by Sofie Lazarsfeld
(Originally published in German in the "Zeitschrift fur Kinderforschung," Vol.39 No.1 (1932), pages 59-80, Julius Springer, Berlin. The original translator is unkown. Edited for readability by Laurie J. Stein, M.A. And Henry T. Stein Ph.D. A few startistical tabels were omitted. Our thanks to Jane Pfefferle and Gerald L. Liebenau for their assistance. This material is protected by copyright and may not be reproduced in whole or part without the expressed consent of Dr. Stein.)
Sofie Lazarsfeld (1882-1976) was trained by Alfred Adler in Vienna in the 1920's. She first practiced in Vienna, later (1938) in Paris, and moved to New York City in 1941. She was the author of numerous articles and books, focusing mainly on women's issues, and was the mother of sociologist Paul Lazarsfeld.
In 1928, there already existed twenty-eight public bureaus, inaugurated by the "Verein fuer Individual Psychology". The heads were well-trained psychologists assisted by a physician in each location. Very soon the demand increased to such an extent that all the bureaus needed could not be installed; it was not possible to find so many reliable collaborators in so short a time. Today there are thirty-two consultation bureaus in full swing. Some of them have been founded by social associations, others by political parties, still others are established in schools. The last are the most interesting ones, because they serve a double purpose; on the one hand they alleviate the difficulties of the teacher who brings a "problem child" of his class to the bureau and at the same time they give theoretical instruction to all those teachers who take part at these public consultations. The organization lies in the hands of Teachers’ Associations. The teachers of the Public Schools of Vienna are supervised by district inspectors of schools who function as representatives of the highest authorities of schools, the "Board of Education of the City", (Stadtschulrat). Within the particular district of inspection the teachers have formed scientific groups some of which are founding consultation bureaus. These offices, like all other institutions in public schools, are placed under the supervision of the inspector of the school districts who also attends the consultations. The school authority acknowledges and furthers these consultation bureaus. A respective organization sees to it that the teachers of the respective districts are kept in touch with these teachers’ associations. The teachers of the particular schools hold monthly local conferences; they elect a representative, whose duty it is not only to participate in the consultations, but also to give exact reports about the course of the consultations. This procedure makes it possible that in many districts every single teacher has been reached.
The consultation takes place in full publicity. Usually the gymnasium or drawing-room is placed at the disposal of the teachers, and all the teachers who take an interest in this kind of work meet there, mostly 80-120. Outsiders are not admitted. Firstly the class teacher of the respective child gives a detailed report about the child and his difficulties. He describes everything about his mental and bodily development and the family constellation (siblings, characteristics of parents, conception of life, economical and social milieu). He also states the moment in which the difficulties arose or were increased. The chief consultant then discusses the case theoretically; sometimes, now already, some correlation is cleared up that leads to a fruitful discussion among teacher, consultant and the attending teachers. Then the parents are called in. Talking with them the consultant uncovers some new correlations and informs the parents about the origin of the difficulties and the remedies for them. (The readers of this periodical are supposed to be familiar with the theoretical foundations of Individual Psychology so that it is unnecessary to explain them here). Now the parents leave the room and their child enters. The consultant reveals the "error of his life" to him in a free and easy way that is adapted to his mental capacity and shows him how his life can be changed. After parents and child have left, the case with all its details is discussed again, summarized and elucidated from all angles. Then the conclusion is drawn for the particular case and its typical symptoms are emphasized as well. Thus the advice seeking teacher as well as those generally interested in education enlarge their experience. The question whether the participation of an audience is expedient or even only admissible has been much discussed. Many raise the objection that parents and children are intimidated by such a procedure and misled to untrue statements. The answer is that the percentage of true statements is not very great in any case and that what is told is less important than how the narrator behaves. On the other hand, we often observe that an encouraging compensation is found by those who seek advice when they realize that so many people take an interest in their case. Moreover, the experienced consultant will be able to establish so intensive a contact with parents and child by his approach, that they feel at home in spite of the audience. Furthermore, the publicity of the procedure will not harm them at all, if those asking advice learn at the beginning from a passing remark that their case is not unique, but rather typical and very familiar to the consultant. The almost infallible success and the improvement which often occur very soon are proof of it. Alfred Adler conducts his consultations in public, but of course it is up to each of his disciples to apply his own method and some of them exclude publicity. In other cases the organizers admit everybody who shows a serious interest; parents and tutors, led only by curiosity come in, but what they see and hear in such consultation hours makes them find the way to the consultations, if they are in need of advice themselves. The Board of the city which takes care of the Youth (Jugondamt) has established several bureaus for education, which admit interested persons as listeners only by special permission given by the authorities. The municipal institution for the training of Kindergarten teachers has also a consultation office as an annex. During the last three months, 131 children were given advice by eight individual psychological consultation bureaus. The complaints produced there numbered 596 concerning the following cases:
