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What is a family


Cassie, a sixth grader, came to the attention of the school ... Cassie has missed 20 of the last 40 ... Cassie's father is an alcoholic and her mother ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: What is a family

What is a family?
  • For some, the family is blood-related kin
  • For some, the family is psychologically
  • For some, the family is composed of people living
    in the same house or neighborhood
  • For some, the family is a group of 2 or more
    people related by birth, marriage, or adoption
    and residing together in a household.
  • The family is more than a collection of
    individuals but instead it is a whole larger than
    (and different from) the sum of its parts!!!

Family Facts and Forecasts
  • Half the marriages this year in the U.S. will
    probably end in divorce
  • Divorce rates are likely to be higher when a
    marriage is preceded by a premarital pregnancy
  • Age of the spouses at the time of first marriage
    is highly related to the divorce rate (those
    under 20 are two to three times more likely to
    divorce than those who marry in their 20s.
  • Married couples are divorcing earlier than ever
    before (38 within four years of marriage, 50
    within seven years)
  • Because of early divorces, younger children are
    more and more likely to be affected by divorce.

Family Facts and Forecasts
  • More than one out of four children in the U.S. is
    now born to an unwed mother. The number of
    teenage unwed mothers in the US is at an all time
  • Todays unwed teenage mother is opting
    increasingly to keep her child.
  • Never-married single women--especially those over
    35, educated, and economically self-sufficient--ar
    e having children out of wedlock at an increasing
  • About one in four children live with a single
  • More than two of every three children under 6 has
    a mother who is employed outside the home.
  • More than half the people in the US have belonged
    or will belong to a stepfamily at some period in
    their lives.

Family Tasks (Harvey Wexler, 1996)
  • Daily living tasks obtaining and preparing
    food cleaning, repairing, improving family
    possessions child care and socialization of
    dependent children care for the sick and elderly
  • Family leadership functions giving direction to
    family development held by one person or shared
    over time
  • Cohesiveness-building functions developing
    family rituals and traditions, stories, secrets,
    and rules for everyday living and coping with
  • Development of a family value system setting
    expectations for family member behavior--a
    hierarchy of goals.

  • From a contemporary perspective, it no longer
    makes sense to refer to a typical American
    family. We must consider various types of
    families, with diverse organizational patterns,
    styles of living, and living arrangements. The
    idealized American nuclear family depicts a
    carefree, white family with a suburban residence,
    sole provider father, and homemaker mother. Both
    parents are dedicated to child rearing and remain
    together for life children are educated at a
    neighborhood school and attend church with their
    family on Sunday plenty of money and supportive
    grandparents are available.of course this is
    stuff of TELEVISION!!!

  • Counselors working from a systems-perspective
    view clients disturbed behavior as
    representative of a system that is faulty and not
    due to individual deficit or deficiency. The
    clients difficulties might then be viewed more
    accurately as signaling a social system in

Systems Theory
  • Family members are studied in terms of their
    interactions and not merely their intrinsic
    personal characteristics.
  • Every event within a family is multiply
    determined by all the forces operating within
    that system.
  • Circular causality emphasizes that problems are
    not the result of a linear, cause-and-effect
    process brought about by some primary factor.
    Rather, problematic behavior results from
    mistaken or dysfunctional interaction patterns
    that develop between people in a mutually
    reinforcing manner and, thereby, serve to
    maintain the problem rather than change it.

  • Family theories provide tools for expanding
    school counselors and other counselors expand
    their default thinking to include a family based

Systems Theory
  • Family members are studied in terms of their
    interactions and not merely their intrinsic
    personal characteristics.
  • Every event within a family is multiply
    determined by all the forces operating within
    that system.
  • Circular causality emphasizes that problems are
    not the result of a linear, cause-and-effect
    process brought about by some primary factor.
    Rather, problematic behavior results from
    mistaken or dysfunctional interaction patterns
    that develop between people in a mutually
    reinforcing manner and, thereby, serve to
    maintain the problem rather than change it.

