We future practitioner. A genogram is a pictorial

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We live our lives through our relationships. Research continuously
highlights what matters most to individuals is close relationships, more
specifically the family relationship/bond ranks higher than anything else
(Layard, 2011).


Family Therapy aims to help individuals in close relationships support
each other. It supports families and others who care about each other to
understand each other’s individual experiences and views. Therefore allowing
them to appreciate each other’s needs to make beneficial changes in their
relationships and their lives. Individuals also use family therapy as a helpful
opportunity to reflect and strengthen important relationships.  (“What is family
therapy? – AFT”, 2017)


Our individual sense of wellbeing and who we are as people are
intimately connected with our relationships. When relationships don’t provide
what we need, we lose our sense of security and confidence in the individual
that we are. When relationships breakdown or a divide occurs psychological
process come to operate often not in full awareness of the individual, causing
the individual to experience psychological distress. When family therapists perceive
someone in psychological distress they look for ways that current relationships
could adapted to help the individual. Even when circumstances have a clear
biological basis, psychological and relationship difficulties can have a real
impact on levels of distress and the likelihood of relapse.

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Relationship problems are usually best treated by meeting with
those in the relationships, this can mean working with a couple, all members of
the family or the household together. Its suggested therapy carried out within
relational systems such as families is so effective that it’s often not
required to understand where a problem/distress came from e.g. depression, it’s
important to understand what is preventing the problem from being resolved (Carr,
Systemic therapists will often prefer to work with as many people in the close
network of the relationships whether this is the family members that live
together or a wider network, for example grandparents.


Systemic family therapy has developed over the past 60 years to
the point we now have a varied collection of highly effective methods that a
family therapist can use to meet the needs of each specific client and family.
Car (2016) suggests; ‘Family therapy helps about two out of three families,’
Furthermore highlighting the effectiveness of the therapy.


Family therapy uses a range of counselling and other techniques, in this essay I am going to
focus on genograms, the family life cylce and narrative therapy. I will discuss
how these different techniques have challenged and confirmed my views of my own
family system, and how this will affect me as a future practitioner.


A genogram is a pictorial display of an
individual’s family relationships highlighting patterns of behaviour over several generations, medical history is also
included order to assess a family member’s risk of developing disease (“Definition
of GENOGRAM”, 2017). It goes beyond a traditional family tree by permitting the person to visualize hereditary
patterns and psychological factors that punctuate relationships (Froom, Jolly
& Rosen, 1980). It can be used to detect repetitive patterns of
behaviour and to recognize hereditary tendencies (Friedman, Krakauer,
& Rohrbaugh, 1988). Genograms have been found to be a very effective and beneficial
technique that can help improve the therapeutic relationship (Paradopoulos,
Bor & Stanion, 1997).


Creating my own genogram was a very thought-provoking way to
discover things I wasn’t aware of about my family and to understand the
conflicts and bonds within my family system. Personally, I found the use of a
genogram eye opening and challenging at times. This technique has challenged my
view on my own family as I considered links between family members and
mental/physical health patterns, learning new pieces of information that made
me question my own behaviour patterns and how these might affect me in the long
run. Through the exploration of my genogram I learned that a lot of my family
members on my mother’s side of the family suffer from mental illness,
depression being most common. This has highlighted for me the importance of
taking care of my mental health along with physical health as research has
found first degree relatives of individuals
that suffer from depression are nearly three times more likely to develop a
major depressive disorder (Lesch, 2004). In contrast to this, the use of a genogram has also confirmed some
of my idea as of my family unit like traditional family values and beliefs. An
example of this is how the tradition of weekly Sunday dinners and catholic family
values is still evident through my genogram generation after generation.  


As a future practitioner I can see how the use of a genogram would
be very beneficial to me as it allows me to see a full detailed picture of an
individual’s life. This would allow me to highlight positive and negative
patterns of behaviour understanding the individual more therefore improving the
therapeutic relationship. However in contrast to this, I can also see how this
this technique maybe be very time consuming, consequently not allowing time for
other useful systemic techniques that may benefit the family too. It may also
be hard for clients to complete genograms as it may bring upon thoughts and
feelings about certain areas of the family that cause the individual distress,
therefore making their issues worse not better.


Another technique used in family therapy is narrative therapy, this is a form of psychotherapy that seeks to support individuals to
identify their values, skills and knowledge they have so they can effectively
confront whatever problems they face. The narrative
therapist focuses upon assisting people to create stories about
themselves and their identities which are helpful to them. Through the
procedure of identifying the history of values in individual’s lives, the
therapist is able to co-author a new story about the individual.  The
narrative method allows individuals to recognise values that are significant to
them and how they could use their own knowledge and skills to live these values
(Brown & Augusta-Scott, 2007). The approach aims to avoid modernist,
essentialist ideas of the self that lead individuals to believe there is a
biologically determined true self. Instead, identity, seen as primarily social,
can be changed according to the choices people make (White, 2015). The person is not the problem, the problem is the problem (White &
Epston, 1990).  The therapist’s goal is to implement a collaborative
therapeutic approach instead of trying to impose ideas upon individuals by
giving them advice.  Therefore by adopting a position of curiosity and
collaboration, this allows the therapist to give the implicit message that the
individuals already acquire the knowledge and skills to solve the problems they
face. When individuals cultivate answers to their own problems on the foundation
of their own beliefs and values, this results in the individual becoming more
committed to implementing these solutions they have constructed themselves (Gaddis,2016).


