,

interview that child for thirty minutes, interview the family for

thirty minutes and at the end I would know exactly what's wrong.

The early mistakes were that I thought that because it was

apparent to me, that it must be apparent to them too, and its

not.  I could assess them in that first hour and I could pretty

well conclude what was wrong and what needed to be done.  The

problem was it took months to get done.  I'd devise a plan about

what this family’s' needs were and how to go about helping them

learn those things.  I could quickly see what was wrong, but I

could not quickly get them to change their fundamental approach

to one another.  It is a slower process.  Multi‑family group is

really like a neighborhood where people visit over the back fence

and lolly-gag with the neighbor next door and talk freely with one

another.  Of course in every little neighborhood you've got one

family that sort of withdraws, sort of stays to themselves.  It is

helpful to liken that multi‑family group to a small

neighborhood.  You have to understand that these folks feel

isolated here because they feel isolated out there.  Out there

isn't going to do anything about it, in here we should.  First of

all we must be sympathetic as to why they feel that way.  And to

recognize that they do, whether they should or should not, they

do.   You need to have some kind of plan to help them cope with

and bring those folks in to the bosom of that multi‑family group.


Foster:   The dysfunction that is taking place in the family can

be defined as social dis‑ease and multiple family therapy group helps

bring them back into social balance.


Orvin:    That's right.  The Chinese used to have block meetings.

Everybody who lived in that particular block in that neighborhood

would get together periodically and they would solve neighborhood

problems.  There were a lot politics involved and all that but it

was sort of a neighborhood policy in a sense.  We don't have

sovereign prospect of treating the neighborhood but you can, you

can blend together a group of people.  Let me tell you, I had a

diverse group, I had a commanding general in my group, I had

people who were on Welfare.


Foster:   How did you get the General to leave his General role

outside the door and bring in dad and husband?


Orvin:    That was the trick.  It's really odd what comes in.  I

remember his daughter snuck off the unit and left, it was an open

unit.  When the general found out, he was down there with his

adjutant in less than an hour and he confronted me in my office,

and said, "What in the world are you going to do?."  He and I

were on good terms and I said, "Well, what have you done?"  He

said he called out a search and he'd gotten the police, and what

are you going to do?  I said, "I'll tell you what I'm going to


do, I'm going to try to do whatever it is you don't do.  I'm

going to try not to do the things you do.  Your daughter is in my

care right now partly because of the relationship that exists

between you and her and her view of you as a general.  I want her

to get to know you as daddy.  So, Harry, I'm not going to do what

you want me to do.  I'm going to do what I think is best for your

daughter.  It is your privilege to leave her under my care or to

remove her."  He left her, because, even under all those stars he

was a good father and it took him some time, but he was able to

help her get in touch with that part of him.


Foster:   That same situation exists with physicians.  They want

to come into multiple family therapy groups, for example,....


Orvin:    ....and bring their stethoscope with them.


Foster:   Right, right.  Any suggestions?


Orvin:    Sympathy.  I had them in my group, you know. 

They were folks who wanted to be helpful and they wanted

me to talk with them a little bit about what the blood count

and what the electrolyte balances were and what category

of medications were being used.  Most of all, they wanted

us to get along and they wanted to not feel incompetent

and to not feel inadequate.  For some it was embarrassing. 

They are like everybody else, and you have to be patient with

them and understanding.  Without being truculent, you have

to do what you think is right and you have to recognize that

that child is my patient, but she is not my child.  They have

the right to withdraw her from my care and to do that without

my being offended by it.  It was my job, I thought, to let them

know about the risks involved in leaving the treatment setting

and to say to them "I think that's a mistake.  I think you are

making a mistake if you do that".  But I wouldn't get angry

with them; I wouldn't make them sign a release.  I wouldn't

try to protect myself legally because that means I would

change the medical relationship to a legal one to say "I think

you are probably going to sue me and I've got a piece of paper to take to court."

     It's what can be called defensive medicine.  When you start

practicing defensive anything, that is what it looks like (George

puts up his fists).  To me it looks like defense, doesn't it look

that way to you?  So that what we've got to do is to say, "I

think it would be a mistake to do that, however, it is your child

and at your insistence I will discharge her".  I always wrote in

the chart what I told them and I would always have a witness

standing there listening to what I had told him.  After they

removed them, I would write up in the chart that I had told them

I thought it was wrong.  I told them why I thought it was wrong

and I told them what I thought may happen.  I would sign that

with the date and time and my name and my head nurse would come

and co‑sign it with me.  And, my friend that will stand up in

court.  A piece of paper that says I am not responsible is

duress, moreover, it's an angry patient mad at you.  I would say

to him "My advice is don't do that but that is your child, take


her home, and I'll tell you what.  I hope things turn out the way

you think they are going to turn out and not the way I do but, in

the event that things don't work well, call me.  Give me a call

and let me see what I can do to help." That's all together

different from my telling him, "Sign this paper."  So those

participants in the multi‑ family group, you do everything you

can to keep them participating in the treatment milieu while

recognizing that those are free and independent people and you

can't make them.


