A brief history of VIG
The birthplace for VIG was the Netherlands. The “cradle” of the method was “De Widdock”, a home for difficult children. The professionals working in this home, most notably Harrie Biemans and Maria Aarts, began to work on how to involve the children’s external social environment (e.g. their parents) in the treatment process. For professionals working there, in addition to a systems approach and building external relationships, there was an increasing emphasis on communication, both non-verbal and verbal. They also became aware of the theories of communication, helped by the research of Colwyn Trevarthen (1931- ), a human ethologist working in Scotland, who studied the early mother-child connection. They observed that there are constant signals between young animals and their mothers, and that this is also the case in well-functioning parent-child relationships: children constantly initiate communication and their parents understand and decipher the meaning of their signals. Even in the worst-performing families, children do not give up their initiative, but in these families they are much less likely to receive an understanding response to their signals.
Trevarthen presented the video recordings he had made and analysed in his research to the public at a body language conference in the Netherlands in 1980, establishing a set of key elements of VIG. In their therapeutic work, educators began to focus on the primary contact described by the professor and sought to provide children with a contact person who would be with them most of the day and use the relational-communicational elements with them.
As it was considered that the teachers’ behaviour was a model for parents and also had a strong influence on the relationships that children developed, video recordings were made and analysed together. Within a short time it became clear that this way of working could produce rapid and very effective results.
After a few years, and in view of its success, the method was tried out with parents. From the very beginning, parents of difficult children were visited in their own homes and worked with by professionals. The resulting video footage was analysed with the parents, who became their own models, emphasizing the positive elements.
“On a Sunday afternoon in 1976, when a mother visited her autistic son in the institution where he had been placed and saw how the therapist was treating him, she started weeping: ‘I wish I could have had that kind of relationship with my child.'” This was the last straw, because for years I had been asking myself: what is the point of placing children in institutions under the supervision of professionals if their expertise remains inaccessible to the parents? The question was followed by the obvious goal: how could professional information be made available and usable for parents? This means translating the abstract and often esoteric knowledge of experts into practical, everyday language. As we experimented with this, we found that the profession often focuses on the problems, with the focus on explaining the pathology. What is often missing is an articulation of what needs to be done to solve the problems”.
This is how Maria Aarts, one of the developers of the method, recalls her early experiences.
With the number of families who had received help in this way, word of the method’s effectiveness spread quickly, and in response to growing demand, a foundation, ORION, was set up in 1985 to create a separate clinic. ORION remained until the end of the 1990s as an independent small-scale service and training organization, in contrast to SPIN (Foundation for the Development of Home Treatment), a state-supported national network in the Netherlands, which was established in 1986. SPIN was responsible for the professional coordination and dissemination of various family video training methods. SPIN also organized the training in the Netherlands and took on the task of adapting the method abroad.
The Videotraining Association – Hungary was founded in 1998 by Hungarian professionals with the intention of adapting the method to Hungary.
Today, the spread of VIG in Hungary is varied. In addition to VIG in the family and child protection system, VIG has also appeared in kindergartens, schools and institutions caring for the elderly and disabled. VIG, which develops teamwork and effective treatment of people, is also finding its way into more and more spheres.