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Supporting families and nurturing behavioural change
Video interaction Guidance is an evidence-based intervention to promote positive relationships and communication in families. It is based on a model developed in the Netherlands by Harry Biemens over the last 20 years.
Professor Colwyn Trevarthen at Edinburgh University has provided the central theoretical core (primary and secondary intersubjectivity and mediated learning) of this method and has been involved in its development from the start. The idea is to use principles which promote successful early parent/carer-infant dialogue as the framework for picking out positive moments in any communication.
VIG aims to improve effective communication in the situation where it naturally occurs, building on each individual's unique and effective style. It does this by:
The values underpinning VIG are based on the principle that the power to change lies within the people involved. The families we work with at Edinburgh Children 1st Family Support Team are partners in the change process. They often have complex and challenging needs. However, most have similar goals: wanting better relationships with their children/family and/or wanting to change and improve children's behaviour. So how does VIG support this process, what happens and how does it work?
The process begins by helping the family to negotiate its own goals. Asking the family what it wants to change helps to ensure that family members are engaged in the process. The trained 'guider' then films ten minutes of parent/child interaction (usually at home: play, cooking, reading, drawing or any activity they choose). The VIG guider edits the film (using principles of attuned guidance as a framework for micro-analysis, starting with adults' attuned responses to children's initiatives). They edit three 'successful' responses to produce a short film focusing on positive examples of communication. These show the adult responding in a positive way to the child's action or initiative using a combination of non-verbal and verbal responses.
The session that follows is the 'shared review'. The parent and the guider look at the edited clips together. Their analysis of behaviour quickly develops into exploring feelings, thoughts, wishes and intentions. The reflective function supports the parent to identify and take ownership of what they are doing well and helps them set further goals.
VIG emphasises that change can be achieved more effectively and in a more empowering way in the context of a 'coaching' relationship, which is collaborative rather than prescriptive, empowering rather than deskilling, and conveys respect for strengths and potential. Being able to stand back and look at themselves on screen and the process of actually observing themselves communicating effectively are empowering and change self-perception. The visual impact of the process is significant. Parents are often quite moved by what they see; they cannot minimise what they are doing; and the new reality or potential for positive relationships/communication is a powerful motivator for parents to replicate what they do in their daily interactions. Throughout filming and feedback sessions parents and professionals can be supported to become more sensitive to children's communications to them and aware of how they themselves can respond in a positive way.
VIG can be very effective with the most vulnerable families we support. One family in which both parents had learning difficulties and there were significant concerns about basic parenting and the attachment relationship between the mother and her three-year-old child, was supported to make real changes. (The mother had postnatal depression and had relinquished her role as primary care giver. She had avoided one-to-one time, because she feared her child would reject her.) Initially, the thought of being filmed was terrifying, and, at one point, the mother hid up the stairs. After further support, she engaged wholeheartedly in the process and enjoyed spending quality time with her child. They had fun during filming sessions. They laughed together, played together, grew closer, more confident, more attuned and the visual evidence was powerful and undeniable. The mother was so moved and motivated by what she saw that she asked to watch the footage over and over again. At the end of four cycles of VIG (one cycle is one film/one shared review), she said, 'I would not have had the relationship with my daughter that I now have.'
In brief, VIG is empowering, collaborative, powerful, visual, reflective and promotes parental sensitivity and attunement.
More information: Louise Wilson, 0131 468 2580 www.videointeractionguidance.net
Other articles published in our March 2014 newsletter:
Other articles about struggling families: