Topic 2: The Structure and Role of Families {by 9/19}

There are three readings due this week – Text Chapters 1, 3 & 14.  Due to the nature of the chapter content, the theme of the discussion content will be very broad.  Simply identify and explain at least one theme from each chapter you found relevant to your role as a therapist working within family systems.  Your original post should be posted by the beginning of class 9/19.  Have your two replies no later than 9/21.  *Please remember to click the “reply” button when posting a reply.  This makes it easier for the reader to follow the blog postings.

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36 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kirsten Chirichetti
    Sep 16, 2013 @ 23:41:32

    One of the major themes in chapter one of Walsh’s (2003) Normal Family Processes was identifying a conceptualization of the “normal family.” According to Walsh (2003), “normality” is a subjective term that is socially constructed by one’s culture and world-views. For this reason, many psychologists are hesitant to use the term since in many societies normality has been constructed by dominant groups and used to pathologize others who do not fit the ideal standards. In addition, the definition of a “normal” family is also problematic because it can mean or refer to a variety of different concepts, processes, or frames of reference. Based on this subjectivity, four perspectives have be used to clarify the conception of a “normal family” including (1) normal as asymptomatic, (2) normal as typical, average; (3) normal as ideal, and (4) normal in relation to systematic transactional processes (Walsh, 2003). After reviewing these different perspectives, I found the fourth conceptualization of the “normal family” (i.e., in relation to systematic transactional processes) the most relevant to my role as a therapist working within a family systems framework. Unlike the other three “normal family” perspectives, the normal family processes conceptualization looks at typical and optimal functioning in terms of basic processes of human systems, dependent on an interaction of biopsychosocial variables. In this way, this perspective looks at the ongoing processes in the family over time, as opposed to static, fixed traits (Walsh, 2003). In addition, this perspective takes into account the multiple influences that influence the child and family functioning. There is not a 1:1 correlation between individual and family health/dysfunction; instead biological vulnerabilities and larger social influences are also taken into consideration. Thus successful family functioning is contingent on the fit or compatibility between the family, its individual members, and other social systems (Walsh, 2003). As a therapist working with a child within a family system, it would be important for me to keep this perspective of the “normal family” in mind during treatment. Instead of focusing on family abnormalities, norms, or societal family ideals, it is imperative for a therapist in family’s system perspective to gain an understanding of the client’s family’s pattern of interactions, especially their internal norms and rules. By identifying the small rules that are unique to each family, the therapist can begin to understand the family’s expectations about each member’s roles, actions, and consequences and any discrepancies that exist. Furthermore, recognizing and pinpointing the larger social influences (i.e., neighborhood, economy) that are both positively and negatively impacting the family is also critical to helping them in treatment. Through this systems framework of a “normal family,” I can help my client and his or her family by creating interventions that develop more effective coping techniques, problem-solving strategies, and greater flexibility in dealing with stressors, by building of their unique internal family processes and external social systems.

    A major theme that was described in chapter three of Walsh’s (2003) text was the complex relationship that exists between work and family stress. Although several studies have demonstrated connections between perceived work pressure and increased experience of conflict among multiple family roles and commitments, these relationships are not simple or direct (Crouter, Bumpus, Maguire, & McHale, 1999, as cited in Walsh, 2003). A number of variables moderate the relationship between work stressors and family life including but not limited to perception of work-family conflict, worker emotional distress, worker fatigue, number of children, parenting style, etc. It is critical for a therapist in a family systems framework to consider these moderating factors because without them stress transfer is unlikely to occur. As noted in a study by Perry-Jenkins & colleagues (2000), the link between work distress and family outcome is only observed when job stressors cause distress within the individual (i.e., emotional distress, fatigue, sense of conflict between work and family roles, or role overload) (as cited in Walsh, 2003). In this way, in order for a therapist to understand the conflicting relationship between these two systems, it is necessary for him or her to gain knowledge of the subjective perspective of the individual, looking at the variables that they believe are influencing the person’s overall well-being and health. In addition, the link between work stress and family outcomes is not one-sided, but rather bidirectional and recursive. For example, a husband’s intensive job demands may limit his availability to share responsibilities in family life, making his wife feel overwhelmed and resentment about carrying his portion of the household work. The wife’s resentment, in turn, causes marital problems and distress, which the husband brings back to the workplace, decreasing his focus and efficiency at work (Walsh, 2003). As a therapist working within a family system, it is important to consider this bidirectional relationship between work and family stressors. By gaining an understanding of how these different stressors negatively impact various areas of an individual’s life, the therapist can work with the family to make positive changes in both the home and the workplace.