Foster:   What do you think are the mechanisms of change?  What

do you think brings about change in people in multiple family

therapy groups?


Orvin:    First of all, fundamental rules apply to individuals

and they apply to organizations.  To bring about change, the

individual must first of all believe that change is needed.

Secondly, that individual must participate in the process of

change.  Thirdly, he must know that he can halt the process

whenever he sees fit to do so.  None of us will be involved in a

process that says make me into what I ought to be, change me in

any way you want and keep on doing it until you are satisfied.  I

might change but, first of all, I want to take part in the

decision that change is needed. 



Foster:   If I wait for you to determine what I need, I am going

to get less than what I need.


Orvin:    Yes, that's right, and what I want to do is to have you

tell me about how your life is going.  To tell me the good parts

and the bad parts, the things that are creating problems for you.

I always know how to get kids to come into the hospital, how to

get them to ask for help.  I get them to talk about their life

and how it was going.  They wouldn't be seeing me if their life

was going great.  So I let them talk for about an hour, telling

me about how terrible things are and I would put this question to

them, I would say to them "Are you satisfied with the way your

life is going?"  Most of the time, it was the shake of the head.

Next question ‑ "Do you want to do something about that?"  That's

what I call asking for help.  Nobody is going to come in and say

I am having all of these big problems and I want you to help me.

Let them talk about how painful life is and find out if they are

satisfied with that.  "Do you want things to keep on that way or

would you like to try to do something about that?"


Foster:   People change when they arrive and accept where they

are, and make a decision that they don't want to be there.  We

can't go where we want to go until we have arrived where we are.


Orvin:    That's right.  They begin to try to change.  Even after

you have decided to try it is still hard and you might need some

skilled help to be able to make that change.  If you are going to

change an individual or change an organization, that individual


has got to participate in the discussions that change is needed.

Secondly, they have got to participate in the decision and then

the process of carrying out that change.  Thirdly, they have got

to know that they have the right to quit and to stop it before it

gets out of hand.  So, as a participant in a multi‑family group,

we want people to come here and talk and share their pain with us

and share their joys and things in their life with us.  Through

that process you begin to conclude that there are some things

about your life that you don't like and that you would like to

try hard to make some changes in your life and we'd be glad to

help with that and we would be glad to give you an agreement that

you can quit anytime you want to.


Foster:   You are talking about helping people set themselves

free, freedom.


Orvin:    Yes, I used to make my adolescent patients decide when

they are going to go home.  Sometimes they would decide too soon.

I don't argue with them.  I say "You are going to stop treatment?

You are the one that said, when you first came in, that you

wanted to do something about the way you were getting along with

your mom and that you wanted to do something about the way you've

been getting along with girls in general.  Now, you're going to

tell me that the fight you had with Mary Ellen last weekend, you

call that getting along?  And you mean you want to keep on doing

that?  You want to stop trying?"  I was always able to persuade



Foster:   All of these points that you just talked about can be

talked about in a multiple family group therapy session.


Orvin:    Oh yes.


Foster:   In fact, when one family deals with it, every family is



Orvin:    I didn't have to be the one.  They would say, "Who are

you talking about?"   You sat here last week and told us all,

your mother sat right there and wept the whole time and you're

talking now about doing such and such and so and so, I think

you're making some progress, Billy, but you know, it's crazy to

be leaving now.  You look like your starting."


Foster:   In an open‑ended multiple family therapy group, you've

got people coming in and leaving and people are at varying

points, so there is a legacy left with the group.


Orvin:    That's right.


Foster:   New families discover what they need to know from the

families that have been in the group longer.


Orvin:    That's right.  There is a body of knowledge that is

sort of accumulated over a period of time.


Foster:   Are you in control of this body of knowledge?


Orvin:    Observant of it and know how to orchestrate.  My job

was not so much to do it myself but to know how to get somebody

else to do it.


Foster:   Once you've got an ongoing group, it becomes rather

easy for the therapist.  What if you are just beginning a group?

What are your suggestions?