For me, I found this approach to systemic therapy confirmed my own
ideas of family life as it supports my thoughts that each individual’s narrative shapes the way they relate and
develop relationships with others. I can see how this approach is used in my
own family system as it has been instilled in me to believe we all have the
ability to find solutions to our own problems using our own ideas and beliefs
of life. I have been brought up to believe that we are in control of our own
life and it is important to use our own initiative when problems arise, such as
conflict at home or with friends.  However
it is important to remember that these narratives are also influenced by social
norms, individual expectations and beliefs held at various different levels for
each unique individual.


As a future practitioner I can see how narrative therapy may be
very beneficial to individuals as they get an opportunity to take charge of
their own lives and decide how and what they will do to make positive changes.
This form of therapy is empowering to the client as they are in control and
have the power to act on their own moral values and beliefs in order to take
charge of their future and re-connect with others mending broken relationships.
Seeing a problem
objectively helps families to reconnect with the heart of their relationship,
therefore addressing the ways in which the problem has challenged that core
strength. Narrative
therapy can help a person better understand his or her experience of life and
gain personal agency for addressing problem scenarios in the future.


in contrast to this the individual is assumed to be sure of the path they want
to take in life, therefore the therapist has to fully rely on what is present
by the individual.  In a way the
individual acts as a source to their problems, this may be an issue as the
individual may lose thrust in the therapist due to the appearance of the roles
being reversed. Whereas the role of the therapist is usually to provide the
individual with knowledge and guidance and now it’s the client that plays this
role. Therefore the competence and ability of the therapist may be called into
question by the individual.


The family cycle has been promoted as a framework for
understanding family development since the early 1930’s (Norton, 1983). Hill
and Duvall developed the normative family life cycle in the 1960s, which has
formed a basis for subsequent life cycle conceptualisation (Erickson, 1998) and
re-conceptualisation (Bures, 2009). This development of the family life cycle provides framework for capturing some of the key developmental tasks of
families that can identify some of the stressors that families may experience
when moving through life, therefore may bring them to family therapy. The theory
of the family life cycle was developed in order to chart some of the major transitions
in family life, such as birth of children, children leaving home and bereavements.
 Dallos and Draper (2010), suggest families need to make changes at these critical transitional points, these may
include changing the family structure,
beliefs or family dynamics. Carr 2009 suggests, although difficulties
may be presented as psychological distress in an individual child, any effect
of transitions could be indirect.


Personally I can relate to the family life cycle as it has been a
key aspect in my family life from an early age effecting my family
relationships at different times. One of the most difficult stages for my
family would be considered the ‘launching adult children’ stage of the family life
cycle. When myself and my sister both moved out of our family home to go to
university, my mother found this very difficult to adjust too. This was a
difficult stage for my parents to adjust to as they are forced to develop new
daily routines that do not revolve around the needs of their children. Individually
I have yet to enter into many of the stages of the family cycle, however experiencing
different stages of the cycle growing up I can see how many aspects of the
cycle can relate to my family and understand how and why my family was effected
in different ways at the time of each event.  As a result of my own experiences I think it’s
important to learn the appropriate skills in order to deal with each life event
that will occur. If you do not move through each phase with
the appropriate attitude and skills, problems may arise that affects your
family members in different ways causing disconnect.  


As a future practitioner I can see the befits of using the family
life cycle approach, as it is clear how problems may arise at different stages
for family members that have not learnt the sufficient skills to cope or handle
these situation’s, therefore leading to problems arising e.g. Guilt, anger,
depression and anxiety. Therefore it is important to address the issue causing
the family distress so the therapist and families can work together to solve
the issues together. The family life cycle model may be a useful addition to
psychological models for theoretical understanding and clinical case conceptualisation.
I can see how
this approach could be very useful as  transitions
may require change and restructuring, they may be usefully examined as
potential precipitating factors in case conceptualisation across various psychological
models (Winters et al., 2007).  Therefore
supporting the view the family cycle model may be useful as a future practitioner.


In conclusion, we can see there are particularly diverse systemic approaches that have
developed since the 1950’s and it is evident how systemic family therapy has advanced in order
to meet the needs of the families who come for therapy. The importance of
understanding psychological issues in the context of social relationships, is a
key feature of all the approaches included in systemic family therapy (Boston,
2000). Family
therapy has been proven to be very effective for couples and families effected
by a range of issues, from relationship breakdowns to mental health problems
(Carr, 2009).

Family therapists are curious individuals that have broken down a
number of taboos in society.  They
practise openness, direct observation of therapy, give live supervision, sharing
experiences treating people as unique individuals not clients. These qualities
are what makes family therapy as effective as the individuals get to build a
deep therapeutic relationship with the therapist (Dallos & Draper, 2010). It
is also important to recognise how the variety of approaches within family
therapy should all be considered differently depending the issues individuals
and families may face. A collaboration of techniques may be best at different
times during family therapy session to best help improve relationships. 

Categories: Family Members


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