    In chapter fourteen of Walsh’s (2003) textbook, a major theme that was discussed concerned the development of symptoms and pathology within the family life cycle. Every person is born into a family and his or her problems are framed by the course of his or her family’s past, the present tasks the family is trying to master, and the future to which it aspires to be. As individuals move through their family life cycles, stress is often greatest during transition points from one stage to another (Walsh, 2003). During these transition points, family members often try to rebalance, redefine, and realign their relationships with one another. In addition, research has found that emotional issues and developmental tasks not resolved at appropriate family stages will be carried along as hindrances in future transitions and relationships (Carter & McGoldrick, 1999, as cited in Walsh, 2003). As a therapist working with a client and his/her family in a family systems framework, it is important that the counselor assesses not only the dynamics of the current family life cycle, but also the how these dimensions connect to family themes that have come down in the family over historical time. In order to help the family with their current concerns and move forward in the future, the counselor must identify and resolve the difficulties that the family has had in the past. Moreover, it is also imperative that the therapist educates and provides the family’s members with the skills necessary to successfully navigate transitions effectively. These skills may include emotion regulation, coping, and problem-solving techniques. By presenting the members of the family with these skills, they can work together towards managing the transitions that occur within the family life cycle, improving their health and well-being.

    Reply

    • Katrina Mitchell
      Sep 22, 2013 @ 02:29:08

      Kirsten,
      A part of your reply stuck out to me most in accordance with my reply: “During these transition points, family members often try to rebalance, redefine, and realign their relationships with one another.” I found this specific part to be significant because from my perspective I typically consider the individual and their own independent development rather than the development of two or more people as they relate to one another within a family during a transition period. From your description, I see my clients who are sisters attempting to rebalance and realign their relationships with one another as they experience their parents’ divorce. While the oldest sister seems to comprehend the divorce the most and seems to be the most emotionally affected by it, I watch as the youngest attempts to comfort her yet is confused by her behavior. It is observably difficult for the oldest to balance her relationship with her younger sister because she realizes that her younger sister doesn’t have quite the same experience as her during this transition.

      Reply

  2. Julianna Aguilar
    Sep 17, 2013 @ 21:20:21

    In Chapter One, I found the issue of viewing the nuclear family as the optimal model in which to raise a family to be increasingly relevant to working within family systems. When parents express concern about their family dynamics, the situations they often cite as problematic are ones that deviate from that family model. This constant strive to be a nuclear family can leave parents and other family members feeling as though they have failed as a unit. Walsh (2003) notes, “myths of the ideal family compound the sense of deficiency and failure for families in transition even when they don’t fit emerging needs and challenges” (p. 20). The stress caused to families by the belief that they must fit this mold reaffirms the importance of therapists addressing each family as a unique unit with specific challenges to overcome. In that sense, the therapist plays a key role in educating parents about the diversity within and between families, and that functionality can be achieved in a variety of ways.

    Chapter Three highlights numerous important points about the nature of dual-earner families. Namely, Walsh’s (2003) explanation of the benefits of a more balanced work-life relationship for both partners, as opposed to the benefits of choosing one over the other, seems to be particularly pertinent to working within family systems. That is, it appears to be more beneficial to consider the benefits of both partners taking on multiple roles (e.g., work or family) as opposed to having to choose between those roles. Classic examples are mothers feeling they have to choose to give up the traditional parenting role to let either their partner or child care services be the primary care-taker, and fathers potentially giving up their more traditional role as the “breadwinner” to spend more time with their children. Instead of choosing one dominant role, both parents can benefit physically, mentally, and in their relationships with their partners by combing multiple roles into their lifestyle. Therefore, it is important that therapists stress to parents the importance of considering taking on multiple roles in moderation, if feasible, as opposed to choosing one over another.