Orvin:    One of the things about starting a group is to talk

about how scary it is and to ask, is it really safe to come in

here and let your hair down.  You've got a bunch of strangers

around here.  Do you think it's wise for us to come in here and

share our problems like this?  What is going to happen if

somebody in here wants to tell somebody else?  You talk about it

and you get people to talk about how hard it is to trust and you

don't demand instantaneous trust.  I would tell my families "you

have no reason whatsoever to trust me.  You don't know me.

You've never seen me so you have no real reason to trust me.  On

the other hand, you really have no good reason to mistrust me,

I've never done anything to harm you.  I'll tell you what, I am

going to meet you right there with your not trusting me and your

not mistrusting me.  I'm prepared to earn your trust.  If I don't

earn it, don't give it to me.

George H. Orvin, MD In His Office

Foster:   You made the statement in a workshop that I attended

once that an adolescent can have a corrective living experience,

that can bring about significant changes, if they have one good


Orvin:    Yes, sometimes they could work through a horrible

relationship.  Some would come in and fight with me.  I had to

know, I had to have a plan of things to do and I had to provide

corrective living experiences.  I had a boy who was brought to

the hospital who was an abused child.  He was fourteen years of

age, a right husky fellow.  He was abused and he was abusive.  He

was failing in school and getting into fights and attempted

suicide and all sorts of horrible things.  The mother and father

was constantly fighting among themselves. This boy had a terrible

view of the world and of himself.  When I would go to make rounds

and the nurse was standing there and the nurse was on the phone

and I spoke to her and she spoke to me and indicated she would be

right with me.  While waiting for her to finish the phone call,

this boy came walking up and said "Hello, Dr. Orvin".  And I said

"Hello, Jimmy, how are you?"  "I'm fine."  So he stood there with

me, the nurse finished her call, hung up the phone, turned to me

and as she started to say something to me, he interrupted and she

said "Now wait a minute, Jimmy, Dr. Orvin was here first.  You'll

have to wait until I have talked with him".  "Oh, you g_____

d_____ broads are all alike, you never....".  I spun around and I

stamped my foot and I said "How dare you!  Don't you dare talk to

her like that, young man.  Don't you talk to her like that!  I

won't stand for that."  He said "Yes" and slinked away.  That was


a corrective living experience.  That was the first time in his

life that an adult male didn't box him in his mouth.  The first

male in his life that was protecting a woman.  His father was

accustomed to pummeling his mother, beating his mother and his

mother beating him.  I saw him an hour later ‑ "Hello, Jimmy".

"Hello, Dr. Orvin".  I was prepared to challenge the belief in

his mind that this is the way men treat women. This is the way

men treat children.  I knew that he needed that.  He had to come

to an understanding of what that problem is and I was able to

redefine for him what fathers are like and to suggest to him that

not all fathers would treat you that way.


Foster:   Is it possible that situations like that could take

place in a multiple family therapy group?


Orvin:    Oh, yeah!  Oh, absolutely! 


Foster:   Corrective living experiences.


Orvin:    Yessiree.  And in the multi‑family group you get all of

this ‑ there is going to be anger, there is going to be sadness,

tears, a lot of laughter, a lot of fun.  You can learn a lot.

You want to kind of watch and see who sets by the door hoping to

be the first one out.  You'll want to also watch and see who sits

by whom.  You want to watch and see who won't sit by whom.  I had

a woman and her daughter sitting in the multi‑family group

waiting for papa to come in.  There was a seat on each side of

them and a seat in between them.  He came in and quickly saw the

two of them sitting there. Went and sat by his daughter, put his

arm around the back of the daughter's chair and turned his

backside to his wife.  Now, that says something to me.  I saw the

woman's response to that.


Foster:   That would be one way to start an interaction between

the two of them.


Orvin:    Oh, I went into it, oh yeah.  That was the first thing

I would do.  Before we started I said, "What did that feel like?"

"What do you mean?"  I said, "I saw him and you did too.  He came

in and looked, decided to go and sit by Ellen."  She blushed and

said "Well" and then she was able to talk about that.  He was

then able to give some kind of explanation about it.  The group

was then able to talk about "Well, you know, we need to have some

things going between ourselves as parents."  Children have a way

of coming in between.  The parents are going to provide you with

rich, rich, clinical material.


Foster:   You have trained people to run multiple family therapy

groups.  What were some of the things that you wanted these

people to know ‑ the therapist, the multi‑family group leader?

In addition to what you have already talked about, were there any

other things that you wanted the therapist to know before they

started leading multiple family therapy groups on their own?



Orvin:    I wanted them to have some understanding of family

systems.  I guess one of the main things I wanted them to

understand was that it wasn't their group. 


