The field of marriage, as well as family therapy or counseling, has, in the last decade, exploded into a critical aspect of modern society. Counselors and therapists at different levels are required to work effectively with both couples and families undergoing a wide array of problems and issues. Different family therapists such as strategic, often appear to be operating in the same manner.
Difference, however, typically become clear when the therapists undertakes to explain a certain intervention, therapy approach or technique. In the contemporary world, a vast majority of practicing family therapists go well beyond the narrow number of techniques typically linked to a single theory. Different families present with different problems, hence the need for family therapists to appreciate these issues before deciding on the most appropriate therapy approach to help the family overcome the problem. One of the most innovative approaches is functional family therapy. The purpose of this paper is to consider the most effective family therapy approach applicable to the S family, describing the inherent problems of different family members and describing the numerous elements of the chosen approach.
Functional family therapy refers to an empirically-founded, family-centered intervention program that focuses primarily on the issue of acting out youth within the family. Therefore, given that the adolescents in the cases study, John and Debbie, appear to be acting out, the functional family therapy approach is the most applicable. As a consequence, if I was working on the case of this family, I would make use of the functional approach in order to get to the root of this acting out and find ways of enabling effective communication within the family. The principal objective of functional family therapy is to enhance the nature of family communication, as well as the degree of supportiveness, while at the same time reducing the negativity often characteristic of families facing these problems. Other critical objectives include assisting family members adopt and implement positive solutions to tackle family problems such as lack of communication, and develop positive behavioral modifications, as well as parenting strategies.
Although the functional family therapy approach was originally designed to take care of middle class families with pre-delinquent and delinquent youth, the program has, over the last few years been modified in order to accommodate poor, multi cultural and multi ethnic populations experiencing severe problems such as adolescent drug abuse, violence and conduct disorder. This means that the functional family therapy is not only applicable to the S family, but also appropriate to it. As a middle income family, the S family encounters peculiar problems typically related to its socioeconomic class. Although middle income families are well endowed financially, they often encounter problems associated primarily with the middle income class. Rising numbers of children from middle income families are suffering from mental health problems in the midst of a tendency of risk-averse parents to rear the children in isolation. Clearly, John and Debbie are growing up in a paranoid culture that attempts to protect them, but ultimately leaves them incapable of coping with the challenges inherent in day to day living.
Family therapists continue to encounter children with a distinct lack of emotional resilience due to their fear of failure. The middle-income family is characterized by the present of parents who adhere to a risk-averse culture that seeks to protect the children from social harms. However, this risk-averseness is a substantial disservice to children, for instance, Debbie and John, who end up developing detrimental behavior, necessitating the input of therapies and counselors. Within the middle class family, John and Debbie are essentially raised in captivity; they are not encouraged, taught or supported to assess, take and deal with risks. This causes a massive developmental catastrophe for the children. It is clear that both John and Debbie are inherently unhappy teenagers. Research suggests that adolescents born into or reared in middle income families, for instance, those that earn a family income of at least $120,000 per year. Children from these families are prone to suffering from increased rates of substance abuse, anxiety and depression.
The root of the emotional and psychological problems encountered by adolescents from middle-income families lies in the conception that family functions have changed quite substantially. Mr. S typifies the case of an ordinary father from a middle class family who considers the material needs of his family as more significant that the family’s emotional needs. As a consequence, Mr. S, like a vast majority of middle income fathers fail to make time to spend with their families as they endeavor to meet their families’ material needs such as fashionable clothing, the best cars and houses. From the case, Mr. S appears to consider all his family’s needs as being tied to its material desires. Mr. S believes that by working hard to fulfill the material needs of his family, he is ultimately fulfilling all the needs of his family. On her part, Mrs. S believes that she has lost control of her children and considers herself and her husband as incapable of reaching out to John and Debby. The children, on the other hand, are engaging in detrimental actions such as truancy, drug abuse and gang activities. At its core, the primary problem encountered by the S family is that of a lack of communication; different individuals within the family appear to be too busy with their diverse activities to make time for family activities and verbal communication.
The program inherent in the functional family therapy is conducted by a family therapists working cooperatively with the family within a clinical setting. This approach is standard for a vast majority of family therapy programs; recent functional family therapy approaches that deal with families with multiple problems typically involve in-home treatment protocols. The approach consists of four integral stages: an introduction or impression phase; a therapy of motivation stage; a behavior change stage and a generalization phase, which is focused on a multisystem. Each of these phases consists of assessment, specific intervention techniques and qualities and goals established by the therapist. An integral part of the intervention is the integration of attributor or cognitive component that is incorporated into systemic impartation of skills in family communication, management of conflicts and parenting.
The functional family therapy model has been evaluated a number of times from 1971. The effectiveness of the approach is independently shown through a between-group design. Its implications are also exemplified at extra performance sites. The model has shown a substantive reduction in recidivism compared to alternative forms of treatment, as well as no treatment conditions. Perhaps one of the most prominent implications the functional family therapy process is with regard to family communications patterns, particularly in terms of adverse, blaming communication patterns. Mrs. S exhibits these adverse communication patterns as she constantly believes that her husband is not doing his part in terms of enhancing family communication. In order to deal with this problem effectively as a therapist, I would ensure that I am relationally focused and sensitive and have the capacity to structure the family clearly in order to produce the best results and deter recidivism on the part of the family’s desire to see a therapist.