Systems Theory Example
  • A female client indicated that her problem with
    shyness is that she simply is not attractive. At
    first the counselor decided to intervene with
    this client by implementing typical self-esteem
    exercises. However, upon further exploration the
    counselor realized that the clients parents have
    repeatedly indicated that she is not as pretty
    as her older sister.

Properties of Systems
  • Movement in one component of a system has an
    effect on all other components of the system
  • Systems have subsystems or microsystems that are
    affected by the larger system and vice versa.
  • Subsystems refer to groupings of people who are
    within the system yet who have relational
    boundaries that set them apart.
  • An element of a system may be affected, or
    changed, by beginning with any component of a
    system. This means that individual problems have
    various pathways along which a solution may be
    sought. This process is often referred to as

Properties of Systems
  • The boundaries within systems and subsystems are
    either enmeshed or disengaged. Boundaries
    determine who participates and how, and where the
    authority lies. Enmeshment and disengagement are
    not healthy but are merely relationship styles

Enmeshment and Disengagement
  • Enmeshment is when the boundaries are too
    permeable and family members become over-involved
    and entwined in one anothers lives (opening each
    others mail, knowing each others secrets, being
    continually attuned to each other feelings)
  • Disengagement involves overly rigid boundaries,
    with family members sharing a home but operating
    as separate units, with little interaction,
    exchange of feelings, or sense of connection to
    one another. Little support, concern, or family
    loyalty is evident in disengaged families.

Counselors who work from a family counseling or
systems perspective explore dysfunctional family
relationships and attempt to shift the balance so
that new forms of relating become possible, with
the goal of problem resolution.Counselors,
then, help families get unstuck.
Systems Theory and School CounselingA family is
in crisis. Bonnie is a 14 year old girl who is
referred to the school counselor because she is
refusing to eat. The school counselor finds out
that Bonnie is also having trouble with her peers
(even though her grades are very good). Her mom
has just been promoted and now earns more than
her husband, who is a truck driver. Husband and
wife are fighting a great deal. Bonnies mom
reports that she has come home with pot on her
breath. The parents scolded her. The parents
are very upset, however, that she is not eating.
In this Italian family, food is very important.
The counselor concludes that the more the parents
focus on Bonnie, the less tension is felt by the
parents fighting. Thus, the symptom (Bonnies
eating) emerges as the point of family crisis and
is maintained by the system.
Bowen believed that changes in the family system
impact the individual, and that changes in the
individual influence the family.
Types of Families
  • Nuclear Family represents a two generation system
    consisting of a marital couple (i.e., parental
    subsystem) or a single parent/grandparent and
    their children (i.e., the sibling subsystem).
  • Extended Family is an extended system which
    includes other generations extended in at least
    two directions, upward or downward in the family
    tree. Extended families can include aunts,
    uncles, cousins, great aunts, and second cousins.
  • Blended Family is one in which two different
    nuclear family systems join to form a new family

Carter and McGoldricks (1988)Six Stages of
Family Life Development
  • Single young adults--leaving home
  • The new couple
  • Families with young children
  • Families with adolescents
  • Launching children and moving on
  • Families in later life

  • There are developmental models for understanding
    how family units change over time. Although most
    development models have significant cultural and
    heterosexual biases, it is generally understood
    that families develop from a couple relationship
    to a family system that involves children.

Single Young Adults--Leaving Home
  • Disconnection and reconnection with ones family
    on a different level while simultaneously
    establishing ones self as a person.
  • Striking a balance between a career and/or
    marriage ambitions
  • Desire for personal autonomy
  • Overcoming internal and external pressures to

The New Couple
  • Idealization
  • Adjustment and adaptation
  • Most likely stage of divorce due to an inability
    of individuals to resolve differences
  • Greatest amount of satisfaction, too!
  • Financial and time constraints are the two main

Families with Young Children
  • Change (e.g., physical, psychological, emotional)
    associated with the arrival of child.
  • The family becomes unbalanced, at least
  • Relationships with extended family are adjusted.
  • Work/career and leisure demands are adjusted.