Foster:   What do you mean?



Orvin:    I refer to my multi‑family group ‑ it's not mine, it's

theirs.  It's their group and when I would go into a multi‑family

group thinking "Now what do I need to talk about today?" I would

carry with me some sort of a burden that sort of set us up.  I

would go into multi‑ family group and I would go in before the

group got there.  I would go in and I would arrange the chairs.

I'd do my adolescent groups that way.


Foster:   Why did you arrange the chairs?


Orvin:    I wanted to impose a degree of order on the group.  I

wanted the time to be effective.  I was not there to play.  I

wanted it always in the same room.  I wanted the children to know

it was always at the same time and I wanted them to know that Dr.

Orvin had taken time to come and get the place arranged for them.

It said I am thinking about you, I am planning your recovery.  It

imposed a degree of control on the group that might be seen as

anti‑therapeutic.  One cannot handle a sort of rigid group.  One

needs to have some relaxation and one also cannot have chaos. 


Foster:   Laquour said there was a schoolteacher type of multiple

family group therapy leader, a dictator type of leader, a

lasse‑fare type of leader, and a orchestra conductor type of



Orvin:    That's right.  And sometimes you need to do a little

bit of each one.  I disabuse myself of the belief that there is

such a thing as co‑therapists.  You have two people doing therapy

but it won't be "co" .  One is going to have a little more

experience than the other.  One is going to refer to the other.

One has a little bit more authority than the other.


Foster:   So you don't want to put two director types together?


Orvin:    No.  You need to recognize that it's okay.  I had a

lovely lady who worked with me, a Social Worker,  Olivia Riddle,

and she helped me with that group.  She and I worked it together

and we understood the treatment plan and so we would kind of work

together but I had a way of doing treatment that was effective

but it was one of several different kinds of treatment.  Now, I

wouldn't for a moment suggest that mine was the way to do it, but

one of the ways.  There are others that are less formal in their

approach to it.  I thought that whatever I did I needed to be as

much as like me as I could be.  You see, as I sit here today, I

am wearing a three‑piece suit, gold watch chain, cuff links ‑

that's me.  Now, if I were to get down on the floor with

adolescents, somehow believing that I was going to have rapport


with them, that I was going to be one of the fellas, they'd spot

me for a phony.  And that's what I'd be.  So I caught myself and

wouldn't let myself do things like that.


Foster:   You gave yourself permission to be you.


Orvin:    That's right.  And for better or worse, that's what

they've got ‑ they've got me.  It could be better in some ways

but it could be worse in some ways too.


Foster:   I've heard some mental health professionals say that

the key to helping people is to make sure that you're the best

human being that you can be.


Orvin:    That's right and to, somehow or other, come to terms

with yourself.  That is the real big mission in life. To start

out and find out who we are and to come to terms with that.  In

my book I quote Bobby Burns.


Foster:   What's the name of your book?


Orvin:    Understanding the Adolescent, published by American

Psychiatric Association Press.  I quoted some of Bobby Burn's

poetry.  One of them has to do with his Ode To A Louse.  He is

sitting in church, Bobby Burn says, and in comes this lovely,

lovely, beautiful young woman in satin lace.  He was a young man,

noticing pretty young women.  And, as fate would have it, she

comes and sits in the pew right in front of him.  There's the

fragrance of her and he sits there and he is impressed with her.

Then he is talking about the beauty of her and then he said "Oh,

suddenly from beneath her bonnet, crept a wee louse."  She was

lousy.  She looked pretty, smelled pretty, she wasn't.  And he

said "Oh, what some power the gift of gifts, to see ourselves as

others see us.  Could from many a blunder free us and even

devotion."  We can't see the back of our head.  There are parts

of ourselves that we don't see.  Part of the struggle is to try

to come to know oneself, the good parts and the bad parts.  At

some point in life we begin to review what's happened.  As I look

back on my life at periods I can find events and aspects, some

that I did not celebrate, things that I wish I'd done

differently.  But somehow or another, I had to recognize that

this is me and I am the product of many, many, many things.  This

is what's left of George Orvin.  Recognize it, yeah, I wish I

hadn't done that, but I did.  And to embrace that as being part

of me because trying to deny it is being sick.  Embracing it and

making it part of me and getting on with my life. Circumspect in

what I do today because that which I do today, tomorrow I must

embrace.  So we are at that part of our life where we begin to

come to terms with who we are and what we are becoming.  It is at

a time when a lot of people have adolescent children that they

begin to do some of that.  You haven't always got your mind on

the adolescent child's needs, sometimes your are struggling with

yourself, elaborating who I am.  Celebrating parts and maybe

feeling bad about parts but getting on with the process of




Foster:   In multiple family group therapy people can get

glimpses of themselves.


