Beginning in the late 90’s, Dr. Sells developed a six week, psychoeducational, skills-based group curriculum to help give families new skills where there were skill deficits for families involved in the juvenile justice system. In short, the families loved the information, felt it was relevant, but shared with Dr. Sells that the newly learned skills did not work with their families. Not giving up, Dr. Sells decided to use grounded theory, and met with each family individually to seek out a solution.
Game Changer #1 - Overwhelmingly, the families reported similar stories and a clear theme surfaced, the families needed to be shown how to incorporate the newly learned skills within their individual family system, and thus, the family therapy, or as PLL terms it, coaching was added to the groups. In family therapy “coaching”, each family was shown the who, what, when, and how to incorporate their new skills as family contracts were customized and role plays were conducted to ensure the new behaviors were fully incorporated into the family system.
Game Changer #2 - As therapists across the country were beginning to deliver the multi-family group and individual family coaching model, videotaped supervision was introduced to ensure that both the content and process of model delivery had high fidelity. The clinical skills of the therapists delivering the model immediately increased and family engagement and participation rose dramatically.
Game Changer #3 - While out-of-control teenagers and chaotic families were being stabilized by the group and coaching, Dr. Sells and his team discovered that some families were relapsing due to unhealed trauma. This led to the final game changer—that of developing the family systems trauma (FST) work.
This eight-year journey resulted in the full PLL treatment model in which families receive specific tools to stabilize their families as well as specific tools to heal trauma. This complete package is used to bring about second order change, that is, permanent change to what was once an unhealthy family system.