Family Therapy Essay Sample
Family therapy can be described as a psychotherapy involving members from a nuclear family or those from an extended family (Roberta, 1992). This kind of treatment is short term and mostly concentrates on communication and relationships between family members. The psychology field like any other fields in medicine is always changing. Most therapists face a hard task in trying to locate models of therapy that will effectively assist their clients and solve their problems. The dynamics within a family are a very vital to issues relating to mental health. Cohesiveness in a family plays a major role in the emotional well-being of individuals. One model commonly used for many years in counseling of families is the Bowen family System Therapy (Swartz & Nicholas, 2007).
This model offers suitable treatment for the whole family. This model shows a correlation between dysfunctions and the family unit. The family is viewed as an emotional unit in this theory and interactions that are very complex are used in systematic thinking. It is very common for people to feel disconnected from the members of the family. His theory is based on eight concepts that are interlocking namely: differentiation of self, nuclear family emotional process, the family projection process, multigenerational transmissional process, sibling position, emotional cutoff, triangles and society emotional process (Swartz & Nicholas, 2007). This theory focuses on balancing of double forces; individuality and togetherness. A higher degree of togetherness breeds fusion which can obscure individuality. This paper takes a case study of a family and concentrates on applying the theory, interventions and the techniques used.
The Hal baker family comes to me for therapy to solve a myriad of problems that face them. The father is a black 59 year’s old re- known business mogul. The mother Nina, is a 45 years old Latino who has currently started a beauty parlor after being a house wife for over 20 years. They have two kids, Jaden who is 22 years old and Kayla who is the first born and currently turned 27. Hal built his business from scratch and lived through the terrible times of racial prejudice in America. The reason for their family therapy is the recent attempt by Nina to open a beauty parlor to supplement their income. Hal has built his empire around the construction industry and his business is not doing well due to the financial crisis triggered by the house bust. Hal is a typical black man who traces his roots from Nigeria and believes that a woman should stay home and look after the family. He has sworn to divorce his wife because of this as he claims he can adequately provide for the family.
Nina is adamant that she has put up with his chauvinism for many years and the business is her symbol of independence. Jaden is the father’s favorite and has already been integrated into the family business. Kayla had to work her way in law school and got little help from the dad. Her mum spent her entire savings to see her through law school because Hal believes that educating a girl is a waste of time and resources.
Kayla’s relationship with her father is non existent since he denied her a job as the family attorney and she stayed jobless for two years. Jaden is spoilt rotten by the dad and he did not attend any college to get a job in the family business. Kayla resents him as she feels he had never worked for anything in his life unlike her. Kayla and Nina are very close as they feel left out by the men in the family. Kayla has a very low self esteem if any and her exemplary performance was to disapprove her father’s discontent in women. She has sworn never to get married after watching the cruelty her mother had to endure in her marriage life. Kayla lacks the concept of differentiation of self as she sees herself from her father’s eyes. Kayla has failed to free herself from her family prejudices and can hardly define herself independently. This has transformed her to an overachiever and male basher. Kayla is never satisfied with her achievements as she always feels inadequate and is dying for her father’s approval. Most of the time, she excelled in all areas of her life due to pressure from her mum who discouraged her from living a life like hers.
Kayla and Nina have triangulated as they feel unwanted and mistreated by the men in the house. Hal has developed archaic notions about women from his fore fathers and he is still holding unto them though they have been surpassed by time. Jaden is carefree and also looks down upon women. He has developed the same racism tendencies as his father and will desert his best friends if they dated white people.
This is due to the horrible stories his father narrates to him about the era of blacks’ discrimination in America in the 1960s. His father had suffered the full throttle of discrimination and had actively participated in the bloody street protests. He had thus taken the initiative of passing on the survival techniques the blacks used then to Jaden. However, he is envious of the sister’s achievements and her close relationship with the mother. He has always felt lonely despite getting everything he demanded from the father. His father travels lot and most of the times when they got down to talking, it were all about business.
He thus missed someone to share his personal life with as his mother was always aloof. Jaden feels excluded by the mother and the sister and some how he is almost emotionally cut off. Jaden feels that he should not struggle like his sister did since he is the last born. He should get everything on a silver platter due to his position in the family. Nina had lost her individuality in trying to please her husband and wasted so many years of her life.
The nuclear family emotional process is clearly brought out by both Nina and Hal to their children. Nina has made her son to be lonely an emotionally cut off due to the attention that he gets from the father. Hal on the other hand has contributed greatly to his daughter’s insecurities and lack of self esteem by putting her down due to archaic, barbaric notions. He has also contributed to her self proclaimed independence and single hood because of mistreating and neglecting his wife.