Orvin:    That's right.


Foster:   And the therapist who can share his or herself with

that group is in actuality sharing a process that they can



Orvin:    Completely.  And while I am reviewing myself, I must

stop and recognize the context in which those things took place.

Bobby Burns also has another one An Ode to a Mouse and he's a

farmer and he's out plowing and inadvertently turns over a nest

of field mice.  He stops and speaks to the mouse and he's

apologizing for tearing up his home.  He points out to the mouse

that sometimes things, things of mice and men, don't always turn

out the way we want them to and that we need to recognize that

and come to terms with the fact that the best laid plans of both

mice and men often go astray.  That's because we are human, by

being human we have the advantage over the mouse.  We can reflect

on our past, visualize our future, prepare ourselves for our

future, come to terms with our past and have an understanding of

who we are and what we are.


Foster:   The mouse has to take some responsibility for having a

destroyed house too.


Orvin:    That's right and Burns lets him know that.


Foster:   The closing of a multiple family therapy group.  An

hour (hour and a half) has gone by, someone is in tears, what do

you do?


Orvin:    I think it's right tacky to get up and leave a wound

unsewed.  They're always ripped up and they are always sewed back

together.  So I think it's important to try to do something

around helping that individual at that particular juncture.

Sometimes it's not necessary that the whole group stay on.

Almost invariably somebody has to leave.  And that may be a good

time to do some individual stuff anyhow.


Foster:   If this person has consistently waited until five

minutes before the group is to end to do any work, would

encouraging them to wait to do their group work at the next

session be acceptable?


Orvin:    Yes, and what you want to do is try to understand and

talk to them a little bit about how scary this must be and that

by waiting until almost the end maybe you are afraid that once

you got started you couldn't handle it.  Maybe you are afraid

that people would jump on your body.  Talk about that a little



Foster:   They can come back next week and start dealing with

these feelings.


Orvin:    That's right.


Foster:   Will you talk about the individual growth experience of

each person in the family, as well as the growth of the family?


Orvin:    That is what I like to call a process of becoming that

all of us experience.  It begins with creation.  It is a process

that goes on, it's psycho logic, sociologic, biologic, theologic,

educational, and we roll in that process when we are in the

process of becoming, and we are going to become what we are going

to become.  When you see someone like me, I have become.  I have

reached a point in my life where I've probably done as much

growing as I am supposed to do.  I've sort of gone by the way of

"What you see is what you get and it won't get any better".

Maybe it will get worse but certainly no better.  That process is

going on.  You are in the process of turning out.  Someday you

are going to reach the end point of all of this psycho logic,

sociologic growing that you are now doing.  You are going to

become who it is you will eventually become.  Knowing that that

is going on has helped me to be amused at times as I view my

own growth, but certainly contemplative and thoughtful about what

is happening and what impact is this event going to have on me.


Foster:   Amused?


Orvin:    Yeah ‑ tickled and entertained by what's happening to

me, then to be objective about that.  We struggle through life.

My good clergyman, Sam Cobb, my Rector in Saint Phillips

Episcopal Church, said to me, "George, in the existential

experience which we call life we seem eternally trapped between

what we should do and doing what we must".  It is a struggle, we

are working our way through life, problem‑solving  and learning.

All those events have some influence on how the process is

progressing.  You need to sort of have an understanding of what's

happened with that adolescent.  You need to know that there are

parts of life where each of us face specific sorts of challenges.

Pretty much, commonly so, in all human beings.  The adolescent,

at age twelve to thirteen, begins to develop into an adult.  He

wants to become an adult. That is part of it.  The other part

that is just as tough is that while they are becoming an adult,

they stop being a child.  You are going to stop being a child. 

You and I are working as helpless and sometimes stumble to help

the adolescent.  If we, somehow or other, don't recognize that he

is trying to become an adult, he's offended.  If, somehow or

other, we treat him as if he is still a child, he is outraged.

In fact, he will do things to his own disadvantage to prove to

you that you can't make me ‑ so there.  He is struggling to

become an adult, but struggling even harder to stop being a

child.  What he has to do at age thirteen and twelve is about

three major roles.  You have to start thinking about your parents

differently.  You have to stop seeing them as mythologic giants


so that you can stop thinking of yourself as a helpless little

child.  One of the ways that you stop thinking about your parents

as giants is to cut them down to size.  Cut their legs off and

show them they can't make you do anything you don't want to do.

