According to Barth (2017), family therapy is also known as family counseling and is slowly rising up the rank of popularity as a remedy to family wrangles all over the world. Family counseling is considered to be a form of treatment to help a family tackle a particular problematic situation. It is done by a professional who handles it with at most keenness required to start the healing process. Becvar et al (2017) states that it involves several theories that are put into practice by a therapist or professional to make sure a universal way of handling similar kinds of problems. In as much as the healing process may differ from one person to another, it has been proven scientifically to work (Willig & Rogers, 2017). The rate of the healing process depends on how willing the client is to change and share the issues that are affecting him or her, and how they respond towards the healing process.
According to Barth (2018), family therapy follows the normal counseling procedure only that this time the theories, therapeutic styles, strategies and methods used have been specifically channeled to help in family healing. Family counseling involves counseling the family in a conjoint process, considering the family as a unit and not a single person within the existing family. The therapeutic styles used have been used over the years and proven to be medicinal to the mind in as much as most of the diseases treated are unseen. Mental illnesses may be unseen but their effect are felt to the entire body and if not treated early may make the victim psychiatric or even in worse cases they may cause death (Hawthorne et al , 2016).
Understanding of the family
When dealing with family counseling, it is vital to understand what a family is. However, there have been various descriptions of what a family is and none of them is universally acceptable by everyone as the actual definition of family. For example, as stipulated by the words of Desmond Tutu on a family, “You do not choose your family, and they are God’s gift to you as you are to them.” He poses family as God’s gift unlike other people’s understanding (Bell, 2017).
Esterson (2016) holds that, we define family depends on the prevailing social constructions that exist around us and the personal experiences we have with family whether good or bad. Furthermore, the real meaning of the understanding of the word “Family” just as a model is greatly influenced by the cultural, cultural, historical and social stories we have in our mindset (Yeung et al, 2016). In a layman language and understanding, a family is basically a group of people related to each other by lineage or marriage or even not sharing such but bonded together either by a belief in something or a common goal.
Family Therapy in Aotearoa New Zealand
When we mention Aotearoa we refer to the Maori name for New Zealand, a bilingual name for national institutions majorly used to mostly refer to North Islands. (Amore, 2016) claims that families in Aotearoa are in diverse forms. They occur in varied forms today hence it becomes difficult to give a precise or rather consistent meaning of the name family.
In Aotearoa New Zealand, the understanding of family is based on locality and membership (Bennett & Liu, 2018). Families can be understood in terms of its functions such as the nurturing and development of children into adults and the meeting of individual’s emotional and affective needs Family recognizes diversity among the family profiles and family experiences. Furthermore, in New Zealand, Maori and Pakeha view family in a different way (Love, 2017). The Maori are considered to be indigenous Polynesians who inhabited New Zealand and Pakeha are the New Zealand with European descent. They all have different cultural background and thus Maori and Pakeha societies are likely to have significant differences in how they handle things and towards understandings of family (Yeung et al, 2016) and also various diversities in cultural groups influence lots of decisions including appreciation of family therapy. According to Love (2017), it is vital to recognize diversity of understandings especially of Aotearoa New Zealand family. He also adds that here are also other cultural groups that dwell there and just like in any other family different members of the family in the Aotearoa New Zealand family relationships are considered important and each persons’ roles and tasks are clearly defined.
Heywood & Fergusson (2016) stipulates that the Maori and pacific Island families should have a great favor towards extended family and collective ideals. Values may be part and parcel of the individual families especially in Aotearoa New Zealand. Among the different ethnic groups there exist concepts that differ due to diverse ethnic groups.
According to Bennett et al (2018), the Whanau which includes the immediate and family members of the extended family is considered to have a shift in family structures thereby western models of therapy tends to not work for them well. For the Samoan culture they also face similar problems. He also adds that the Samoan family follows a hierarchy style with the father being on top. A therapist should be aware of such cultures to avoid harming the client indirectly. The therapist need to give cultural sensitive therapies in such an environment in order to ensure that the healing process is foreseen as a possibility (Willig & Rogers, 2017) .
Types of Families
There are several kinds of families in the Aotearoa New Zealand; ranging from nuclear family, extended family, single parent family, dual earner family, gay family and lesbian family, couples, remarried families among others (Amore, 2016).
History of Family Counseling
According to (Pedersen et al 2016), interventions to help deal with family issues have been existing probably as early as history. Problems in families have always existed. However, formal records of family therapy can be traced backed to Talbot Parsons paradigm in 1954. It brought to light the functional and structural views of family to assist in family wrangles. His paradigm stipulated the specified roles of family members distinguishing the male and females and gave out an acceptable standard of such roles. This therapeutic view was believed to be applicable universally.
However, it faced a major criticism that it was male dominated (patriarchal) and also culturally insensitive. It did not consider the various parameters which family can be understood. For this reason, cultural inclusive, sensitive and competent therapies were advanced to move away from the initial therapy which was considered quite barbaric (Pedersen et al 2016). Currently, there are very many therapeutic styles used by practitioners as a substitute for the non-convenient styles that were initially used. The number of therapist also has increased tremendously to cater for the ever increasing cases day by day (Willig & Rogers, 2017).
Role of the Therapist in Family Therapy
The therapist has a big role to play especially when practicing family therapy in New Zealand because of the varied cultural disparities and ethnicities (Kennerley et al 2016). Other than the usual role of diagnosing and treating psychological issues, the therapist has a role to ensure they deliver the therapy in accordance with the culture and specifications of the client. This should be without transferring their personal opinion to judge the client’s cultural beliefs (Kottler, 2017).