The family projection process is clearly seen as Nina and Kayla triangulate and perceive Jaden as spoilt and irresponsible. He grows up believing in these notions and he becomes spoilt and carefree as per his sister and mum projections. When this family came to me for therapy, it was in the blink of collapsing and a quick solution had to be found before this happened.
The family was clearly divided and they all had pent up emotions that they had accumulated over many years. They were hardly talking to each other despite being financially well up and owning a palatial home in Malibu.
The first thing I did was to explain to the family that the problems they were facing were normal and none of them should be solely blamed for the problems. I also encouraged them to freely and openly discuss their problems since when they started. When they started shouting at one another I stopped the therapy and encouraged them to hold hands to create more cohesiveness and reduce anxiety. Nina took a lot of time crying when expressing the tribulations she suffered throughout the marriage.
Hal was a tough nut to crack as he completely refused to open up. After a lot of persuasion and sessions he was able to open up and narrate his ordeals to his family. His past had a lot to do with his behavior as he was born and raised in Nigeria during colonization. He grew up in the village and saw their ancestral land being grabbed by the whites in the era of colonization. His family moved to Lagos and his dad struggled to put him through school. Later on he got a scholarship to study in America after Nigeria’s independence. His first two years in America were okay until the clamor for equal rights for blacks came. Hal lost his business after an arson attack by the KKK and his hate for whites was safely sealed.
When he met his wife he was still traumatized by his past but he could never bring himself to share the pain with her since it would go against his African beliefs. He also said that his wife was partly to blame since after the birth of Kayla she was more attached to her and neglected him. He was resentful of their strong relationship and that was why he loved Jaden more. It is hard for men to be emotionally bound since they can hardly share emotional turmoil.
Hal told Kayla that he had subjected her to hardships of working hard for everything in her life since she was a first born and in the African context, first born were supposed to look after their needs. Hal confessed that he was very proud of his daughter for the great things she had achieved without his help saying she was a warrior. Jaden also confessed of being envious of his sister’s achievements and relationship with the mum.
I encouraged Kayla to willingly work towards her success and not out of spite towards her father. I advised her to stop triangulating with her mother since their unhealthy fusion had locked the brother and the dad out of their lives. I encouraged Jaden who was in the blink of being completely cut off emotionally to open up communication channels with both his parents and sister. He was able to unburden himself from the high expectations his father had put on him since he felt he was not as competent and bright like his sister.
Kayla was happy to know that both his brother and father were proud of her achievements. All along she had thought that her achievements went unnoticed by the two. This boosted her wailing self esteem. I discouraged Nina from replacing her marital love and neglecting her husband because of her daughter. It was clear that their marital problems had cascaded down to their children and shaped their characters. I asked family members to form individual relationships within their lives as this would ensure they bonded more with each other.
Hal was able to see that Nina wanted to open the business not only to substitute the family income but also to define her independence. He stopped viewing it as defiance, but as her lovely contribution towards the upkeep of the family. While I was listening to each individual member of this family, I was neutral and never triangulated or showed favoritism to any one of them. This encouraged them to talk freely to me without prejudice. I advised Jaden to be more independent and assertive by trying to achieve something in his life without his father’s help. This would promote differentiation as he was likely to feel helpful and be more responsible. This would also help in breaking the ice in the relationship they shared with the sister since they would be on familiar grounds. All these interventions were aimed at encouraging a healthy dose of closeness and individuality.
I questioned the family members on the source of their problems with themselves and with each other and constructed a family genogram (Swartz & Nicholas, 2007). I clearly stated that the family members were to help each other in the healing process and thus they were responsible for each others welfare. I told Hal to let go of all the historical injustices he had gone through since they had shut both his wife and daughter out of his life. They had also shaped the character of his son by making him irresponsible and a racist. By hearing about the turmoil Hal went through, his family was able to appreciate, respect and understand him more. I encouraged the family to be communicating more openly as this prevented them from holding grudges over long periods. They were to appreciate each others success and failure and be there for each other. I also showed them a film of a family whose father suffered a lot of pain during the Nazi error and they went through the same problems as them, yet they triumphed and were now a successful close knit family. I encouraged the Hal family to make the necessary changes to ensure their family survived.
Bowen Center for the Study of the Family. (2009). Bowen Theory. Retrieved on April 6, 2009 from http://www.thebowencenter.org/pages/theory.html
Roberta M. (1992). Extraordinary Relationships: A New Way of Thinking about Human Interactions. Chronicle med Publishing.
Swartz, R. & Nicholas, M. (2005). Essentials of Family Therapy. Amazon Publishers.
Swartz, R. & Nicholas, M. (2007). Bowenian Family Therapy. Retrieved on April 6, 2009 from http://www.psychpage.com/learning/library/counseling/bowen.html