Families with Adolescents
  • Sandwich generation adults in these families
    often are squeezed in between taking care of
    themselves, their teenagers, and aging parents.
  • Most active and exciting times in the family
  • Families often have trouble setting limits,
    defining relationships, and taking adequate care
    of one another.
  • Tension between parents and adolescents is
    common. Reasons for tensions distinction
    between what parents want for their youngsters
    and what youngsters want for themselves, desire
    for autonomy (adolescent) influence of peer
    groups parental influence decreases
  • Parents too are experiencing change due to the
    aging process.

Children Leave Home
  • Empty nest syndrome couples without child
    rearing responsbilities.
  • The number of couples in this stage is increasing
    in the U.S.
  • Couples must rediscover each other and fun
    together. Some are unsuccessful and marriages
  • Women who have mainly defined themselves as
    mothers may experience depression, despondency,
    and divorce may occur.
  • Men may focus on their physical bodies,
    marriages, and occupational aspirations.
    Research has not focused much on men during this
    period and therefore little data is available.

The Family Later in Life
  • These families are composed of a couple who are
    in the final years of employment or who are in
    retirement (65 years and up)
  • Major concerns are finances, health,mental
    illness, and loss of spouse.
  • Psychopathology increases with age, particularly
    organic brain disease and functional disorders
    such as depression, anxiety, and paranoid states.
    Suicide also rises with age, with the highest
    rate among elderly white men.
  • Grandparenting is an advantage of the aging

Variables that Affect Life Cycle
  • Ethnicity culture and ethnic background can
    influence the life cycle and important milestones
    in a familys development. For instance,
    transitions from childhood to adulthood are
    symbolized differently among cultures.
  • Illness and/or Disability the onset, duration
    and outcome of illness or disability can disrupt
    a familys cycle.
  • Substance Abuse families of addicts are often
    stuck in a life cycle that promotes dependency of
    the young and a false sense of identity. They
    become competent within a framework of
  • Poverty families in poverty are more dependent
    on kin and are maternal-headed. Continuing
    poverty some times pushes fathers away from their

Defining the Healthy Family
  • Family roles are known to all in the family and
    may change over the course of time.
  • Degree of elasticity and adaptability in family
  • Healthy families are mature families (Satir).
    Mature families consist of parents/guardians who
    communicate clearly, directly, and honestly.
  • Healthy families develop flexible rules which
    govern family behavior, but are subject to change
  • Healthy families have well-defined hierarchies of
    power and status (Minuchin)
  • Healthy families consist of strong and satisfying
    marriages/adult relationships.

Familys Provide Maslows Hierarchy of Needs
  • Physical and life sustaining needs (need for
    food, water, air, warmth, sexual gratification,
    elimination of body wastes, and so on)
  • Physical Safety (need for protection from
    physical attack and disease)
  • Love (need to be cherished, supported, aided by
  • Self-Esteem (need to have a sense of personal
    worth and value, to respect and value ones self)
  • Self-Actualization (need to be creative and
    productive and to attain worthwhile objectives)

Levels of Family Needs
  • Level I
  • Families who need essential requisites for
    survival and well-being (food, shelter,
    protection from danger, health care, and minimums
    of nurturance)
  • Families at this level have experienced crises
    (e.g., job loss, major illness)
  • Families at this level lack leadership and
  • Families at this level have indistinct boundaries
    among members

Level I Intervention
  • Build on basic strengths and resilience
  • Focus on resources
  • Mobilize support for the parental system (e.g.,
    church groups, community agencies, extended
  • Reframe and highlight meanings in stress and
    distress (survivors pride)
  • Be an advocate, role model, convener!