    Finally, Chapter Fourteen emphasizes understanding the family as a dynamic, constantly evolving, and overlapping unit. I found the notion of how different family units move through time to be particularly interesting. Walsh (2003) states that “therapy involves restoring a sense of life as a process and movement from one state toward another” (p. 378). This concept is applicable in many cases being that families can often be drawn to or forced into therapy as the result of one major life event (e.g., divorce). Though major stressors should not be discounted by any means, it is important for the therapist to frame the stressor as part of a larger transformation of the family system over time. When the family focuses on the one particular stressor and allows it to negatively define the unit, the members can become overtaken by the event which can lead to extreme emotional distress. If the therapist is able to help the family understand the event in the context of the family’s entire life cycle, the unit will likely be better able to develop strategies to cope with that particular stressor as well as future stressors.

    Reply

    • Kristina Glaude
      Sep 19, 2013 @ 16:06:59

      Julianna:
      I thought your ideas of how the parents take on multiple roles as an interesting way of looking at the family role. I agree I don’t think that it has to be one or the other but rather some of one and some of another. I think that there has to be a balance that is found within the family and with that said it can’t always be one of the parents doing everything. It truly works the best if the strengths of both the parents are capitalized on within the family to make the family work together as a whole unit.

      Reply

    • Kirsten Chirichetti
      Sep 20, 2013 @ 17:30:34

      Julianna, I really like how you acknowledged that counselors should frames stressors as part of a larger transformation of the family system over time. At times when families experience stressful situations, they struggle to see the “bigger” picture and become “stuck” in what has happened. In order to instill hope for the future, the therapist must make the members of the family aware of how this one stressful event is part a larger life cycle that they will continue to be a part of. Instead of remaining stuck or distressed about the negative event, the counselor must help the family identify and utilize coping strategies to manage the current and also future stressors. Also, after overcoming the current problem, the therapist can then help the family frame and process past problems, making them aware of both the positive and negative transformations the family has made. Through this framework of the “family life cycle,” therapists can map out and pinpoint both times of strength and weakness for the family.

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    • Katrina Mitchell
      Sep 22, 2013 @ 02:42:12

      Julianna,
      I hadn’t considered families finding situations problematic during transition because they deviate from the nuclear family. I believed that unique families had already considered and accepted the differences created from the beginning and understood they didn’t fit a specific mold of what is ideal. Therefore, I like the idea of therapists addressing families according to these unique differences whether they fit the nuclear family mold or not as each family faces various challenges. In this way, all families have the ability to increase functionality as you explained.

      Reply

    • Anthony Rofino
      Sep 22, 2013 @ 23:21:02

      Julianna,
      I like your idea of trying to fill multiple roles. I definitely don’t think this can be possible in every family, but I do agree that it is important for families to try and fill multiple roles as much as possible. Feeling unfulfilled can be a major problem for people, so it is important to try to balance as many roles as possible without too much stress on the person.