A critical element of functional family therapy is its possession of a systematic training, as well as implementation model for families with a view to implement the therapy as an effective clinical model. This clinical model is extremely appealing due to its inherent clear identification of diverse stages that typically make plans for intervention through a coherent manner, hence enabling the clinician to keep up focus within the context of considerable individual and family disruption. All phases within the family therapy approach encompass assessment focus, specific intervention techniques and objectives and therapist competences needed to guarantee success.
While implementing the functional family therapy approach to the S family, the primary, phase-based objectives of the approach will be to engage and motivate, both the adolescents and the entire family by doing away with the extremely high levels of negativity; both hopelessness and blaming, which are primarily exhibited by the parents. These characteristics are detrimental to the achievement of family efficiency and overall proper communication. At this stage, as the therapist, I would make the family aware that instead of ignoring or becoming paralyzed by the extremely negative experiences, which the family brings and perceives, for instance, loss and deprivation, depression and cultural isolation and racism, functional family therapy appreciates and integrates these dominant emotional forces into positive engagement, as well as motivation via sensitivity, positive reattribution strategies and respect. The S family is one of the few Hispanic families in its vicinity. The family’s cultural and ethnic differences with the predominantly Caucasian population in its neighborhood have resulted in adverse experiences. For instance, while walking from school one day, Debbie was approached by a group of five adolescents who informed her that her kind is typically meant to be in the kitchen preparing meals for Caucasian families. This implies that some of the S family’s neighbors consider them as unworthy to reside in such a plush part of the city.
Cultural and ethnic discrimination within their society is one of the most critical problems facing Debbie and John. Adolescents typically act out whenever they encounter problems that they consider as beyond their coping capacities. The lack of effective communication in the S family has disallowed the adolescents from sharing with their parents the discrimination they encounter whenever they are away from home. Therefore, the phase-based goal of engaging and motivating will allow the adolescents to develop positive reattribution techniques, which will, in turn, enable the deal with their peers’ discriminative tendencies in an effective manner. It is clear that Debbie’s truancy and drug use is a way of acting-out; she is clearly seeking her parents’ attention. Her recent dressing style is also indicative of her need for attention, primarily from her parents. On the other hand, John’s aggressive behavior and gang affiliation is also a form of acting-out; John appears to be seeking the companionship and closeness he is evidently lacking at home.
Another critical phase-based goal of functional family therapy is behavioral change. This aims at reducing and obliterating the problematic behaviors, as well as associated family relational patterns. This will occur through interventions aimed at individualized behavior changes. In this phase, functional family therapy incorporates a robust attribution and cognitive element into systematic skill-training in the areas of problem solving, conflict management, parenting and family communication skills. This phase is perhaps the most important since it aims at doing away with the negative behaviors witnessed in the S family and replacing them with effective skills, specifically, parenting, family communication and problem solving. The effective implementation of this phase will do away with negative conduct such as blaming on the part of the parents, truancy and drug use in Debby and gang behavior such as violence in John.
The third phase-based goal is to generalize changes across the array of problem situations by enhancing the capacity of the family to make use of multi-systemic community resources in an adequate manner while at the same time engaging in relapse mitigating strategies. The objective behind this goal is to ensure that the family has received sufficient skills that will serve as a point of reference even after the culmination of the therapy program. This aims at deterring the incidence of relapse of the negative behaviors and mindsets.
From the information presented regarding the S family and its inherent problems, both on a family level and individual level affecting different members of the family, it is clear that only one assessment tool is effective; the ecogram. The ecogram refers to a graphical illustration of different systems, which play a part in the life of an individual. An econgram combines the elements of an ecomap and a genogram in order to portray systems theory in a simplistic manner, which both the therapist and clients can view during a session. In 1975, Hartman developed ecomaps or ecological maps with a view to depict the ecological systems, which encompass an individual or family. At the heart of the ecomap is the S family, which is the client. The S family is depicted at the center of the circle before additional family connections are indicated. These connections include, among others, connections from different relevant systems, which play a part in influencing the life of the clients. Therefore, the school environment of Debby and John is encompassed in the family’s ecogram in order to show a link between the adolescents and their connections with other students.
In addition, the neighborhood, which exemplifies varying degrees of bias against the Hispanic, middle-income family will also be encompassed in the family’s ecogram to demonstrate the source of a stressful relationship. The ecogram will encompass the use of different lines to show the relationship between the S family and different connections. For instance, a thick line will denote a strong relationship, a curvy line will typify a stressful relationship, arrows pointing towards the client denote the system fundamentally influences the client, arrows pointing towards the system denote that the client impacts the system and lastly, arrows that point in both directions show a dual-directional flow of influence.