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Registered Play Therapist,

          Certified by the Association for Play Therapy

Family Therapy Session

Using the Helicopter View

             Jenny entered my office overwhelmed with depression and anxiety since she was caring for a husband who had always been difficult and critical but since he retired he became more critical.  As a result Jenny became very anxious, she doubted her accomplishments and her self-esteem was crushed; together we examined her achievements as an outsider. Despite her trying circumstances dealing with an emotionally abusive husband she successfully raised five children who succeeded both in their private and professional lives.  I explored with Jenny the different challenges she experienced raising her children on a meager one salary income with a husband who was extremely critical towards her and her children; Jenny was able to vocalize her accomplishments which helped her internalize her success as a mother.  She shared with the therapist how she empathized with her children after their father was verbally abusive; she reassured the child that he was tired or having a hard time and did not mean what he said.  Furthermore, she encouraged her children to pursue their professional goals despite her husband’s negativity towards the expense such schooling incurred.  Jenny was able to recognize that her nurturing helped her children become successful in every area; they enjoyed good relationships with their spouses and children in addition to being successful professionals.

            The “helicopter view” is a metaphor used to observe a situation objectively; the helicopter in the sky does not have emotions affiliated with what he observes down below.  This perspective is a skill therapists train their patients to master in order for them to think rationally and calmly.   This technique was used to help Jenny assess her mistakes and recognize her accomplishments.  The patient evaluates the situation that is triggering his/her distress and assesses the matter as if he/she was in a helicopter; how significant is the situation that is causing the patient aggravation?  How will this impact the person in six months?  This analogy helped Jenny laugh about some of the mistakes she made such as purchasing plaid pants that were on sale which caused her boys to be ridiculed in school.  The therapist explored the situation with the patient who said that she did not force them to continue wearing the pants and bought solid colored pants for them.  Her sons did not suffer from any further embarrassment and Jenny used her judgment wisely; she budgets her money carefully and was equally cautious not to have her children suffer from feeling awkward at the expense of saving a few dollars.

            The helicopter view was a good tool used to assess the patient’s mistakes and accomplishments; this intervention built Jenny’s self esteem since she substituted this barometer to assess her behavior instead of her husband’s constant criticism.  Once she assessed her achievements from a more realistic perspective she recognized her remarkable accomplishments and was prepared to learn assertiveness skills; Jenny refused to submit to being unfairly criticized since she respected herself.  We often become entangled in day to day details and become influenced by other people’s opinion of us; the helicopter view provides a more realistic perspective of the situation and helps identify issues that need to be addressed.