According to (Pedersen et al 2016), the therapist should consider individualism to avoid interference with the client cultural beliefs. He also adds that the therapist plays the role of listening to the client and respond accordingly to the fears and insecurities giving assurance and hope for the client. Furthermore, he states that the therapist is the initiator of the counseling process and terminator of the entire process after ensuring the healing process has been achieved
The therapist should ensure that he or she gets a broad understanding of the client historical background before tackling an issue at hand to avoid misinterpretation of information using the wrong culture as the yard stick to judge the problem at hand (Burck, 2018).
The therapist has to play other roles such as observing how the family or the client interacts within a session noting the non-verbal cues used. This will be important in prescribing the tasks to be completed with the client. Furthermore, the counselor helps the client transition past the crisis points they get Kennerley et al (2016).
Family Therapy and Techniques Used in Counseling
There are different styles or types of psychotherapeutic interventions under family therapy. They have been erupting day by day ever since early 1950s in Aotearoa New Zealand. Larner (2017) claims that, some new and highly accepted therapies have emerged from the wide spread theoretical models that were formulated during this period. Some of the styles include;
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy(CBT)
- Structural Family Therapy(SFT)
- Multisystematic Therapy(MST)
- Functional Family Therapy (FFT)
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)
This is a psychotherapeutic intervention developed by thorough scientific research. This family intervention technique is attributed to Aaron Beck (Dobson & Dobson, 2018). Throughout history it has been proven to be very effective in treatment of individuals as well as groups. It is best done with a trained with specialist of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. Basically it imparts the client with skills and new ways of living to control a behavior in the long run (Hassan & Bhatia, 2017). It focuses on the principles of here and now; it deals with immediate symptoms first then proceed to more disturbing matters or cause of problems. It emphasizes on homework to be done after a timed educational session with a therapist. The main aim of this therapeutic style is to change thoughts patterns of clients to more comprehensive ones (Dobson & Dobson, 2018).
There are a number of techniques used by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy; first, we have unscrambling cognitive distortions where a therapist helps the client understand their vulnerability. Cognitive restructuring is yet another technique, where the therapist channels the insecurities and vulnerability positively to help the client cope. Furthermore, journaling is yet another important technique that helps the client communicate with his or her internal self via writing or recording to take care of the emotions they could otherwise not expressed verbally (Hassan & Bhatia, 2017).
Structural Family Therapy (SFT)
This was among the first types of family therapy styles that linked theory and practice (Ewing et al, 2015). It began in the early 1960s to deal with family anorexics. It is attributed to Salvador Minuchin. According to Huey et al (2017), it has received critics throughout time from feminists and epistemologist. However, it continues to remain among the most influential types of family therapies and it addresses several patterns among interacting family members that lead to family wrangles.
Ewing et al (2015) claims that the main goal of Structural Family Therapy (SFT) is to improve the day to day communications and interactions putting into light the boundaries that should exist amongst them. It borrows largely from Family System Theory. This style is popular in New Zealand among the therapist as it tends to be effective.
Journaling technique may also be used here. However, it faced challenges such as being accused of issues of racism and culture misfits. Furthermore, Ewing et al (2015) claims that it is a kind of assessment have been termed as selective because it focuses on the nuclear family and tends to leave out the extended family members.
Multisystem Therapy (MST)
According to Henggeler et al (2016), it is also called the Eclectic approach, Multisystem Therapy (MST) is a family psychotherapeutic intervention that majorly targets young person’s facing severe behavioral and also psychosocial problems. Young people in the families face a lot of problems especially when they have no one to trust with their secrets and insecurities. This tends to leave them vulnerable and likely to indulge in social vices. This seems to be detrimental to both their physical health and psychological well-being.
Multisystem Therapy (MST) focuses on the antisocial behavior and how they relate to the ecological factors. This broadens the focus on family systems. According to Henggeler et al (2016), this therapeutic intervention has been proven to be effective and systematic by various scholars.
A study in New Zealand has indicated that Multisystem Therapy (MST) is effective for young people living as juveniles and also to the family living with more likely juveniles to re-offend (Heywood & Fergusson, 2016). This ensures that Multisystem Therapy (MST) is practiced according to the culture of the people around. In New Zealand there exist a specific Aotearoa Multisystem Therapy to cater for the needs of the locals when they need to implement this family therapy type. There is also a specific protocol used when dealing with a specific tribe or sub tribe. Like for example Maori family there is the protocol called “Tikanga mo nga hapu me nga Iwi” that deals with sub tribes and tribes.
Functional Family Therapy (FFT)
This therapy style uses preventive measures as well as the at-risk intervention to the family of the young persons. It is especially used alongside the Multisystem Therapy especially when dealing with the juveniles. It has the main intent to deal with issues that resisted the traditional models of therapy. It does this by finding out the main cause of resistance rather than dealing with the entire behavior (Heywood & Fergusson, 2016).
This therapy has a major strength of tending to leave a motivation effect especially to the supportive family. It also emphasizes on the importance of pulling together several sources that emphasize on the healing process. It also employs the use of context especially when handling the young generation. It is an empowering type of therapy and fits well with development of the youth in the society (Sexton, 2016).
A professional therapist should employ an eclectic approach towards psychological interventions. It is important to consider the age and the culture the therapist is dealing with a multi-cultural society such as New Zealand. It is important for a therapist to deal with all levels of problems the client possesses, starting from individual insecurities to the nuclear family problems including the extended family. Family counseling helps keep families strong and united so that in problematic situation they can come up with a similar strategy to handle the problematic situation. Families in Aotearoa New Zealand continue to embrace the importance of counseling to the family and to an individual. The kind of family therapy to be used in a particular situation depends on the nature of the problem. In some rare cases the client insists on the therapist being from the same culture so that he or she can comprehend the nature of the problem the client is facing.
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