Describe a family experiencing a particular problem, either real or invented. Briefly outline how two different approaches to family therapy might try to address this problem. Refer to Ch. 1 of attached text (Geldard and Geldard, 2008). as a guide for two styles to choose from (especially see Table 1.1 on p. 17). You are to compare and contrast these two approaches, and how a therapist might work with this family from these two therapeutic orientations.
Alice and John white have two children a 13 year old son Jayden and a 16 year old daughter Sky. John is a medical doctor at Johns Hopkins hospital, working as an orthopedic surgeon and Alice is a civil engineer currently working with M&M Construction Company. This family on the outside looks like the most perfect family, their children goes to one of the most expensive private school, they go on family vacations and to the outside world they are perfect. They have been experiencing problems within the family when Sky expressed her interest in dancing; she wants to be a professional belly dancer; however her father wanted her to pursue medicine because she is a straight A student but Sky doesn’t want to medicine. Her mother is in support of her career choice, and her father is not.
Sky’s career choice has led to so much conflict that the parents openly argue in front of their children. The arguments have taken a serious tool on Jayden who feels to have been forgotten because every conversation in the house is about Sky. This has made Jayden’s adolescent defiance worse; he comes late at night smelling of alcohol and Bhang. Sky on the other hand is depressed and she has resulted to self-harm because of the conflicts in the house and engaging into sexual activity with a boy in the local gang.
The arguments have gotten so bad that Alice and John don’t talk to each other and they rarely sit as a family. Nobody knows the ware bouts of the other or even that of their children. Sky’s choice of career is influenced by the Latino dance classes that she joined in school without the knowledge of her father, but with the secret support from her mother and Jayden’s irresponsible behavior roots from lack of attention from the parents.
Marital problems between Alice and John started when Alice expressed her interest in going back to work after taking a break to be a housewife and take care of her kids. According to their plan on Jayden’s 10th birthday she would go back to work and advance on her career. When time for Alice to go back to work John objected on the basis that and I quote” I provide everything for the family, they live in a good neighborhood, our children go to the best schools, I have no other family, my wife is comfortable and I provide the best that life can give. So I don’t see any reason as to why she should go back to work, instead she should stay at home and take care of our kids till they are 18”. Alice said this during one of their therapy sessions and John acknowledged his words. Their problems started when Alice went back to work without John’s consent and they got worse with Sky’s choice of career and her mother’s support of her choice.
What prompted them to go to therapy is after a very serious argument that led to a two-week separation, John moved to hotel and Alice was left in the house alone, when she decided to go through her Children’s things in search of a good memory, when she found Boy’s clothes on Sky’s room and Sky was in the bathroom passed out due to bleeding. In Jayden’s room he was blacked out drunk with rolls of bhang in his drawers and everywhere in the room. Alice called 911 and both her children were taken to the hospital. That is when it dawned to her how disorganize her family was and the need for urgent intervention.
All of this information was gathered during their first few family therapy sessions
Family therapy techniques
When dealing with such a family the best therapy approach to use is constructive family therapy and strategic family therapy (Gurnman, 2014).
Constructive family therapy
This therapy approach was developed by Steve de Shazer and Michael white. This strategy focuses on understanding the family instead of focusing on its problems. By understanding the family, the therapist will be able to isolate the root cause of the problem, dismantling the problem and providing news ways of coping. This is so because the family is made up of individuals with different personalities and different stories. Every person in the family is unique and has their own thinking processes; therefore this approach focuses on identifying and analyzing these differences and making them work for the good of everyone involved (Fallon, 2015).
In this approach the therapist structures the conversation using a consultative guide which is based and guided by the client’s feedback. The therapist will help the family come up with the problems they are experiencing, through collaborative dialogues that will show that the problem roots from their own interpersonal relationships. Through this guided approach the therapist then guides the family in coming up with a solution or solutions unique to their specific problems. This approach disregards theories that state how normal families should function and it formulates a functioning mechanism according to the family in therapy. It appreciates the diversity of families and the members and works towards cultivating this diversity into actual working mechanisms (Nicholas, 2001).