      Reply

  3. Kristina Glaude
    Sep 18, 2013 @ 09:36:17

    Throughout these reading chapters there were many themes that were discussed that I think would be relevant to being a therapist. The first theme I note can be found within chapter 1 this is the theme of the changing family. I think when working with families it is important to remember that the idea of a family has changed over the past 50 years. What was “normal” then is not necessarily the “normal” now. I think that families come in all different shapes and sizes. There are different roles for each family member has along with cultural and socioeconomic differences. There has been an increase over the years to the amount of dual-earner families. Even though the family needs the income in order to help with the growth of their family when the parents are at work there is a difficulty for the family to find affordable and dependable childcare. Walsh (2003) states “healthy family process for caring, committed relationships matter more than form for effective functioning and well-being of children” (p. 14). It does not have to be the same family structure between each family but rather what works for the specific family unit.
    The second theme I note in chapter 3 a theme I found relevant was the challenges that families have with work hours and schedules. I think that this topic is relevant to therapy because a family may already be struggling to make ends meet with economic stressors. In order for the family to meet their economic demands they felt that they must work the hours given even if this means overtime. I think that this can be difficult not only on the family structure but also on the ability to have the family attend other appointments. Scheduling difficulties can even be seen when you take something that is supposed to be a happy occasion for a family such as the birth of a child and although the parent has been working for the company and is eligible for family medical leave act (FMLA) because of their current economic standing it is unfeasible for them to take the 12 weeks of unpaid time to enjoy this new addition to the family. Some family members schedule longer shifts in order to gain more days off at other periods of time to be with the family. The ability for a job to have flexible scheduling with different shifts can have some benefits to some families. For some families they are not able to have the extra finances to pay for childcare. So with this in mind the ability to have schedule flexibility and work different shifts allows for increased coverage with childcare. The ability for the family to schedule to what fits their family the best along with allowing time together with the family makes that particular family unit function in a way that is helpful for them.
    The final theme I note in chapter 14 a theme I found relevant was the change of the structure of the family. This could be such themes as divorce or marriage. The family structure although connected with values, beliefs and blood is always evolving and changing. When you take a family event such as divorce according to Walsh (2003) “families in which divorce occurs must go through one or two additional phases of the family life cycle in order to restabilize and go forward” (p. 394). The event of divorce has shifted and changed the family structure and will take time to recover and find a new way to function as a changed family unit. Another change within the family system can be noted when two people get married. Instead of it being the change of one person’s family structure it is instead the change of two families. This marriage allows for the development of a third family group that now has ties back to the two original family groups. This change allows for transition to occur within the first two family groups as family members develop and create new family roles. According to Walsh (2003) the failure to renegotiate family status with the family of origin may also lead to marital failure” (p. 386). There is a balance that needs to be found within families which is always changing and redeveloping itself. The family has to be able to adapt and change in order to be a strong family unit.

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    • Kirsten Chirichetti
      Sep 20, 2013 @ 17:20:33

      Kristina, I really like your point about how the idea of the “normal family” has changed over the years. I agree that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to families. There are a variety of factors such as culture, gender, sexual orientation, and religion that all have an influence in the development and functioning of families. As therapists, it is important that we remember the great differences that can exist between families. In addition, it is critical that counselors be accepting of different families and their values, morals, and beliefs. In order to effectively work and help others, therapists must be willing to put aside their own biases and perceptions of what a “normal family” is and be open-minded to different perspectives and practices. Depending on the family (their culture, religion, etc.), certain behaviors could be considered “normal” and a regular part of their home routine. For this reason, when working with diverse families, therapists should educate themselves and become aware of how these multiple factors could be impacting the overall well-being of the family.

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    • Stacie Z.
      Sep 20, 2013 @ 23:16:05

      Kristina- I think Ch. 3 helps us to further understand the direct and indirect impact work schedules and finances have on families. As therapists these issues may be at the forefront, such as how to afford adequate childcare, who will take off time when the child is sick, and how to afford this when the job does not offer paid sick or personal time. However, the difficulties may also not be immediately evident, making it even more important as a therapist to really listen to what different members of a family are telling us, and clarifying what the fundamental concerns are. For example, a woman may be extremely distressed about an unexpected pregnancy, due to concerns related to economics and how to afford a child. However, this distress can be compounded when the woman is assumed by others to be excited about the pregnancy and she in fact does not feel the elation and anticipation of a child. This can lead to a situation where as therapists we need to recognize that not only is this a financial matter, very real in the present economy, but the guilt and other feelings that can come from her not feeling the way she believes she “should” feel about being pregnant can be increasing stress.