Adolescents run into problems doing that.  Thirty‑five to forty

year old people run into problems when it's happening to them

through one of their children.  They have this child who tries to

de‑mythologize his parent and here's the parent ‑ what's

happening to him?  He too is struggling.  What happens to people

around age forty?  You begin to add up the score.  You begin to

recognize that there are probably fewer tomorrow’s than there are

yesterdays.  You begin to come to terms with your dreams, your

hopes, your ambitions.  Your options narrow, narrow, narrow.  So

that when that adolescent is struggling to disabuse himself of

this view of his wonderful, all powerful parents, this puts them

into their own problems that they have.  A forty-year-old mother

is undergoing some changes.  Her role in life is changing.  Her

reproductivity is about to come to an end when all of a sudden,

right under her nose, the reproductivity of her fourteen year old

daughter blossoms.  Most mothers celebrate that development in

the child. 


Foster:   That's one of the few rights of passages that we have

in this society.


Orvin:    That's right, but it says something to mother and the

contract stings a little bit.  As she sees the beginning of

creative capacity in this child, it reminds her that hers' is on

the wane.  You see, those are things that are part of this

process of becoming.  Those are the sort of things that influence

the psychological stylus and anonymity of parents as children are

struggling to become adults.  So we have to change their view of

their parents and they have to think about who they are.  There

is this young adolescent who struggles to thrash out some sort of

identity of what sort of person we are. Thirdly, we have to find

out what it's like to be a man and to be a woman.  We have to

sort of evolve in gender ‑ the identity ‑ the genderness.  All of

that creates ferment within the family system.  Depending on how

well those two adults are getting along.  Depending on how well

they comprehend what's happening and depending on their own

psycho logic intactness, they want to respond to what this

adolescent child is trying to do and they are either going to

help it or hinder it.  So that when you and I see our adolescent

struggling with some sort of difficulty do we scratch our heads

and wonder what is it that is happening to this child?  We will

always be in trouble until we find out what else is happening at

home.  Get a hold of that family.  So I have these children that I

was treating, I said to the parents "You must come and help me ‑

you have to take part".  Well, Dr. Orvin, he's really the problem

‑ we want to do whatever we can to help him.  And my position has

always been  "You can't do that ‑ you've gotta help me help

somebody you love".  I would DEMAND that the family come. 


Foster:   So, if my son is with you and I didn't come for the


admission, would you pick up the phone and give me a call?


Orvin:    Well, I'll tell you what -‑ I wouldn't evaluate him.


Foster:   Okay, so parents would have to be there.


Orvin:    I wouldn't evaluate him.  If you are not that worried

about him, neither am I.  That sounds sort of callused but I

think in some ways we become ambiguous about what we tell our

families because I think some of us understand that we really

ought to have the family involved but we aren't afraid they won't

come, we are afraid they will.  Then what am I going to do?  How

am I going to manage these.  I don't know.  So we collude on an

unconscious level to avoid the parents and avoid the family.

When the family says "Well, I can't make it on Fridays"  ‑ well,

all right, we'll do the best we can without you then.  Which

really gives us an excuse for failing and when we fail it's going

to be your fault because you didn't come.  But we really collude

in that and I think, up front, one needs to be able to say ‑ tell

you what, if you are not interested in coming, some people come

too soon, some people come too late, but some come too soon and

you folks aren't ready for help yet.  When you are ready, get in

touch with me.  There has to be some understanding that if you

are going to allow illness to remain encapsulated within the

family system, you are not going to produce health in any other

part.  I have seen healthy individuals live in families that were

maladaptive and dysfunctional but it is virtually impossible to

really take the young adolescent and treat him without some sort

of participation by family.


Foster:   If an adolescent were to come to treatment and get

help,  would that make any difference in this child's life if the

parent's wouldn't come?



Orvin:    Well, it might.  You know, in some ways we sometimes

strike up deals that we don't particularly like and sometimes you

end up doing the best you can.  I think in some ways, we are

accustomed to saying "Those people don't care about their

children -‑ those people don't care about their children".  Now,

I've dealt with all five socio‑economic classes -‑ the richest and

the poorest, the least educated and the PhD's and the MD’s. 

I've dealt with the full spectrum and I have found that a lot of

times the folks who have a severely dysfunctional child are doing

about the best they can.  What happens is that child gets into

some sort of trouble, the police get him and take him home and

knock on the door and get mama and say "Here, we caught him

breaking windows, throwing rocks at cars.  Make him stop -‑ do something". 

Do what?  This poor woman, nine chances out of ten, is madly treading

water with her nose just above the surface.


Foster:   Working to survive.



Orvin:    The last thing she needs is one more wave.  And

somebody brings the child and says do something and she says do

what?  We don't know, but do something.  There and again, my

experience was when I would say to that mother "You are and you

will come because I am going to help you ‑ I am going to help you

and I am going to help your child ‑ there is hope ‑ something can

be done and things will get better".  That man or that woman will

breathe a sigh of relief.  Finally, somebody is going to help me.

I think we need to have some sort of understanding.  I think that

all parents love their children.  All parents love their

children.  They can't help it.  Now, not all parents are good

parents.  Sometimes loving them isn't enough.  You are using it

as an excuse too when you could do some other things.  But it

must be taken as a given.  This child’s' parents are not really

trying to make his life miserable. They really aren't trying to

make things worse.  They may be doing that, but it usually is

because they think the wrong thing is the right thing.


Foster:   It's not what they don't know that causes problems,

it's what they know that is not true.


Orvin:    That is true, and then it is easy to do the right

thing.  When the choice is between doing the right thing and the

wrong thing, we'll all do the right thing.  But what do you do

when the choice is between the wrong thing and the wrong thing?

Then what do you do?  You do the best you can in life.


Foster:   An example of that might be the struggle that parents

are having today with adolescents who smoke cigarettes.


Orvin:    Certainly.  Or doing some of the other things that they

are doing.  You are limited as to what you can do if you've got

all the skills.  Life deals us a hand of cards.  Those hands

aren't always Ace, Kings, Queens and Jacks.  For a lot of folks,

that hand had some Twos and Threes and a couple of Jokers.

That's the hand they've got and that's the hand they've got to

play.  I've had people who just didn't have a high education and,

boy, they were doing the best they could.  They were making some

bad mistakes.  There are people who have maybe ill health or a

number of problems that they have but almost all of them, ALMOST

ALL OF THEM, are trying.


Foster:   What about the adolescent who doesn't have a parent or

a myth to overcome?


Orvin:    I think almost every child has somebody ‑ has a

something.  If you look and if you be creative and innovative

about that, I would always insist that the child’s' family come

and take part.  Sometimes there was no family but I almost always

found a Social Worker that liked this child in particular or an

uncle or an aunt or a grandmother or grandfather.  And if I

worked at it, I could get somebody who would come and be an

advocate for this child.  It wasn't a mama or a daddy, but an



Foster:   Do we move from one myth to the next myth?


Orvin:    I think what we need very much to try to foster a

better impression of who we are and what we are with ourselves.

When we start in life, we are at the mercy of fate and the

elements.  If we leave a child on the shelf somewhere for two

weeks, when we go back, that child is going to be dead.  A child

needs immediate care because it is so vulnerable.  That child, as

it begins to develop some sense of the world around them, needs

to believe that he has some protection.  Somebody cares enough to

take care of me.  If that infant or that little child really

understood how dangerous this world was and how vulnerable he is

or she is, no psycho logic growth could take place. The child

would spend its time in constant terror.  So, the human mind is a

wonderful instrument.  It projects on to these people called

parents, power and knowledge that no human being could possibly

possess.  My dad's the strongest man in the world, my dad can

beat your dad, my mom is the most wonderful woman in the world,

she won't let anything happen to me.  Those are the things we

need to believe so that we can go blissfully about the business

of being a child.


Foster:   If we believe the system has power, then the system has



Orvin:    That's right.  But when we reach adolescence we begin

to become an adult and if we grow into adulthood believing that

mama and daddy are these mythologic giants, then we are going to

continue to believe that we are helpless, vulnerable, little

weaklings.  So, we have to disabuse ourselves of the belief that

mom and dad are all‑powerful so that we can get rid of the belief

that we are totally helpless.  So, you see, it's shrugging off an



Foster:   It's shedding a system of denial?


Orvin:    Well, yes!  It's a matter of beginning to no longer

need external security.  Beginning to provide our own security in

preparation for ultimately becoming a provider of security for

others.  The trip from consumer of security to provider of

security is neither quick, smooth, nor direct.  That is part of

the process of becoming an adult.  Shedding this belief that

somehow or other I am helpless.


Foster:   We move from dependency to interdependence.


Orvin:    That's right.  We must begin to surrender that

dependence.  We finally surrender, I think, that last little bit

of symbolic dependence when our last parent dies. 


Foster:   When we become an orphan.