This strategy values every individual’s opinion, personality and assumptions. The therapist will work with the family to show them how this differences interact with each other and how they can be the cause of the problem and finally how to make these differences work to solve their problems by appreciating them (Sexton, 2015).
Strategic family therapy
This therapy strategy was developed by Bateson, Madanes and Palazzoli. This type of counseling is based on cybernetics and structural aspect of the family. In this type of counseling the therapist is the expert. This type of therapy tries to explain how these two dynamic interact in a family setting, how it can result to problems and how the dynamics can be used to solve problems. This approach requires the therapist to come up with hypothesis in collaboration with the family and determine how effective they are in solving their problems, if the hypothesis is not effective then the therapist drops it and identifies other ones that are or will be effective (Rosen, 2015).
The cybernetic dynamic tries to explain how problems arise within the family system without involvement of the individual but as a result of imbalances within the family system and imbalances within the person as they try to adapt to the imbalance in the family system. Most of the time when there are problems in the family, the homeostatic system that maintains balance malfunctions and the problem can escalate if the problem is not solved appropriate, this is where cybernetics come in, through identifying the causes and effects and solving them in a healthy way (Stith, 2014).
Structural family dynamics in strategic family therapy will try to rule out and explain the unspoken rules that determine behavior. These unspoken rules could be so dysfunctional in our case scenario such that the conflict escalates without any intervening factors. This dynamic will help the family cope with conflicting situations, by having the levels of authority that are required for a family to function normally (Szapocznik, 2015).
In this strategy the counselor is the expert, and they are supposed to give directives to the family on what to do in order to solve conflicts, these directives can be straightforward and paradoxical interventions. but before reaching to the level of providing directives they should understand the family in depth and pinpoint their cause of troubles, most important they should not take sides. To prevent this they must employ use of co-therapist when handling such complicated cases. The children in this family set up are adolescent; therefore the therapist needs to involve the intervention of an adolescent therapist (Horigian, 2015).
Compare and contrast strategic and constructive family therapy
In constructive therapy the counselor tries to understand the cause of the conflict by listening to the family and collaborates with the family to find solutions while in strategic therapy the therapist is the expert concentrating on problem solving (Robins, 2015).
Constructive therapy does not involve the use of a co-therapist, but strategic family therapy requires the use of a co-counselor (Gladdin, 2014).
In strategic family therapy the change process is guided by action-oriented directives and positive connotation; alternatively the change process in constructive family therapy takes place via focused and collaborative interactions between the therapist and the family (Minuchin, 2014).
Strategic family therapy is more of problem-solving, while constructive family therapy involves understanding the problem and its causes, and focuses on the value of differentiation by helping families deal with their differences in a healthy way that yields positive results (Reiter, 2017).
Strategic family therapy is problem oriented on the other hand constructive family therapy is solution oriented
Fallon, I. (2015). Handbook of behavioural family therapy . Routledge.
Gladdin, S. (2014). Family therapy: History, theory, and practice. Pearson Higher Ed.
Gurnman, A. (2014). Handbook of family therapy. Routledge.
Horigian, V. (2015). Brief strategic family therapy: thirty-five years of interplay among theory, research, and practice in adolescent behavior problems. In A. P. Association, In Handbook of adolescent drug use prevention: research, intervention strategies, and practice (pp. 249-265). Washington, DC.: American Psychological Association.
Minuchin, S. (2014). The restoried history of family therapy. In Routledge, The evolution of psychotherapy:The second conference (pp. 21-30). Routledge.
Nicholas, M. (2001). essentials of family therapy . Boston: Allyn and Bacon.
Reiter, M. (2017). Constructivist, critical, and integrative approaches to couples counseling. . Taylor & Francis.
Robins, M. (2015). The effects of Brief Strategic Family Therapy (BSFT) on parent substance use and the association between parent and adolescent substance use. Addictive behaviors, 42, 44-50.
Rosen, K. (2015). Strategic family therapy. An introduction to marriege and family therapy, 155-181.
Sexton, T. (2015). Handbook of family therapy . Routledge.
Stith, s. (2014). strategic therapy. In an introduction to marriege and family therapy (pp. 175-201). Routledge.
Szapocznik, J. (2015). Breif strategic family therapy:implementig evidence based models in community settings. Psychotherapy research.