Category Archives: Family

Marriage & Family Therapy Involves Familes

When speaking of ‘Family Therapy’ we are talking about evaluating the system of relationships that surround a person or a couple.  That system begins with the individual and expands outward.  Over a family life cycle the dynamics of those relationships can stay the same at various levels while changing at other levels.  It is in the transitions in relationships that problems can occur.

Most families develop some type of coping mechanism as family members…and their relationships…change over time.  But on occasion there are times when families get stuck.

When the focus is on the family as a system the Marriage and Family Therapist begins looking for patterns, perceptions, and beliefs on a relational level that, when addressed, can begin the process of altering the entire family system so that everyone shares in the responsibility for change and maturity.

So, it’s not uncommon for a Marriage and Family Therapist to invite the entire family unit  for the first session.  This way he or she can observe the family, tentatively diagnose the problem and begin talking about treatment alternatives with the family.  Afterwards the therapist may meet with the family at other times or he or any one person or with various combinations of family members.   In solution-focused, brief marriage and family therapy, the therapist works with the family to establish a goal in the first or second session so that everyone will know when the goal is achieved.

At Southshore Counseling, LLC, there are no charges for the first session.  This allows time for the family to determine their comfort level with the therapist.  The key is that Family therapy focuses on the family dynamics of the system, not the disease or problems of the individual.  It does not assign blame but does place emphasis upon personal responsibility for change.  It is goal-directed so we all know when we are done.

Family therapy represents a breath of fresh air to the mental health professions that provides a tested and proven alternative to more traditional approaches.

Marriage & Family Therapy With Children

As a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist I am often asked if I see children and teens in my practice.  The answer is yes; but, not in the traditional sense.

In Family Therapy, the first few sessions of psychotherapy with a child or adolescent will also involve meeting with either or both parents and their siblings.  The therapist’s task is to consult with the family to assess their unique interactional patterns, to define the problem and to specify the goals and objectives of therapy.

During the assessment phase someone in the family describes the problem.  The Family Therapist may bring the whole family together for a session.  He or she may also meet individually with other family members based upon the belief that  a child’s problem or adolescent’s behavior is best viewed in the context of the interaction patterns between family members.

During the process of goal formation these communication patterns are important.  First, they contribute to the psychological health of the family and, second, they clarify the dynamics of the problem as defined by the family.

Finally, drawing upon the strengths and wisdom of the family the therapist works within the interactional patterns to help bring about a solution to the problem.  Therapy is concluded when the goal that the family identified is achieved.

This emphasis upon the family system as opposed to focusing exclusively on the individual sets family therapy apart from more traditional approaches.  In the end, this approach makes sense as key members of the family are engaged with and invested in change for the better that will last beyond the therapy sessions into everyday life.

‘Chronicle’ as a Metaphor for Adolescent Anger and Restraint

Our youngest daughter showed us a trailer for a new movie named ‘Chronicle.’  She was fascinated with this newest adolescent X-men styled release; I was fascinated by the metaphorical message about adolescence.

From the very beginning we all struggle to have power over our personal space and the people who move in and out of it.  From infancy through the various stages of the life cycle, we all struggle to have power over our personal space.

During the transition from childhood to adolescence, this struggle for power takes on a new dimension.  The child begins to realize that he does have power over those who have, heretofore, exercised commanding power over him or her.  Explosive rage can be extremely effective in helping the adults around back off because this kid is now capable of doing some serious damage if unchecked.

It is at this stage that parenting skills need to go through a signifiant transition.  The natural reaction to raging children is to rage back at them to bring them back in line.  When the child retreats the adult concludes that this must be an effective tool for controlling extreme behavior.

The mistake is significant at two levels.  First, intimidation and the assertion of power through explosive rage is being taught and learned at the same time.   Second, because a respected person is using it as a tool for managing others the child may accept this as a reasonable response to inappropriate behavior.  It is not.

After seeing the movie it did, indeed, depict teens who have a new found power that came to them from outer space…a meteor or spaceship…it didn’t really matter in the story.  Discovering that they can use their new-found power to do all kinds of things they now must exercise their ability to control it…if they are able.  Will they use it to benefit those around them?  Or will they use it for to satisfy their hunger for dominance over their surroundings?

In the end, isn’t this really the struggle of the every person who has come to realize that he or she now has physical power that can reinforce their desire for dominance ?  For all of us, the challenge is to learn to master and control our anger, expressing it in more appropriate ways to bring about the best possible good for all concerned.

At the end of the movie trailer the question is asked: “what are you capable of?”

Perfect.

For families coping with anger and rage, the answer is, “A lot.”

For more information about the Effect of Anger on Families check out the website of the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy under Consumer Updates.

A Morning Person

I used to think I would never become a morning person.  Actually, I used to be one back in Junior High school.  College changed all of that for me.  Late nights cramming or playing hands of ‘Rook’ would keep me going until the wee hours of the morning.

Late nights seemed productive for me over the years and, certainly, a great deal of work was done while everyone else in my house was sleeping.  As in all good things, however, there came a time when I needed to change and so, I decided to become a morning person.

The transition was not as difficult as I had convinced myself that it would be over the years.  It began with a trip to Finland and the jet lag challenge that comes with returning home.  Instead of fighting it, however, I chose to go with it and I crashed in bed, first thing.  Waking up at 4 am I got up, dressed for the gym and started the routine that has continued to today, more than 3 years later.

Now Pam is the night owl and I’m ready for bed by 9:30 in the evening.   She gets to greet the kids when they come home at night…come to think of it, being a morning person does have its advantages.

Family Life: My Dad’s Bible

Dad’s Bible

During a recent visit with my family in Searcy I found one of my dad’s Bibles that I knew he had used in Finland.  It is obvious that he had read it cover-to-cover.  It is pretty worn and frazzled with a couple of pages falling out.

There are the pencil highlights that verify his journey through every page.  Hardly a page in his Bible escaped a note or a pencil underline.

Then there are the pages folded over to mark special passages that he could turn to easily and that he did not want to forget.  One of those passages jumped out at me this afternoon.  Not only was it folded over; I also discovered one of my old business cards tucked in the fold of the page!  The passage is in Isaiah 1 verses 13 through 17.  It reads:

Stop bringing meaningless offerings
  Your incense is detestable to me.
New Moons, Sabbaths and convocations–
  I cannot bear your evil assemblies.
Your New Moon festivals and your appointed feasts
  my soul hates.
They have become a burden to me;
   I am weary of bearing them.
 

Later, God says,

Stop doing wrong,
  learn to do right!
Seek justice,
  encourage the oppressed.
Defend the cause of the fatherless,
  plead the case of the widow. (NIV)
 

Reading this passage reminded me that my dad has always made a point of showing me his religion.  A man of few words, dad rarely lectured me on the truths of scripture.  What he has always done is illustrate the Word of God with his life with a consistency that still causes me to marvel, setting a standard that I still aspire to achieve.