Orvin:    I had a forty‑five-year-old lady say to me her mother

just died and she said for the first time in my life I am no


longer somebody's little girl.  You become an adult.  So that's

part of what that adolescent is doing ‑ is beginning to take onto

himself a view of himself as competent and capable of taking care

of himself and to be able to do that he must get rid of some

childish beliefs.  When he begins to shed this encumbrance, it's

helpful if those who have been providing him with his protection

understand what's happening and permit it and, if possible, even

help it.  At least try to not absolutely thwart it.


Foster:   Are you saying be careful what battles you choose to

win with your adolescents?


Orvin:    Or to fight, yes.  Let me go one step further.  The

parent is going to respond to that threat of disruption because

when that first child leaves that's the first harbinger of the

ultimate death of the family.  Families get born, families have a

childhood, families have an adolescence, families mature,

families grow up, and families die.


Foster:   Parents get divorced and families die there too.


Orvin:    That's true.  So that as that adolescent begins to

struggle against the ties of the family those parents need to

understand what is happening.  And then will respond to his

efforts depending on what's happening between the two of them.

If there is one thing a parent can do to insure some sort of

psycho logic health for their child, it isn't so much what you

tell them to do and not do, what matters most of all is how you

and I, as a man and a woman, as a mother and a father, treat one



Foster:   The most important relationship in a family is the

husband and wife relationship.


Orvin:    Exactly right.  We begin to deceive and to portray on

children when first we believe that the parent/child relationship

transcends the husband and wife. That's the foundation of THE

FAMILY.  That's what is going to help this child get through,

because, you see the man and the woman they come together and

they put two processes of becoming, together.  Each is influenced

by the other.  My wife has influenced how I have turned out.  I

have influenced how she has turned out.  But each of us has been

in the process of turning out and becoming whatever it is we are

going to become.  At least two processes of becoming are

happening.  One of the things that influences those processes is

the introduction of a child into that family system.  If the two

parents can meet the needs of each other, children will prosper

more.  For when one parent fails to meet the needs of the other,

that parent reaches across the generational boundary and involves

himself or herself in a need relationship with one of the

children.  If that relationship is the only thing mother has

going, if she no longer feels valued as a woman and as a wife and

all she has got left is mother, she is going to be loathing to

give it up quickly or easily.  As that child begins to move away


from home, that really means the end of a meaningful fulfilling

relationship.  Unwittingly and unknowingly, mother might very

well thwart this child's moving into autonomy, not understanding

why.  That happens to us infrequently if that woman is valued as

an individual, is valued as a woman, is valued as a wife, and

valued as a mother.  And sometimes being mother feels so good

that women tend to discount the value of just being a human

being, the value of being a special kind of human being ‑ of

being a female human being, and the special value of being a



Foster:   If a mother gets caught in that role and doesn't

develop other relationships, and other roles in her life, then

when it comes time for the kids to be launched from home, it is

more difficult.


Orvin:    It is more difficult.


Foster:   Is it possible that the kids will stay home, or return

home, so that mom will have meaning and definition to her life?


Orvin:    Yes, and mother won't do that intentionally or

knowingly.  She won't want to cripple the children.  But that

does happen and it happens to good people that don't understand

what is happening.


Foster:   If mom is really dependent on that one role in her

life, her marital relationship hasn't been nurtured?


Orvin:    Absolutely, so one of the first things I can do to help

the adolescent is to get that child’s' mother and father to like

one another.  I've never had to testify in a custody case where

the child’s' parents took care of one another.


Foster:   How do you get mothers and fathers to like each other

as husband and wife?


Orvin:    Gradually, cautiously, skillfully, and most of all,

understandingly.  First of all you've got to really believe that

somehow or other that it is a valuable relationship.  I have seen

marriages fail and I've seen marriages die because of divorce or

death and I have seen a family raised by one parent and that one

parent doing a marvelous job.  But somehow or other, that parent

has to be able to find something in his life or her life that

helps them feel good about themselves so that they aren't totally

dependent on that child’s presence in order to continue feeling

good about themselves.  I want those folks, the single mother,

single father, or married couple, to find some meaning in their



Foster:   As long as mom is that attached to the daughter, she is

in the middle of a process addiction, she doesn't really have

contact with who she is and so the objective might be to get her

to look inward at herself and begin to discover the unique human


that she is and love herself.


Orvin:    And to value herself.  Put some value on herself.  You

know, the one thing worse than self‑love is self‑hate.  Something

we need, but not be narcissistic about ourselves.  I think we need

to have some value for ourselves, some respect of ourselves.


Foster:   I have come to know that we learn to like ourselves

based on the feedback as seen through the eyes of others.


Orvin:    Yes.


Foster:   Other's reactions to my personality is important to my

knowing who I am.


Orvin:    Yes, that makes us a social being.



A young George H. Orvin


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