Social difficulties with adults; (resistance, disobedience, impoliteness, etc.) ........................................................ 200
I should like to add that often the manner in which a conversation with the parents begins, already reveals the cause of the claimed difficulties. Once at the teachers’ consultation, we had just listened to the report of the teacher and did not yet know anything about the parents and had seen neither them nor the child. As the consultant, Dr. Adler concluded from the report that the child’s mother might be over-energetic and domineering. It was the case of a thirteen year old boy. He did not study at all, did not do any homework, disturbed the lessons with questions off the point, annoyed all the teachers by offering them useless objects, etc. He was intrusive and rude to girls. He could never got along with his parents. So far the report of the teacher from which Dr. Adler drew his conclusion. After having called in parents and child, Dr. Adler addressed the father in particular. However, before the father was able to utter a word, the mother overflowing with words demonstrated all that she was doing for the child. She told us that nobody in the world could take better care of the boy; she was constantly after him. When he came home, she commanded and directed all his doings; when he was disobedient, she did not hesitate to slap his face. Briefly speaking everything the child could ask for was done. This report gave the listener a clear picture of a child who had been deprived of all independence, and self-determination and whose feelings had been numbed with punishments. Thus the boy believed himself to be useless for everything and felt so discouraged that he did not even try to study any more. He rather indulged in gaining prestige by becoming the instigator of misdeeds, was impudent and insolent to the teachers.
The consultant endeavored to discover a field where the boy had not failed completely and found out that it was gymnastics. The teacher of this subject had been very understanding, and here the boy had turned out to be a paragon. The mother also came to the consultations and adapted herself to a more reasonable kind of intercourse with children. So the boy’s trampled self-respect was restored, and he did not have to win prestige through misdemeanor any longer. His improvement was quick and lasting.
I do not want to augment the above discussed typical cases because the readers of this periodical know plenty of such consultation cases. At any consultation you can meet mothers who do not let the child answer any question, because of their ambition to give the best answer themselves at once. Other mothers, wishing to show how well-bred the child is remind it immediately after entering a room to "say hello nicely" ("schoen gruessen"). An extreme of those mothers who in the belief to do the best for her child prevented it from every development, was a mother who complained that the child still could not write nicely, although she sat with him when he made his homework and dipped the pen into the ink pot for him.
In this connection a word may be said about the cases of left-handedness all of which improve, if you persuade the parents to refrain from overemphasizing the right hand. The difficulties in reading diphthongs, too, a frequent habit of left-handed persons, is improvable, if the child has got over the odium of "being different". It has to be said, however, that there is no reason for favoring the left-handedness of a child. For the non-adaption to our right-handed civilization results in psycho-genetic disturbances even for adults.
About the particular technique of the individual-psychological consultations may be said that the child is guided to eliminate all its difficulties by its own endeavors. In the issue of October 1930 of this periodical is mentioned for instance that in case of hatred of a child against his siblings, the latter have to be removed because it is the only means of improvement. We do not approve of this method. We consider the separation only when from an objective point of view the domestic milieu threatens to prevent the development of the child. For subjective reasons, like the birth of a second child whom the first child cannot get along with, we should never recommend a separation. We endeavor, on the contrary, to achieve that the first child tries to cope with the new situation and to give up his struggle for prestige. For, by separating the children only momentary difficulties are alleviated, but no essential and lasting improvement is accomplished. Again and again, situations will arise which menace the child’s prestige, leading him to enhance even more his means of protest which have helped him this time to have his own way. We have had the experience that only the very inward consent to the new form of living together, against which the child remonstrated in the beginning, proved a genuine remedy.
