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Social Constructionism and Family Counselling

Discuss about the Functionalism Revisited for Architectural Theory.

The paper is concerned with the succinct discussion and examination of the key ideas and features of social constructionism and also make an attempt to identify the influence of different social thinkers in informing social constructionism. Another objective of the essay is to discuss the variegated approaches to family counselling and therapy that rose from the discourse of social constructionism. It is important to understand competency and effectives of family therapy is contingent on the principles of connection, curiosity, collaboration, co-construction ideas to resolve the issues and the final stage of closure.

The term social constructionism underscore on the interpretation of the society through subjective dispositions as well as the objective reality. The origin of social constructionism as a philosophy is rooted in Sociology. The philosophical tenets of  Berger and Luckmann along with Mead, Schutz and Marx have informed the foundation of social constructivism. Constructivists are concerned with the creation, negotiation, the persistence and alteration of meanings. Constructivism has largely been inspired by the ethos of post-modernism, interpretivism as a theory emerged as a polemic against the philosophy of scientism. Much like the interpretivists, constructivists also seek to understand social action through the subjective experience or lived experience of the individual (Lang and Moleski 2016). Weber’s concept of Verstehen is evidently visible in the conceptualization of constructionism. According to Weber, Verstehen is a sociological analysis that underscore on the empathetic appreciation of an individual action. Another aspect of Weberian methodological framework is examination of the motives of the concerned persons in the execution of their social action. For Weber, the primary thrust was on the causal explanation of the social action

Discursive positioning a concept by Michel Foucault is instrumental in the task of conceptualization of counselling, as the key focus of discursive positioning is the attention to relationships. For Bakhtin, the utterances of an individual has no meaning by themselves but needs to be situated at the larger social context that has been pervasive in the history of dialogues or is related to a particular conversation. In other words, when an individual is uttering something to another individual s/he is not just responding to another individual but it is relation to other conversations.  In the light of counselling, it may argued that when a patient is articulating to the counsellor s/he may be conscious regarding how the utterances may appear not just to the counsellor but also to other people.

The systematic family theory approach is quite different from the cause and effect model that is common in psychology and also evident in other sciences. The application of systematic theory to family counselling approach entails viewing the symptoms of a problem differently from the usual cause and effect. It has informed the work of practitioners specializing in family therapy (Desmarouet, and Goldziuk 2014). For example, the problem faced by Mary may be attributed as a consequence of growing up in a difficult environment, liberating the sister from the pressure of the family, a way of infusing conflict in the marital union or as a way of minimizing the tensions emerging in the joint family and the nuclear family system (Kagitcibasi 2017). It is the discretion of the family therapist to decide on the degree of intervention and sometimes have to resort to difficult decisions (Brockman 2016). They are more concerned with engaging in family relationships in the present rather than focussing on the history of a person in resolving the issues. In Systematic theory, there are no specific ways in which the family members should participate in the counselling process.

Systematic Family Theory

Another key approach to family counselling is attachment theory. Bowlby and Ainsworth have credited for the conceptualization of the attachment theory. According to this theory there is a correlation between the attachment of the mother with the child. Babies who has sensitive mothers are securely attached to the mother and would cry helplessly on separation with the mother (Diamond, Russon and Levy 2016). Feeding the infant was viewed as a passage for harmonious cooperation between the mother and the child. Individuals who have grown up in stable and peaceful environment have parents who have been supportive and cooperative. As a corollary, it was stated by Bowlby that the inheritance of mental health through family is important to understand genetic inheritance.

Milan therapists had to face the problem of being labelled as unethical as they were often unscrupulous and irresponsible. On the other hand, the structural therapists have also been at the receiving end of criticism because of their patriarchal worldview and impervious attitude. During the 1980s, it was the structural family approach that had gained momentum and many troubled couples and families veered towards this practise. The advocates of the structural approach identified themselves as the disciples and for them the counsellors became the gurus.

The narrative approach to counselling emphasize on rejecting the essentialist understanding of human subjectivity (Hayward 2003). It is believed that the person can realize their true potential when there is the elimination of problems and a release of catharsis emotion. The narrative perspective emphasizes that the person’s travails and tribulations in life are an outcome of their cultural context (Elliott 1997). Counsellors adhering to such an approach denaturalize certain practises that might be understood as natural to some other approaches. Recently, family-counselling approaches have witnessed an explosion in the different approaches like feminist influence and post-modernist influence (Hayward 2003). These criticizes the Eurocentric values and the dominance of patriarchal discourse widely prevalent in the traditional family counselling approaches.

