Serving as a consultant to a large county detention center for
youths diagnosed as having a conduct disorder, I was asked to
assist with six adolescent boys. They ranged in age from 14 to
16. Unlike the other youths in detention, these boys had not responded
to the behavior modification program that was the modal treatment
at the center. Their behavior was aggressive and hostile toward
staff and peers. They would not follow the rules of the center
and were frequently detained in isolation. The staff counselors
reported that these boys would talk and be cooperative on an individual
basis. However, once they were in a group with one another or
with other youth or staff, they would revert to conduct disordered
In keeping with the Adlerian approach to the treatment of adolescents
(Mosak, 1979), I elected to see the six youths in group therapy.
I met with them three times each week for a total of five weeks.
My approach was based upon what I term “The Interview Method.”
This is a nonauthoritarian method of inquiry that removes the
person conducting the therapy from the position of authority and
places authority within the group.
The Interview Method
The Interview Method of therapy is like that of reporting a news
story. The person conducting the interview seeks to gain as much
information as possible from the persons being interviewed. There
is no criticism of the individuals nor of the information they
are offering. There is no attempt to point out basic mistakes
in private logic (Dreikurs, 1962). Logical inconsistencies or
double standards are not mentioned. As Shulman has stated, “Never
get smarter than the patient” (Shulman, 1973). The person
conducting the interview merely seeks information.
The interview questions are structured in such a manner as to
bring forth basic mistakes, but not overtly to call these to the
attention of the individual. For example, one of the adolescents,
Syd, made the statement: “Alt of the staff are assholes.
They are always unfair and never listen to any of our suggestions.”
To this I responded, “As I understand it, all of the staff
are unfair and refuse to listen to any of your suggestions?”
By mere inquiry and active listening, I was able to accomplish
three immediate therapeutic purposes. First, as Dreikurs (1969)
pointed out, the most important function of group discussion was
not solving problems, but giving everyone an opportunity to be
heard. Second, I had removed myself from the authoritarian or
teaching role that these adolescents had come to expect from adults.
There was nothing in my manner that was a threat or an opportunity
to mount a challenge. War between the generations (Dreikurs, 1965)
was not possible because I did not take an offensive position
nor would I be placed in a defensive position. Third, the adolescents
became a group and censored each other.
When it became clear that I was not going to point to the over-generalizations
and exaggerations, the peers of the person speaking would challenge
the logic. Fred, in the example above, offered: “They are
not all assholes. At least Bill and Jack are really pretty neat
guys. Besides, Syd, you really ask for it when you throw food
around the cafeteria.” If no challenge were forthcoming
to basic mistakes or irrational arguments, I would query one of
the other six members of the group as to their view. I was still
staying within the interviewing mode. For example, one of the
adolescents, Sam, stated: “All of the judges in the county
are out to get teenagers, and once you get to court you are automatically
guilty.” I turned to a second member of the group, Ralph,
and asked: “Are your experiences and views the same as those
of Sam?” When Ralph indicated that he also shared that opinion,
a third member, Dick, commented: “Every one of us has been
“Let off” at least once in the past when in fact we
really were guilty, including Sam and Ralph.” The other
group members nodded their heads in agreement with Dick, and Sam
and Ralph gave a smile of recognition.
By the second week, the staff was reporting signs of cooperation
from these six adolescents. After four weeks, none of the six
had been placed in isolation during the past week for rule violation.
The group meetings ended after five weeks because two of the youth
had been discharged on probation and the other four were slated
for discharge when a suitable foster home could be found.
The “Interview Method” of therapy can be used with
any group of adolescents. It has the advantage of placing responsibility
for confrontations in the hands of the members themselves. Adolescents
will assume this responsibility when the person leading the group
presents a group-centered approach. The more intense the felt
discouragement in past contacts with adults, the more the adolescent
anticipates control, criticism, and domination from the adult.
This discouraged anticipation can be disarmed with “The
Interview Method” of therapy.
- Croake, James W., Treating Conduct Disorder in Adolescents;
Individual Psychology: The Journal of Adlerian Theory, Research
& Practice, Jun86, Vol.42 Issue 2, p270, 4p
Reflection Exercise #2
The preceding section contained information about the group-centered
treatment of adolescents with conduct disorder. Write three case
study examples regarding how you might use the content of this
section in your practice.
Online Continuing Education QUESTION
What is an advantage of the “Interview Method”?
Record the letter of the correct answer the .