Keira – a problem child or just misunderstood?

Written by Rachel Pace

Children 360º – A Multidisciplinary Approach, a workshop organised by Willingness and Betapsi, was introduced by Mr Matthew Bartolo, who is a counsellor specialising in sex and relationships. He explained that we will be tackling a real-life case study of a girl named Keira (pseudonym) from a multidisciplinary approach: from the individual, parental, familial and social perspectives, i.e. from a 360º perspective. He also provided a brief summary of who Willingness are and what they do. They are a team of professionals who received different training and have different professions and personalities, all of which “give an added layer to multidisciplinary work”, as he put it.

Steve Libreri, a social worker, explained Keira’s story. She was a 15 year old girl, whose parents were Dominic, a pub owner, and Laura, a housewife. She had a 10 year old sister called Ana. They both attended church schools and had relatively normal childhoods. However, after finishing her studies at Junior College, Keira began exhibiting problematic behaviour.

Her mother was always telling Keira about the importance of getting a good education, and her father wanted her to work in his pub with him. This problematic behaviour was perceived when her father started noticing items and money missing from his pub, where she worked along with him. Keira was hanging out with a group of people who were known to the police for vandalism in the community. She was arrested for arson and caught in possession of a knife, and had a probation order operant for 2 years. Her mother wanted her to seek professional help, but Keira always refused. Her father started following Keira and her friends around to see what they get up to.

We were then split into 4 groups, where we discussed the case from a particular perspective. Claire Borg facilitated the individual group, Dr Marilyn Muscat was with the parental group, Mr Matthew Bartolo helped the familial group, and Stephanie Caruana guided the social group.

A number of relevant points emerged from Mr. Bartolo’s group, such as that Dominic could have been a workaholic and therefore spent many hours away from the family, leaving Laura to take care of their children and pressure them about the significance of education, and questions were raised as to why Keira was resisting therapy, and why she behaved the way she did. We also came up with some answers to these questions, such as lack of communication and emotional support, as well as Keira finding the freedom she craved from her friends.

Each group then had an appointed rapporteur share what was discussed in their respective group, all of which had different, yet thought-provoking ideas. Here, Steve revealed that Keira was actually a boy, and someone asked a rhetorical question as to whether we would have discussed the case in a different way had we known Keira is a boy. A discussion emerged about the over-emphasis that parents tend to give to education, so much so that sometimes we prioritise it over relationships.

This conference is just a snippet of what can be expected at the Children
360º conference which will be held at Razzett l-Antik 1743 on the 9th of March, 2019. Several speakers with different backgrounds will be giving workshops for a whole day, similar to what was done today. Mr. Bartolo said that conferences such as this one give a more holistic view to a therapist and their clients, while alluding to summer internships offered by Willingness that explore approaches that might not have been tackled in an educations setting.

Applications for Children 360º are now open; one can apply simply by filling in the application form here.

Photo Credit: Maria Galea