ACA Blog

Jaime Castillo
Apr 05, 2012

Game Change: Counseling Barack and Michelle Obama

“Let’s try this from a different perspective. Michelle, let’s say Barack answers all of your questions to your full satisfaction and he’s got an answer for every one of them.

Are you in?

“I’m in one hundred and ten percent,” Michelle said. But she wasn’t going to let her husband get away with the “We’ll figure it out” bluster that he was prone to employ over contentious matters. Turing to Barack, she said, “You’re going to be really specific with me. You’re going to tell me exactly how we’re going to work it out.”

This is a passage from the book Game Change by John Heilemann and Mark Halperin and describes a conversation Michelle, Barack and a close friend had prior to Barack announcing his bid to run as a Democratic candidate in 2008. As I read this, I couldn’t stop thinking about how the meaning behind this conversation parallels many conversations I’ve had with clients.

This is what I was thinking as I first came across this conversation, and put myself in the room with the Obamas:

Michelle, Barack has brought some big aspirations to the table. To summarize, just so I can make sure I have it right…here is the issue/concern he is bringing forth. I’ve heard from both of you how this issue/concern has already begun, and will continue to significantly affect not only you Michelle, but also your family for the rest of your lives. In hearing Barack, what needs to be addressed from your end before there can be a move forward? What questions do you and we need to discuss to work through this and map it out? Let’s say tomorrow all of those concerns you raised were addressed…how would you feel? What would be different? What if you woke up tomorrow and everything was perfect, what would need to happen? What would change?

Barack…Michelle has raised a number of concerns. It’s important to be specific and clear with your communication. In hearing Michelle’s concerns, how does and will this affect your political aspirations? What new challenges will you face? What can we do here to maintain the open communication in the coming months?

End scene!

Have you ever read/seen something that you thought was far removed from counseling but out of nowhere the little counselor in your brain just turned on? Have you ever watched a movie or a TV show and wanted to jump in? What are your stories?



Jaime Castillo is a counselor who works for a non-profit agency in New York City.

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