Famlies at War

families at war (3/5)

Five’s Trisha Goddard continues to help families besieged by arguments, feuds and deep-rooted tensions. Aiding Trisha in her efforts are Jamil Qureshi and Andy Duncan – experts in the field of ‘mind-shaping’. This week, Trisha’s guests at the Norfolk treatment house are Patricia and Chantelle, a London-based mother and daughter at war.

Patricia and her daughter have been squabbling for almost ten years, but things have reached crisis point. Chantelle, now 26 years old, is a drug addict and a prostitute, and has become destructive to the point of threatening her own mother with a knife. “I love her as my daughter,” says a weary Patricia, “but not as a person.” Fearing that she may one day find her daughter dead, she has come to Trisha for help.

On the first day of treatment, Trisha intends to observe the family and attempt to bring their issues to the surface, but she is well aware of the enormity of the task. “The real challenge here is going to be helping the family to see Chantelle as a person, rather than just a crack addict,” she says.

Joining mother and daughter in the house are Selina, Chantelle’s sister, and Emeka, Chantelle’s boyfriend. As the family members arrive, the gravity of the situation soon becomes apparent and an argument immediately erupts. With abuse being shouted across the room and Emeka threatening to leave after just one hour, Trisha’s counselling skills are going to be tested to the limit.

The family spend a silent lunch together, seemingly reluctant to share their feelings. Trisha wants them to talk openly and honestly, so gathers them round the table for a discussion of some weighty issues including authority, drugs, the future and children. The last of these issues becomes more relevant than anybody had realised, when Chantelle reveals that she is pregnant. “I’m worried for you,” says Trisha, and her opinion is apparently shared by the rest of the family: “Not good news,” is Patricia’s grave reaction.

After a tough first day, Trisha is eager to share her findings with her fellow experts. Andy is quick to identify the crux of Chantelle’s problem : “She seems to me to be a textbook case of profound self-loathing,” he concludes. Jamil is equally concerned: “I don’t want anyone walking out after ten minutes,” he says. But as evening arrives, the family are as divided as ever.

Next morning, Jamil attempts to separate Emeka from the family for a few hours, so asks him to go to a hotel. However, Emeka’s reaction is not good, and he once again threatens to leave altogether. After some negotiation, he eventually agrees to remain behind while the women are out. Jamil then takes Patricia and her daughters to an activity centre where they have to work as a team to negotiate various obstacles.

A few hours later, and the women are having a great time together, laughing and joking as they lead each other around in blindfolds. “I haven’t laughed like that for years,” says Selina. Given the opportunity to spend time together, it seems they are more than capable of communication. “They seem to be completely different when Emeka isn’t around,” observes Jamil.

Back at the house, the experts make the most of the change in atmosphere and launch into some other forms of therapy. Taking her upstairs to the ‘expert area’, Andy uses a relaxation technique on Patricia. Worried about her lack of self-confidence, he assures her that her feelings are as important as anybody else’s: “Your inner voice is coming back to you,” he says. Meanwhile, Jamil encourages Chantelle to visualise her feelings as colours.

The second day has seen some real progress, but Emeka’s return to the house brings with it new arguments. Refusing to see himself as part of the problem, he expresses resentment at his exclusion from the activities. After such a setback, the experts are less confident that this family can settle their differences. “The odds of success tomorrow are slim,” reflects Jamil –and after Chantelle and Emeka fail to turn up for breakfast the following morning, are his fears well-founded?

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