Cassie, a sixth grader, came to the attention of
the school counselor after she was identified for
extensive absences. Cassie has missed 20 of the
last 40 days of school. Through the counselors
discussions with teachers and Cassie, she
discovers that Cassies family is homeless and
lives out of a station wagon parked at a nearby
park. Cassies father is an alcoholic and her
mother is disabled.What would your first
intervention be?Second intervention?Third?
Level of Family Need
  • Level II
  • Issues related to maintaining authority and
    setting limits are prominent
  • Parental subsystem is unable to set and maintain
    sufficient limits for one or more family members
  • There is either a lack of clear expectations or a
    lack of power to enforce expectations
  • Children are often out of control, acting out
  • Parents might be involved in substance abuse
  • Violence in the family may be present

Level II Intervention
  • Focus on strengths, resilience, and resources.
  • Structure meetings with families, particularly
    parents Modeling structure for parents is
  • Meet with parents consistently in order to
    develop a coalition of those in charge versus
    those in need of control.
  • Parent education (e.g., social learning skills,
    behavioral topics) and support groups could be
    helpful for these families (e.g., parents)

Joel is a 10-year old 4th grader who was referred
to the counselor for disruptive classroom
behavior (e.g., not raising his hand to speak,
pushing children, not completing class work).
Joel has also been suspended from riding the bus
because of his misbehavior. Joels mother is
single and works in D.C. The mothers boyfriend
is living temporarily with Joel and his mother.
After school, Joel is not supervised and the
mother has refused to attend parent teacher
conferences. How should the counselor
Level III
  • Rich mixture of coping mechanisms are present,
    but are often faulty or unhealthy.
  • Control in these families might be absolute, with
    little or no negotiation.
  • Issues related to clear and appropriate
    boundaries are prevalent.

Level III Interventions
  • Reshaping the internal processes of the family
  • Challenging the existing family structure and
    confront the familys tendency to remain in
    current patterns of behavior.
  • Examination of communication and power structures
    around the presenting problem may be useful.
  • Family counseling and therapy are real options
    for these families

George and Hilary have two children, George Jr.
(17) and Tasha (12). George Jr has become very
negative at home and his grades are low. His
parents fear that he is involved with drugs and a
violent group of boys. There are no concerns
about Tasha at this time. Hilary (the mom) is
quiet and is overly involved with Tasha, but
appears to be bonded with George Jr. George Sr.
(dad) is a firefighter and is rarely at home and
when he is at home, he has little contact with
the children. George Sr. and Hilarys
relationship is tension-ridden and George uses an
authoritarian style of parenting.George Sr.s
father and mother are overly involved with their
sons family. George Sr.s parents live next
door and use an authoritarian style of
communication with their son and daughter in
law.As a counselor working with this family,
what might you do?
Level IV
  • Desire for greater intimacy, greater sense of
    self, or more autonomy.
  • Goal is to live more fully and grow toward
    actualization of each members potential.
  • Issues such as inner conflicts, intimacy,
    self-realization, insight, and spiritual
    yearnings are the focus.

Level IV Interventions
  • Genograms extending over three or four (or more)
    generations are useful to highlight
    transgenerational patterns.
  • Family sculpting
  • Narrative interventions and rewriting ones story
  • Object relations therapy (psychoanalytic) for
    those who want more insight into patterns.
  • Focus on values, meanings, and spirituality.
    Referrals to church-related counseling centers
    might be appropriate.

Kelly R., a married mother of 2 children (10th
and 12 grade) at your school, comes to your
office to discuss her sons college aspirations.
During your conference with the mother, she
reports that her mother passed away last year and
she has not been herself. Reading between the
lines, you realize that she seems despondent and
depressed. She admits that she is afraid of
her son leaving home for college and that she is
in need of restructuring her life.
  • Discuss this client in terms of intervention

(No Transcript)
Focus on strengths rather than deficits and focus
on solutions rather than problems!!!
Intervention Choices
  • Behavioral/Interactional Choices what people
    do, their actions, etc. Social skills training
    and strategic/structural activities may be used.
  • Experiential Choices makes use of cognition,
    affect, communication, and interpersonal
    relationships. Individual, group, or family
    counseling may be used.
  • Historical Choices what happened in the past.
    Family of origin work and psychodynamic methods
    are used. Psychotherapy may be used.