The procedure usually begins with the attempt of the consultant to win the confidence of the child in order to replace the function of its mother, namely to impress the child with the personality of an entirely reliable companion. When we have to deal with a "problem child" this momentous point has always been neglected. Once the child has gained confidence in us, his self-confidence grows too and it is possible to impose on him tasks he would not have been able to accomplish before. One of these tasks is to understand his own wrong orientation. Then follows the training of his social feeling in order to make him cooperate with others and to dissuade him from his tendency for prestige politics. Thus he gets adjusted to bear tension which formerly seemed intolerable for him and therefore was resisted with all neurotic expedients. For, the "problem child" is the true image of a neurotic whose conspicuous characteristics are not to overcome strains and not to acknowledge facts without resentment and rancor. A successful consultation is accomplished when the child refrains from his former means of obstinacy or seclusion and thus regains his lost courage for life. However, it is to be noticed that we shall deal during the consultation only briefly with the particular difficulties of the child, because our attention is focused on the child’s situation in its totality.
In order to illustrate this maxim I wish to present a special case which deals with a controversial subject. Experience has proved again and again that the children’s difficulties improve if they are not emphasized and that it is not the symptom but the child’s nature that has to be treated. Only with regard to the sexual problem many educators still stick to the opinion that they have to fight here a sovereign power that is inborn and unchangeable. For this reason I wish to discuss more thoroughly the following case which shows the connection between sexual and other disturbances rather clearly:
An eight-year-old girl was sent to our bureau for educational consultation with the report that the child had committed sexual assaults on children and even on adults. It was conceivable that the relatives were shocked and the child was impressed by the horror of her relatives and frightened to the utmost. Fortunately she had not chosen flight, but offered defiance which, as all educators know, is the milder symptom. Of course, the case looked very alarming at the first moment. There was aggression all around against persons and things alike. Tables and chairs were turned over, a box of candy was deprived of its contents, and the child, acting with both hands, devoured the sweets all at once with the wildest greediness. Besides, the child roared and raged continuously. However, her face did not show the adequate expression of a wild enterprising spirit. On the contrary she looked at me shy and uncertain as if she wanted to ask: Is my behavior sufficient or have I to show off more? I remained completely passive and kept waiting. This quite unusual conduct of an adult who did not scold and outcry, who did not threaten punishment, produced the natural reaction to harden the child in her opinion that she had not accomplished enough. Therefore she attacked me. She clambered upon me, tried to throw me down and now the sexual attacks began, too; she pinched me, tried to tear away my décolleté in order to look in, etc. The repertoire was complete. By my waiting I had induced the child to perform all her tricks at once. Thus I had achieved two things. Firstly I had mustered all her intentions, secondly she had become tired and so more willing to bargain with me on a new basis; in fact, she suggested spontaneously to play with me, her suggestions, however, aimed at games where arms and legs could be pulled out.
So ended our first lesson. There was only little talk and particularly not a word above her trespasses. The course of events confirmed the opinion which each educational consultant, well trained in Individual Psychology is able to gain for himself. The child protested violently against her whole environment. She felt that there was nobody whom she could rely on and unfortunately, there was in fact no one who treated her half-way reasonably. At that the worst condition within the family you could think of. She was the elder of two children, homely, unfriendly, while the other child was a lovable, typically endearing child who won all hearts and was always called "darling", "sweetheart", "beloved", etc. by the family. She was incessantly played off against her younger sister. The conditions of the family were rather disorganized by sickness and private difficulties.
The medical examination showed no somatic disturbances so that the pedagogical treatment could be started. It went the well-tried way, the child become assuaged rather quickly, although the expected natural relapses occurred in due time. They repeated the true photographic picture of the first hour. The child gripped under her arm and others’ skirts, squeezed, tried to draw herself close to others, but in no case did these symptoms appear alone, they were always connected with other aggressions. She threw down breakable things, tore and damaged toys that were prepared for this purpose in advance. It was obvious that the child deliberately tried to be a nuisance, and of course, also in a field known to her as particularly important to adults. As the younger sister was always the favorite, she was driven to despair by her endeavors to make herself popular and, therefore, she labored to become superior by doing the opposite. In her dreams, desires, and plans, she overcompensated, too, of course. There she was always a princess, the richest person in the world, etc. and she emphasized that everybody had to obey her and nobody should get anything. She also wanted to buy all the sweets in the world so that none would be left for others. On this occasion I called her attention by using words she was able to understand-- to the relationship between achievement and success; she replied that she would never work, everything should be given to her for the asking. She did not mind being a girl, on the contrary she pointed out: "I should not like to be a boy, because males have to work and there is nothing in the world that I dislike more".