The cognitive behavioural theory is concerned with the counselling of couples who have been remarried. However, the foundation of the behavioural model is on the ideas of conscious and unconscious, unexpressed and expressed and the expectation of one partner from another partner (Winslade 2005). The psycholanalytic model of family therapy is concerned with the projective identification. In this model, the theorist positions the self and utilizes the therapists’ understanding of the self in facilitating the therapeutic process. The practitioners are expected to demonstrate a degree of competence and self-awareness concerned with the knowledge and skills (Corey 2015). The self in this context is both a vehicle for the legitimate focus as well as for the therapeutic process. The trauma theory emphasizes on trauma resulting due to insecure attachments formed during the childhood (Bachem et al. 2017). The trauma theorists are aware that the occurrences in the therapy room have the potential to trigger episodes that may stoke mental pain to the patient.

The structural theory of family approach is premised on the clinical encounter of Minuchin and his associates who worked with families who have been in distress. According to this approach, the family is viewed as the psychosocial system that is entrenched in the boarder social system. The activities and duties of the family are carried out in the demarcated system. These subsystems comprise of individuals on an ephemeral or permanent lines. Another feature that is intrinsic to the structural theory is that family adaptability and cohesiveness are traits of a family group. As the family matures and survives through different life cycle, the dynamics between the expression of individual autonomy and emotional connectedness witnesses transformation. They emphasize on the effectiveness of the theory and the formation of a new group comprising of the therapist and the concerned family (Gurman and Kniskern 2014). There is an emphasis on the planned support for the family system, identifying the process of family interaction and the accommodation of the style of the members of the family through the process of mirroring.

Attachment Theory

In the words of Hare-Mustin, family therapy is representative of the agenda of the dominant culture. She found the therapy room analogous to the mirror room as it reflects only what is being articulated. Therefore, to refine the family therapy framework she advocated for a discursive approach that would embolden the therapists to appreciate the discourses that inform their understanding and treatment approach while dealing with the patients and their family. This critique also debunks the position of psychotherapy as objective and value-neutral by exposing its role in the spawning and sustenance of norms and values. Hare-Mustin’s critique of the traditional approaches to family therapy and counselling is reminiscent of the contentions of Foucault. She recognized power as an important element in the therapeutic process and the therapists need to identify their role in this discursive process. Her ideas indicated that family therapy can act as a form of social control thus, underlining on the postmodernist philosophy. The erstwhile family therapy approaches have been labelled as Eurocentric, positivist and largely concerned with the western worldview (Hayes 2016). Currently, there has been increased attention towards the cultural dimensions of therapy. Social justice advocates have been critical of the inherent power dimension prevalent in the client-therapist relationship.     

Conclusion

Therefore, the above discussion on social constructionism and family therapy approaches show that there is greater need for the therapist to understand the context of the individual. The therapist also need to be aware of the problems faced by women owing to the structural constraints in the family. There has been a considerable change in the approach of family therapy that has challenged the western-oriented, Eurocentric and patriarchal ideologies informing the therapeutic framework.

References

Bachem, R., Levin, Y., Zhou, X., Zerach, G. and Solomon, Z., 2017. The Role of Parental Posttraumatic Stress, Marital Adjustment, and Dyadic Self?Disclosure in Intergenerational Transmission of Trauma: A Family System Approach. Journal of marital and family therapy.

Brockman, C., Snyder, J., Gewirtz, A., Gird, S.R., Quattlebaum, J., Schmidt, N., Pauldine, M.R., Elish, K., Schrepferman, L., Hayes, C. and Zettle, R., 2016. Relationship of service members’ deployment trauma, PTSD symptoms, and experiential avoidance to postdeployment family reengagement. Journal of Family Psychology, 30(1), p.52.

Corey, G., 2015. Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy. Nelson Education.

Desmarouet, J. and Goldziuk, M., 2014. Systemic family therapy. Soins. Psychiatrie, (293), pp.16-19.

Diamond, G., Russon, J. and Levy, S., 2016. Attachment?Based Family Therapy: A Review of the Empirical Support. Family process, 55(3), pp.595-610.

Elliott, R., 1997. Therapy with Remarried Couples—A Multitheoretical Perspective. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 18(4), pp.181-193.

Gurman, A.S. and Kniskern, D.P., 2014. Handbook of family therapy. Routledge.

Hayes, S.C., 2016. Acceptance and Commitment Therapy, Relational Frame Theory, and the Third Wave of Behavioral and Cognitive Therapies–Republished Article. Behavior therapy, 47(6), pp.869-885.

Hayward, M., 2003. Critiques of narrative therapy: A personal response. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 24(4), pp.183-189.

Kagitcibasi, C., 2017. Family, self, and human development across cultures: Theory and applications. Routledge.

Lang, J. and Moleski, W., 2016. Functionalism revisited: architectural theory and practice and the behavioral sciences. Routledge.

Winslade, J.M., 2005. Utilising discursive positioning in counselling. British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 33(3), pp.351-364.

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