Major Concepts of the Ecosystems Perspective
(Germain Gitterman, 1995)
  • Reciprocal Exchanges transactions between the
    person and his/her environment these
    transactions shape and influence each other over
  • Life Stress positive or negative
    person-environment relationship
  • Coping special adaptations that are made in a
    response to stress.
  • Habitat where a person or family lives
  • Niche the result of ones accommodation to the
    environment refers to the status that is
    occupied by a member of the community
  • Relatedness based on attachment theory refers
    to emotional closeness or isolation
  • Adaptations changing the environment to allow
    for meeting the physical and psychological needs
    of an individual or family

Family Systems View Key Assumptions
  • Wholeness change in one part of system will
    cause change in other parts
  • Feedback families are regulated by feedback
    loops or inputs from family members
  • Equifinality the same result may be reached
    from different beginnings
  • Circular Causality systems are constantly
    modified by recursive circular feedback from
    multiple sources within and outside of the system.

Social Constructionist Metatheory
  • Relativism regarding all meanings there is no
    realitymeanings are constructed by
  • Emphasis is on meanings rather than actions from
    expertise to collaboration from diagnosis to
    problems to mutual creation of solutions
  • Nonhierarchical relationships in family are OK.

Partnering with Families and Communities
  • Difference between professional learning
    community and school learning community.
  • Professional learning community emphasizes the
    teamwork of principals, teachers, staff, (or
    agency director, counselors, staff) to improve
    curriculum and instruction, assess student
    progress and increase effectiveness.
  • School learning community includes educators,
    students, parents, and community partners
    (stakeholders) who work together to improve the
    school and enhance students learning

Partnering with Families and Communities
  • One component of a school learning community is
    an organized program of school, family, and
    community partnerships with activities linked to
    school goals. These programs, research shows,
    increase student achievement, strengthen
    families, invigorate community support, and
    improve schools.

Six Types of Involvement
  • Parenting
  • Communicating
  • Volunteering
  • Learning at Home
  • Decision Making
  • Collaborating with the Community

Action Teams
  • Create an Action Team
  • Obtain funding and other support
  • Identify starting points
  • Develop 3 year outline and a one year action plan
  • Continue planning and working

Community Partners
  • Businesses/Corporations
  • Universities
  • Health Care Organizations
  • Government and Military Agencies
  • Volunteer Organizations
  • Faith Based Organizations
  • Senior Citizens Organizations
  • Cultural Institutions
  • Community Individuals

Mandatory Knowledge and Skills Necessary for
Culturally Competent Work With Families
(Pinderhughes, 1989)
  • Knowledge of specific values, beliefs, and
    cultural practices of families
  • The ability to respect and appreciate the values,
    beliefs, and practices of all families.
  • The ability to be comfortable with difference in
    others and thus not to be trapped in anxiety
    about difference or defensive behavior.
  • The ability to control and even change false
    beliefs, assumptions, and stereotypes.
  • The ability to think flexibly and to recognize
    that ones own way of thinking and behaving is
    not the only way.
  • The ability to behave flexibly. Be ready to
    engage in the extra steps required to sort
    through general knowledge about a cultural group
    and to see the specific ways in which knowledge
    applies or does not apply to a given client.

Interventions for High Risk Families
  • Engagement
  • Support and Strengths Inventory
  • Nurturing the Family
  • Role Modeling
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Advocacy

Process of Family Intervention
  • Pre-Planning Tasks initial contact made by
    counselor gather essential information (e.g.,
    name, address, phone number, email, statement of
    problem) counselor should be supportive, caring,
    talks in a manner that conveys respect and
  • Initial Session
  • Join the family establish a sense of trust
  • Inquire about members perceptions of the family
    and its problems
  • Observe family patterns (i.e., family dance)
    What is the outward appearance of the family?
    What is the cognitive functioning in the family?
    What repetitive, non-productive sequences do you
    notice? What individual roles reinforce family
    resistances? What subsystems are operative in
    this family? Who carries the power?
  • Assess What Needs To Be Done
  • Engender Hope for Change and Overcome Resistance

Types of Family Interventions
  • Structural
  • Strategic
  • Solution-Focused
  • Narrative
  • Systemic
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