This attitude matched her marks in class, but in spite of that the first improvement occurred there. A conversation with the very understanding teacher brought, first in school, the very decisive assistance of the environment. By degrees, the family joined in our endeavors and the child improved surprisingly quickly in every respect. The very first sign of improvement during the consultation hours was when the child politely laid down a little piece of work she had made already several times (after having at first strictly refused to do this job or any job). Now she asked for different work that would require greater efforts. At first I considered that an expression of the need for appreciation, but the very perseverance which the child devoted to her now task proved that I had wronged the child and that I faced the first success. Hence it went upward rapidly, the child’s nature changed from the bottom. The wildness and the state of excitement diminished, her whole behavior, even her exterior, became more congenial, the sexual attacks disappeared completely. The treatment lasted one year, interrupted only by school vacations, and took place twice a week. Besides that, there was a pause of several weeks, caused by a child disease, but, fortunately, it did not bring about any relapse worth mentioning. The following year the child visited me now and then and in the third year she lived in full harmony with home and school. The sexual prematurity on account of which the child had come to the consultation did not reappear. No word had been spoken to the child regarding her moral trespasses.
This case and many others following similar patterns have taught us that children who came to our consultation on account of sexual difficulties used to suffer from other disturbances, too. Yet the adults are prone just to pay more attention to these symptoms, because of their own self-consciousness toward the sexual problem. Thus, they consider the sexual troubles more important than the others, and consequently the child turns with particular intensity to that field, since it realizes how important the adults seem to deem it. There is often an over-emphasis of the sexual sphere with children of this age.
Obviously, at the time of puberty these problems often are predominant ones. But then we also find them influenced and sometimes even pushed into the rear by two other difficult tasks which the youth has to overcome. He has to discover his own personality and at the same time to establish his place in the world. Besides, this has to be done at a time when the power of resistance is lessened because the signs of bodily maturity afflict and frighten him. He has to come to decisions for his whole future life without being able to understand their consequences, even sometimes without knowing them to be irrevocable. Furthermore, he mostly has confused conceptions of the effect of realities, so he easily gets into trouble. Being entangled he considers his situation hopeless, he despairs of a peaceful solution and tries to solve them by force, while reasonable guidance could easily relieve him. His family and people closely around him are seldom capable of such guidance, because they lack the necessary distance from the many problems of this age. They cannot offer the objective guidance which the youth is in need of, because the are most often themselves involved in his conflicts. Besides that, parents and teachers are often inclined to regard the youth as a continuation of their own life and to guide him, therefore, their own way.
But guidance based on such an attitude is not the one the adolescent’s mind requires. For, not the needs of youth, but the adult’s desire to lead, is then the starting point and very rarely these two tendencies coincide. Here begins the work of consultation.
In recognition of this fact a young Viennese physician has founded consultation bureaus (according to the model of Hugo Sauer, MD in Berlin), run by trained leaders of different political convictions and various conceptions of the world and life. These bureaus, on principle, are not installed in connection with public institutions but are established in private homes, because experience has taught that the shyness of the people who ask for consultation is lessened in this way. During the two years of their existence 1,500 adolescents turned to these consultation bureaus. Immediately before the distribution of school reports the bureaus insert announcements in the newspapers referring to the fact that at this time they are open day and night. At the same time appeals are made to parents and students admonishing them that a bad school report does not mean a catastrophe. Full anonymity is guaranteed, yet some adolescents are so bashful that even the cover of namelessness appears to them still dissatisfactory. They cannot even overcome their fear of personal contact with the consultant. To help such completely discouraged people, written consultations were started and have proved very effective. They started with a weekly newspaper column. Those who inquired by letter got brief answers with the column, which later on brought about a correspondence. Although this form of consultation is, of course, to be regarded as fragmentary, it solved nevertheless the essential task of any consultation work: Not to give concrete advice, but to clear up the psychic situation. For, the discussions with the trained consultant have to serve the only and exclusive purpose to pave the way for getting knowledge of himself and his own psychic situation for the inquirer. It would be wrong to impress him with the perceptions of others and following this wrong path would not accomplish anything but harm the adolescent. For he has to be developed to get independence and to find his own way.
Most inquiries correspond to the groups Adler called the three great tasks in human life to which every man has to take sides at one time or another: Fellowship, work and sexuality. Within three month 100 persons asked for written advice, 42 of them suffered from loneliness or arguments within the family, 10 of vocational difficulties, and 32 of complicated love affairs. The remaining 16 consisted of juridical, medical, and other practical inquiries.
