Friday, May 1, 2015

Family belief systems and their impact on problem formation and treatment

● Family systems therapy uses a bio-psycho-social model that presupposes that problems originate and are sustained in the context of multiple mutually shaping systems.

● Family beliefs play out in different ways in different contexts and can be modified environmentally by interaction with caretakers.
o For example, some clients brought up with high vulnerability to stress will react to significant life events by developing particular stress-related symptoms.

● Family therapists must keep in mind both the origin of the symptoms and the family context in which they occur.

● This is addressed in part by assessing and investigating
o Biological and psychological vulnerabilities which may be involved in problem formation and the transactional processes which sustain the symptoms,
o Significant family life transitions such as births, deaths, serious illnesses, marriages, divorces which may have affected the child,
o How each family member adjusted to these transitions,
o Difficulties with transitions which may have affected the client.
o From an exploration of the client’s place within the family the therapist can assess the influence of important relationships outside the family;
■ Relationships and behavior with teachers, friends and extended family.
o Family therapy is sensitive to the impact of the family’s cultural, gender and other stereotyped belief systems and of significant life events on the development of the existing problems.
o This focus on context changes the locus of a problem from within an individual to a focal point on the individual in the social milieu.

How does the family therapist work?
Counselors must be sensitive to the family affective climate.
● A high level of negative expressed emotion such as criticism, hostility and emotional over-involvement,
● A high level of expressed or observable parental anxiety/conflict/ rage,
● The client is torn between conflicting relationships or overwhelmed by parental emotion,
● The family is responding to the client in such that problematic behaviors, negative affect states or negative cognitions are reinforced,
● The observable dynamics suggest the possibility that the client’s symptoms are serving an adaptive that is coping, function for the client or a maladaptive function for the family (e.g. scapegoating in order to displace the responsibility for some other serious family problem).