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  4. Amanda Thomas
    Sep 18, 2013 @ 21:15:20

    As I began reading chapter 1, I was trying to think of a family or a child that I have worked with that was relevant to the material. While reading about ‘changing families in a changing world’ I was reminded of one family I worked with at my internship. The mother sought counseling for her 13 y/o daughter whom she described as depressed and withdrawn. Upon meeting with the daughter I did not get this impression from her at all. Once we had built a rapport the daughter identified some struggles she was having with her parents, mostly her mother, in regard to their expectations of her. She struggled rising to their expectations as their cultural and societal expectations clashed. They were an Indian family, in which both parents were born and raised in India and had come to America after being married and were settled into their careers. The mother stated she was understanding and accepting of “American” culture however it was evident that although she understood many typical American traditions she was not accepting that her daughter identified as American and not Indian. More specifically, the daughter would explain to me that her mother would drag her to all of these “family” functions in which she felt uncomfortable in. At these family functions she explained that everyone was loud and always asked her the same questions. Her father explained that the volume and inquisition of the “family” was a cultural facet, which their daughter was not as accustomed to. The father had more insight into his daughter’s behavior but it was difficult for him to share that with his wife and daughter, as this was not typical for the Indian culture. I guess I interpreted the changing families in a changing world a little differently than in the text but felt it was still relevant to share as their family dynamic was changing due to the ‘Americanization’ of their daughter, amidst the changing world.

    Work stress and family stress: a complex relationship. – This section made me think of the first family I worked with. Both parents were married and both were employed. This was the second marriage for the father and the first for the mother. The father worked a full time job 40+ hours, and the mother worked part time about 25 hours. When the father came home, he was done working and wanted to relax and be left alone. The mother was left to take care of both children. My client, an 11 yr old boy, demonstrated characteristics consistent with ODD. The sister had a developmental delay, which was due to fetal alcohol. The mother was expected to handle the house chores and manage both needy children on her own. This placed a huge onus on their marriage as well on the relationships between children and parent as well as child to child. It was evident that the mother did not think the parenting roles were fair but he was not willing to budge on his rigid views. It was difficult to work with the family because the father would not come into therapy and it was challenging for the mother to follow through on many behavioral strategies, as both parents could not be consistent in implementing consequences/ rewards.

    Most of my working career has involved children and their families. Despite the situation or problem at hand the parents usually bring up the fact that their situation is not normal and want to achieve some sort of normalcy. It can be very difficult to convey to families that everyone has their own ‘normal’ which the text states depends on life cycles, various life transitions, and cultural diversity. Social class, immigrant status, two parent families, single parent families, and marriage status are some factors that complicate and individualize the aforesaid life processes

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    • Emily B
      Sep 21, 2013 @ 19:48:14

      Amanda, that family that you worked with seemed difficult. But as a reflect on the situation it seems like there is a lot of tension in the household possibly because of gender roles and expectations in the household. I would be interested to know what their idea of a normal family is. It seems like the husband has an ideal “nuclear family” stereotype of how a family should operate.

      Reply

    • Anthony Rofino
      Sep 22, 2013 @ 23:25:29

      Amanda, I think you bring up an excellent point of the “normal” family as perceived from different cultures. This is especially difficult for children who are born to parents who are immigrants. I think the values of the family and the values of the child have to be brought together to determine a compromise for what the middle ground can be. Even parents raised by immigrant grandparents may cause a rift with their children.

      Reply

  5. Brandon Pare
    Sep 18, 2013 @ 22:59:48

    For chapter one I believe the most relevant concept that will be most important for me as a counselor is the idea that the normal family today is what we wouldn’t think of as normal. Rather normal by today’s standards is far from normal, but still this idea of a normal easy going family still persists in our society. As a therapist if we try to adhere to that standard with our clients we could fall short by setting unreasonable goals for the family. Rather when providing services for families we need to consider what is optimal functioning for them instead of what society perceives as normal. One of the big issues with the concept of normality is that it is subjective. The word normal can hold a different meaning to everyone. It can hold a different meaning to you as a counselor, the client, the clients family, and any other services providers involved with your cases. According to Walsh, “four perspectives can be usefully distinguished to clarify conceptions of a normal family: (1) normal as asymptomatic; (2) normal as typical, average; (3) normal as ideal; and (4) normal in relation to systemic transactional processes.” (2003, p5). In a clinical sense we could define abnormality as the presence of a clinically significant pathology that cause physical and psychological distress in the family and impact their functioning. So by a clinical model standard normal would be considered the absence of this pathology. But this seems very unlikely since most people, roughly about 75%, experience some sort of distress that affects their family. But they either do not seek help or just consider it part of normal life for them. As a counselor it is important to know where you and your client stand on these matters.