The Vienna Chamber of Labor (Arbeiterkammer) in its work of protecting apprentices has annexed a consultation bureau, which was visited by 400 apprentices in two years. Many a suicide, many crimes, and much vagrancy were thus prevented. For even petty stolen amounts which the thief had firmly hoped to restore, but had not been able to, often led from occasional to systematic criminality. The borrowed bicycle not returned in time, the forgotten commission, the shirked errand, all those things of which many are as ashamed as if they had committed a terrible crime, and the despair of redeeming, how often have they been the small cause for tragic events. They lose, however, their fateful effect when brought to the light of an understanding discussion. The consultation bureau is also in touch with the vocational consultation bureau (Berufsberatungastello). Sometimes an apprentice who is hostile to his present job can be shifted to a different one which he likes better and for which he is more fit. That often changes his whole character essentially.
The Freudian Psychoanalysts have established consultation bureaus which consider the sexual problem most vital. Sexual troubles of adolescents are certainly not to be denied. But even so, it is not good for the sound mental development of pubescence, when this problem-- which is only one among similarly important ones--is deemed to be unique and decisive.
The Municipal Board of Youth Administration (Jugendamt) also runs consultation bureau which function in different districts several times weekly.
The consultation of youth--according to its nature--shall be an institution to which is laid claim by youth itself. But it happens too, that parents want to send their growing-up children to a consultation. Yet as parents cannot take them there like little children, very often the question arises how to bring adolescents to these consultations, if they do not like spontaneously to come. The principle that you cannot help people who do not come by their free will, applies to the consultation of adults as well as of young people. Therefore, it seems advisable not to bring to consultation by some trick those who are opposed to it. If, however, their naturalness can only be maintained by avoiding to make the first consultation an official one, then the first meeting might be arranged under a neutral pretext. For instance, calling for or returning a book, inquiring for information or asking the adolescent a favor. The result of the first meeting will decide whether the confidence of the youth is gained to such an extent that he will agree to a consultation deliberately. It is not recommended to maintain tricks beyond the first consultation.
In this way, a sixteen-year-old boy was sent to me for consultation in order to pick up a book his mother had wanted. I gave him the unwrapped book, a very popular pamphlet on mental difficulties, drew his attention to its contents and asked him whether he was interested in such matters. Freddy was a very intelligent and bright boy, an excellent student, but had stopped studying of late. This and his insubordination at home were the main subject of his mother’s complaints. It was especially aggravating that he, the son of a very indigent family with many children, was going to forfeit an almost certain scholarship, because of his unsatisfactory school marks. When I asked him whether he was interested in educational problems, he admitted it openly and I recommended that he read the book himself. At the same time I left it to him to call again in case, he would like to talk it over with me once more. In fact, he returned after a very short time. He had read the book and proceeding from its contents, we also discussed his own difficulties. He agreed at once to my suggestion to have consultations himself. During the consultations the following facts were brought to light: Besides his mental capacities, he possessed a captivating personality and looked very handsome. In contrast to his brothers and sisters, he was fair, slender, and tall. As the youngest of them, he was of an entirely different type. All the elder brothers and sisters had been ardent students, energetic and persevering in their activities. There were always difficulties because the other children had reproached the mother for preferring the youngest. The mother admitted that she had a weakness for him and had pampered him. But now she neglected him deliberately to avoid the reproach of the older children. Vice versa, he now complained that she liked them better. (As a matter of fact, in families with several children, each of them often pretends that the others are the favorites). So, Freddy and his brothers and sisters violently opposed each other. Freddy used to speak of his mother in a very hostile manner and eventually confessed that he did not want to pass the examination (after which the scholarship would be his) lest his mother got the money. To inflict intentionally such tremendous harm is rare, even among rebellious children. However, the boy’s own explanation of his hostile attitude against his mother did not hit the essential point; it was undoubtedly caused by the whole domestic situation. But to him, it was the only decisive factor: that he had lost his advantage among his brothers and sisters. He related that his mother, when he told her about a "secret affinity" to a girl, had found no other words but that he would bring home a venereal disease. This utterance had destroyed his respect for her to such an extent that he didn’t want to have anything to do with her in the future.
