Family therapy is a form of psychotherapy employed to assist members of a family in improving communication systems, conflict resolution and to help the family deal with certain problems that manifest in the behavior of members. In most cases, deviance in a family member is an indication of underlying family dysfunctions (Corey, 2013). This paper looks at the counseling procedure that can be applied to help the Kline family solve its problems. It answers certain questions including questions on the expected challenges during therapy and ways of dealing with these challenges.
What are your initial reactions after reading the intake interview? What are the themes that interest you the most in this case? Why?
From the intake interview, I can already see some budding problems in the Kline family besides Gary’s. Just by going through the interview, I can decipher that Gary’s behaviors are a symptom of a bigger problem in the family. One of the causes of Gary’s problem is probably a lack of adequate father-son time due to his father’s busy schedule. The mother’s alcohol addiction is probably another contributing factor to Gary’s behavior.
Another theme evident in this case is the dysfunctional patterns of communication that exist in the family. The family does not seem to have properly laid down ways of communicating and resort to blaming games. George blames Gail for most of the family problems while singling out Jessie and Garry, and praising Jaimi. There is also an apparent feeling of inferiority portrayed by Gary who does not feel good enough in his father’s eyes.
How would you proceed as a family therapist in an initial session if you saw the entire family? What issues would you want to discuss with this family at the first meeting?
In the first session, after introductions, each member of the Kline family would be offered an opportunity to voice their worries while other family members listened. The counselor would ask questions to clarify and summarize the family’s concerns. Subsequently, I would answer any questions and address any concerns raised by the family about the therapy process. I would also assist in laying down parental authority and a sense of impartiality among the children. This would reinstate equilibrium in the family and motivate all members to participate in the therapy.
Each family member would be taught the importance of listening to the issues raised by other members of the family. This would lay down the foundation for future sessions. I would also coach the members of the Kline household on how to provide suitable feedback on issues raised by other family members. The session would also entail a discussion of the expectations of each family member.
George does not seem very open to looking at his role in contributing to the problems within his family. If you were to see him as your client, how would you go about establishing a relationship with him?
The resistance of certain clients to group therapy is among the many challenges that therapists commonly face (Corey, 2013). George seeks to detach himself from the problem and sees his role in the family as that of a saint. Being the apparent head of the family, his cooperation in the therapy sessions is very important. Using his role as an authority figure, he should be reminded that authority has to be accompanied by responsibility rather than apportioning blame. For him to take the initiative in the therapy, George ought to be given the responsibility of ensuring that all family members attend counseling sessions on time.
If you believed in the value of seeing the family as a unit for one or more sessions, how might you go about getting the entire family to come in? Assume that all agreed to attend one session. What would be your focus, and what would you most want to achieve in this family session?
Family therapy often requires the participation of the entire family in at least some of the sessions since the problem depicted in one of the family members could have its roots in the family dynamics (Corey, 2013). It is not easy to get all members to attend all the therapy sessions due to different commitments and variations in the schedule. However, it is important to indicate to the Kline family the value of their presence in these sessions for the recovery of Gary and for better relationships in the family.
If all the family members agreed to attend even one session together, I would use that session to resolve the underlying issues in the family and their relationship to Gary’s problem. In that session, every family member would be given an opportunity to voice their concerns as other family members listen. The session would be focused on establishing the relationships in the family and family communication channels. Issues of blame would also be addressed so that certain members of the family were not made to shoulder the blame for all family dysfunctions. The session would lay the foundation for other sessions that would not involve the entire family’s participation.
What are the key dynamics of the family as a system? What does the family atmosphere seem like?
Family dynamics is employed in reference to family communication systems, roles, dysfunctions, and structure (Corey, 2013). The structure of the Kline family comprises five people. George is the caretaker who tends to the needs of all the family members. He takes on the role of the responsible and blameless member. Gail (the mother) is the scapegoat who shoulders responsibility for all the family problems. She is even blamed for Gary’s run-ins with the law. Jessie is the family mascot. According to her father, she is a ‘spoilt brat with a bleak future.’ Gary is the lost child who needs help according to the father. He responds to isolation from his family and retaliates with deviant behavior. The Kline family atmosphere is tense and lacks open communication and expression of feelings.
Do you see any aspects of yourself in this case? Can you identify with any of the family members? How do you think this similarity or dissimilarity would help or hinder you in working with this family?
This case reminds me of my family situation, where one member of the family is made to carry the responsibility of others’ problems. In a certain way, Gary reminds me of myself as I was growing up. I always felt like an outsider in my family. The empathy offered by the fact that I can relate to the problems that the family is going through will improve my ability to understand the predicament that the family faces. Nevertheless, I have to be careful not to take the therapy sessions personally.
Show how you would work with this family, and discuss any problems that you might expect to encounter. Say how you would deal with these problems.
In this case, I would use a humanistic approach, which is an active type of therapy. All household members would be given tasks and assignments to complete during and between sessions. The family would be assisted to set goals and work towards achieving the goals by the end of the sessions. Timelines for achieving the goals would also be set. During the counseling sessions, the strengths of the family members would be employed in assisting them to deal with their problems. All members of the Kline family would be asked to shoulder equal responsibility for the family’s problems.
I foresee some challenges in convincing George to participate in the sessions. He seems to absolve himself of any blame for the problems in the family. As the Kline family counselor, I need to convince George that his role as a figure of authority is reflected in the successes and the dysfunctions of the family. Jaimi is also reluctant to participate since she believes that she has no part in the problems. Jaimi can be convinced to participate in the sessions by asking both parents to talk to her. Another major challenge is Gary’s apparent involuntariness. Gary seems to want to attend the sessions only because he has been instructed by the court. He sees family therapy and individual counseling as two evils, of which he has to choose one. Gary needs to willingly participate in the sessions for the therapy to bear fruit.
Family therapy is an important way of solving problems affecting family members. It demands the participation of the entire family in some of the sessions. Though working with the Kline family is likely to present its set of challenges, the challenges are not unique and are part and parcel of counseling.
Corey, G. (2013). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (9th ed.). Belmont: Wadsworth.