Basketball is Life…

To my 12 year old client struggling with ADHD, a learning disability, and mood problems, this statement is true. He eats, sleeps, and breathes basketball. In a few moments The National Championship between Kentucky and Connecticut will start. As a basketball lover myself I think about this client almost every time I watch.

Despite his mental health diagnosis and other disabilities, he is an incredible athlete. The way he conducts himself on the court, you would know little about his limitations. He is able to manage his anger well and work with others. This is not true in other settings. I adopted the typical strengths-based approach with him but I decided to add narrative layer in my interventions with him.

I attempted to turn his passion into small therapeutic lessons. For instance, he listens to referees and disagrees with them appropriately. However when it comes to teachers and others in authority he often becomes verbally and at times physically aggressive. I challenged him to tell me why this was. He could not.  When you pass the ball and the other team gets it you will soon have another opportunity. He understands this well but when he fails a test in school he becomes so discouraged he will refuse to do work for the entire day. He was able to internalize this and does not give up for the entire day as frequently. He still struggles with his mental illness and disabilities but has made significant progress.  About once a month I come up with a basketball narrative for him. Sometimes he finds them helpful, sometimes he does not. I hope that if I continue to do this he will continue to internalize and learn from them.

We sometimes have to find what someone is passionate about and run with this. The strengths-based approach is perhaps one of the most important contributions to social work practice. For those who are feeling hopeless, it often gives hope. Think about how you can integrate with other practice theories to get yourself or clients “unstuck.”

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