The first task of the consultation was to divert the boy from the opinion that world-wide happenings centered around his affairs and feelings. He had developed this attitude because, as a pampered child, he did not want to give up his favorite position later on, but tried to maintain it by any means. We tried to show him that others--like for instance his mother--had their troubles too and so lured him out of his isolation by winning him for helping others. The first ray of improvement beamed quickly and went straight up. The beginner in consultation work is bluffed by so sudden a success and thinks to have already overcome the peak of the difficulties. This phase, however, is not reached before the recidivation (relapse) which never fails to appear and often takes the patient down to lower depths than he was in before. So the boy started to work marvelously, but the first firebrand burnt down when he conceived that catching up with what he has missed was not an easy task. Not yet having the necessary perseverance, he suddenly abandoned everything and performed some blunders very close to crime. Of course, he also refrained from attending the consultations. No attempt was made to bring him back, but after a considerable interval, he returned voluntarily, contrite and ready for a new try. For some time it worked, until one day he pointed out that he was unworthy of so many endeavors and so great an interest and stayed away again. At that time, it was feared that he would go downhill entirely. He attempted suicide and seemed to be a hopeless case. All of a sudden, he appeared again and told about his attempted suicide, which he was proud of to a certain degree. When he did not achieve the wanted effected thereby, he began to realize in the course of consultation what had to be done: To concentrate his strength on community life in order to accomplish more with less efforts, instead of scattering them senselessly around. This was the first step to a lasting improvement. He passed all examinations formerly repudiated by him. Today, he is a university student.
This case, one of our first consultations, shows clearly that there is no such a thing as a hopeless case, there are only consultants and clients who give up. Concerning the same subject, I shall briefly speak about a female case.
A girl of 15 and a half was brought to our consultation bureau by her mother, a jobless cook. She was depicted as a particularly difficult case. The mother complained, first of all, of the peculiar stubbornness of her child who did not talk at home, not even greeted her; she did not reply at all to questions or only reluctantly. As a matter of fact, the girl made an extraordinarily dejected, browbeaten impression. Very soon, however, you could visualize that the influence of the mother, unable to treat the girl in the right way, was the main cause. The mother told us that she had to handle the girl severely and did not dare let the girl go out alone, because of the imminent danger of getting entangled in sexual recklessness. Asked what she regarded as a proof of her opinion, she replied the child was addicted to masturbation. She looked upon that as a token of extreme sensuality and inferred from it that the child had to be shut off from all male company. To combat the girl's abnormal sensuality, she had invented a strange device for her protection. At night, she had the child wear heavy drawers (Kloth-Hosen) which were leather trimmed close by the genitals. These measures should prevent the child from masturbation and sensuality itself. This one fact should suffice to characterize the mother’s complete lack of understanding concerning this question, Similar lack of understanding became obvious, when she started picturing her apprehensions regarding the child’s future. She told us that the child’s father was a thorough rascal--unfortunately she told the truth--and that she was convinced the child took after her father But she did not only report these anxieties to us; her main emphasis was to tell them incessantly to the child, combining the most horrible predictions for her future with them. The mother's whole behavior made us assume that there had been occurrences in her own youth which she projected into her child. In fact, in the course of the consultation, it was found out that she had eloped with the child’s father. The ensuing pregnancy had compelled her to marry this man in spite of the knowledge of his weakness. He deserted her shortly after the child’s birth. He was a heavy drunkard who shunned work, did not support her and lived with other women. He appeared only when he lacked money, and extorted it from her. She had become so embittered by this early experience that she could not visualize a companionship of young people of different sex without the danger of seduction. This was the reason for her unusual and fateful severity with her child. But as the following incident shows, her authoritative attitude was not confined to the more sexual sphere.
When mother and daughter said "Good bye", the daughter did so in a very friendly manner as it is usual among good companions. Since the mother’s main complaint had been the child’s unfriendliness, the consultant remarked incidentally that she had greeted him so nicely that he was sure she would do the same at home. Right away the mother arose and threatened, if the girl dared to so she would have to bear the consequences, because she did not stand on the same level with her and had to greet her in a humble manner ("I kiss your hand"). Of course, it is easy to understand that a person being a servant throughout her life, has got accustomed to a humble behavior and, in return, is inclined to demand the same attitude from her inferiors. However, if we wanted to help the daughter, we had to start with a considerate consultation of the mother. But we met with great resistance and would not accomplish anything. Because the consultation of the daughter alone was insufficient, nothing changed for the better. The attempt to lead the daughter somewhere else failed, and one day she reappeared having great difficulties in her job. Besides, she wanted to share her room with her boyfriend. She had nearly reached the legal age limit for minors. We explained to her that this step would deprive her of any possibility ever to choose freely her way of life. We succeeded in diverting her from her respective wishes, but she did not come again. A few weeks later we had the terrible shock to learn that she and her friend had shot themselves. Owing to our duty of discretion, we had to refrain from further investigations and mourned her as someone we had not been able to rescue. Such cases are very depressing for the consultant, because despite the sincerest endeavors, employed in every case, he cannot overcome doubting whether he could not have acted more effectively.
Suddenly she turned up again. She and her boyfriend had survived, but she had been ashamed to notify us. After a while she got along very well, lived together with her mother in relative harmony, was working and had sound plans for her future life.
We could see in many cases the encouraging effect on adolescents that there exists an institution which dares negotiate with the bosses, the parents and the school. For, the adolescent is always willing to acknowledge those factors as an absolute authority, which you may defy, but with which you cannot deal. Therefore, in many cases the contact with the environment of youth is an inevitable factor within consultation work. If we succeed in convincing young people that adults also have to struggle with certain problems, that fear, uncertainty, and the feeling of inferiority play a part in their lives too, the depressing gulf between youth and adults diminishes, and at the same time, the grievances themselves are reduced. Thus, a young person will be able to cooperate again, and this time more appropriately with the demands of life and so come nearer to a solution of his problems.
The best foundation for a permanent improvement has to be when the consultant succeeds in making the young person feel and understand the values of our culture. That will divert him from his own self and enable him to find satisfaction by working for the common good.
This periodical tends to focus on consultation work with adolescents. But since in the October issue of last year a report appeared concerning a medical consultation for married couples especially dealing with physical problems, I also wish to refer to consultations with adults, as well as with children and young people. There is, first of all, The Individual Psychological Ambulatorium, which functions every day at noon in order to serve professional people during their lunch time. It was originally intended for nervous adults only, but soon the necessity arose to annex in a separate room a consultation for children up to fourteen years of age. There the conversations with the parents take place too. Only indigent patients and those who are not insured or whose psycho-therapeutic treatment is not paid for by the insurance are admitted to the ambulatorium. During 1 and half years, treatment was granted to 17 women, 128 men and 55 problem children.
The complete statistics published in the "Zeitschrift fur Individual-Psychologie" 1931, No.4 (Journal of Individual Psychology) tells of 55 cases of problem children, but unfortunately without giving explanatory details. There were also 21 criminal cases, among them 13 men, 3 women, and 5 children. The last were all cases of theft.
The city itself runs an exclusively somatic consultation bureau for married couples and several consultation bureaus for mothers.
Furthermore, there is a consultation bureau, where general problems on life style are discussed, conducted according to Individual Psychological principles, embracing both youth and adults. People attend these bureaus mainly to ask for consultation concerning their sexual problems and difficulties in family life. These used to be cases which require conversations with a trained and experienced psychologist, but do not need medical treatment. (Every single case is looked over by a physician first). The consultation is frequented by all classes, but principally by indigent people.
The stated problems are the same everywhere, although the percentage differs and social conditions have given them different characteristics. The level of education and intelligence does not influence these problems. (The same is valid for the educational consultations). Regarding the age of the people who ask for advice, the youngest woman was 17 years old, the oldest 52. Both cases dealt with a request for assistance in regaining a lost friend. Among the men the youngest was 17 years of age, the oldest 57. Both of them complained about impotence. Most frequently, the inquirers of both sexes are between 27 and 38. The percentage of the inquiries according to gender is rather equally distributed. Of the 16 individuals who asked for consultation within six months with regard to their sexual problems, 80 were female and 80 male. (table omitted)
I do not wish to transgress the limits of this periodical by reporting cases of adults, but I would like to address one point, namely the technique of treatment as far as it is possible to do so. For, every case is unique and has to be dealt with according to its particular conditions. Yet one requirement applies to every case, namely to train people for independence, the adolescent as well as the adult. At this point I should like to describe one case out of our written consultation work, because the answers of the inquirer give a clear insight into the course of the consultation. With an oral procedure, that would be possible only by taking notes in shorthand.
Recording an oral procedure cannot be done, at least not in the beginning of the consultation, because it would embarrass the clients. Yet, in the following case, we can see how the neurotic, who always tries to shift the decisions from himself to others, gradually refrains from this shifting of responsibility, replacing this mental attitude with a sounder one. This case demonstrates pretty well how the inquirers--whatever their age--cooperate actively, which plays the most significant part in every improvement. The recording of notes further reveals a second important point, that we can never decide in advance how the person should collaborate; rather, we must help the individual find his own way himself.
This written consultation was carried by a weekly newspaper and was particularly aimed at attracting the collaboration of the inquirer. The best expedients of the oral procedure are lacking here: The personal contact, the good example, etc. The answers have to be very brief. Moreover, a mistaken word which passes by insignificantly or is easily understandable, if spoken, often implies dangers in written intercourse. Considering all this, we realize how great the contribution of the inquirer has to be.
Mr. Y., married, after having stressed the point that he would never have dared discuss these matters eye to eye, complains about disappointment in love since his earliest experiences. Thereby he has been driven, again and again, into masturbation, into orgies which his imagination celebrates. He had never found the right partner. Finally, he found his only successful sexual adventure, "the woman who felt, thought, lived like myself". But he found her only for a few weeks and then lost her for ever. Ever since, he has had only further disappointments with all other women. He then returned to masturbation, because "no other woman can arouse in him such emotions as the one in my dreams". Then, suddenly, he married, in a love match from both sides, which he emphasizes. Nevertheless, feeling absolute sexual dissatisfaction on his part, he returned permanently to masturbation. The wife answered his suggestions of divorce with threats of committing suicide, keeping the husband in constant bondage with these threats which he believed to be serious. By rebelling violently against these threats, he has alienated himself more and more from his wife. He now wishes ardently that "she might love another man and release him". He writes that he expects from us "the bit of happiness every human being is entitled to ….." So reads the first letter of 30 pages.
The first and very strong impression this letter makes on us is the great fear of responsibility. Of all his love affairs, only the one that was short had made him happy. He wanted to save his marriage, but under the responsibility of his wife, not his own. We recognize the typical attitude of somebody who will not pay with his soul, trying to snatch from life whatever he can and sneak away without giving anything in return; eventually, he pays too much. The story of his youth confirmed this impression. This we tell him briefly, yet with mild words and adding our opinion of his wife.
His answer is characteristic. Again disappointment; as a precautionary measure he has laid upon us more than we are able to do, in order to be safe from responsibility even with this "last appeal for help," as he calls it. He had done his part by calling upon us, and it was our fault when we failed, not his. He writes that the answer "had not given him anything real. I had reached this point myself before I decided to write to you". The discussion had done him good, but there was no help to be found for him. However, he found our characterization of his wife perfect, in spite of its concise form. We know that he had formerly viewed her differently, since he had already made progress in judging his wife, but he is still unable to judge himself correctly. He feels neither relief nor comfort and breaks off the correspondence with formal thanks for our good intentions.
We answered nevertheless, and a third letter arrived in which he wrote that he had thought our words over and wished "to carry on with us;" "perhaps I shall gain a little bit of happiness which everybody is longing for". We can see his progress. In his first letter, he expects the bit of happiness from us, now he is trying to achieve it himself, so he is getting along and has overcome the first most difficult steps. Furthermore, he ventilates once more, he has thoroughly thought over our opinion regarding him which he had dismissed as "nothing new" in his last letter. Indeed, he still thinks that we did not judge him rightly, yet he is willing to write again. "But not right away, only after thorough consideration."
One month later, a really new letter arrives. Even more than in the previous letter, he emphasizes the great relief which he feels by discussing matters up to now kept utterly secret. And what’s more, he writes that he has tried, "led by your clues, to look into my own self and to clear and clean up there as well as possible." He had done that spontaneously. We had not referred to it, but had merely spoken quite impartially about our way of looking at things. In fact he actually gains clear insight into himself and his next letter begins with "You are right--it is beginning to dawn on me. The subsequent mental task that you present me with in your response, and one that keeps me more challenged than I had ever thought, allows me to find ever more clues to discover causes and effects pertaining to my generally quite meager joy in life." Then, with a surprising understanding of his indecisiveness, he comes to grips with the consequences that flow from that, ending the letter by anticipating a future in which he sees, "if not fulfillment then hope."
With this, unfortunately, the correspondence comes to an end because our next response from the newspaper, which discontinued that series, no longer appeared. Since the author remained anonymous it was impossible to establish any further contact. However, if the flow of his correspondence is followed the picture evolves of a person who resolved his problem on his own, assisted only by a few impersonal words. I don’t know how he accomplished this and since his technique was never clarified I could only judge by his success that it was good. One thing is clear, it was not I who discovered it, but he.
Moreover, counseling adults is an extremely productive experience for every child and youth counselor. From the problems suffered by the adult we learn what must be avoided in dealing with children. In every particular case the childhood development must be reviewed. We thereby gain a rich insight into the relationship between a childhood experience and its effect in later life. I believe, therefore, that the treatment of adults must here take its modest place since upbringing, in the best sense of the word, means preventing harm; treating prophylactically.