    A part of chapter three that seems significant for counseling is the identification of the possible stressors and opportunities that can arise in a relationship of the 21st century. The most central challenge that the chapter highlights is the duel earner family. This seems to be becoming more prevalent then not in this day and age. This pattern of living looks as if it will continue into the next century of households that will develop. There are pros and cons to this life style. The positive aspects of this are there is more money coming into the household. This reduces the stress that can be spent worrying about finances. This also allows the parents to potentially have extra money for fun things or to provide better luxuries for themselves and their children. These things can reduce stress and allow for a more comfortable living environment. Also with greater family income comes better social economic class and the stigma that goes along with it. One negative that goes along with this is the less time children will spend with their parents. Since both parents are working they are not around to take care of their children as much. This would involve less time raising them, playing with them, being there during tough times, helping them with school work, graduations, etc. This can put strain on the relationship between child and parent and also between the parents, especially if one parent feels like they are doing more for the children then the other parent. More time at work instead of home also puts stress on the relationship because parents are not getting to spend as much time with one another. More time focused on work means less time to make sure the relationship stays healthy. Also less time at home means less time for things to get done around the house such as chores, paying bills, maintenance, etc. This can also place strain on a relationship. As a counselor it is important to know what the family has for time around work and how they plan to utilize it.

    In chapter 14 Walsh describes a valuable model that should be known by counselors such as The Family Life Cycle. This cycle describes the stereotypical life cycle “which to frame individual identity and development, and to account for the effects of the social system” (Walsh, 2003, p375). The family life cycle is influenced by the larger sociopolitical culture that it is a part of. What can be considered a normal family life cycle is becoming harder to define now a days because of the vastly changing society around it. What has been considered the typical family life cycle encompasses each individual member’s growth and development of functioning within the family. This starts with the individuals birth, encompasses their growth and functioning within the family and then their eventual death. The problems the family and the individual face during this time are shaped by “the formative course of our family’s past, the present tasks it is trying to master, and the future to which it aspires”(Walsh, 2003, p375). As a counselor it is important to talk with families in order to get a good understanding as to how they are structured and what the roles of each member is. It is also important to find out how each family members views how they see the family’s life cycle going as well as their own. This is so if there were to be any change in the family structure then you would be better able to predict who would be the most affected. With each change to the family structure can bring about change to the family life cycle.

    Reply

    • Melissa Recore
      Sep 19, 2013 @ 14:20:39

      Brandon,
      I liked your comments on the positive and negative results of duel income families. I thought it was important how you mentioned that Clinicians need to spend time understanding what the families work schedules are like and what amount of time they have in the family as well as how the manage all the family responsibilities within the family. For example, does the family work as a unit to make sure the house is maintained and cleaned or does the responsibility of the household fall predominately on one family member.

      Reply

  6. Emily B
    Sep 19, 2013 @ 09:08:04

    In chapter 1 the theme that would be relevant in my role as a therapist would be the concept of the “nuclear family.” Individuals not limited to clients but providers and other important people in a families life have the idea that the “perfect family” is one in which the father works and the mother stays home and raises the children. But, as I have seen in my own experience and in continuing to read the chapter, the belief that the perfect family is only the nuclear family has caused tension in many different factors including in gender roles, socioeconomic factors, and family structures. Gender roles are effected by the nuclear family because a small number of families have the capability to be a single income family. Because of this the mother plays multiple roles and has added responsibilities. Most individuals assume that even if the mother works, she is the primary care giver to the child and must assume this role. This causes tension and anxiety for the mother, father, and other members of the family. Also, because of the change in our economic structure and the need for duel earner household has left individuals struggling over the idea of the nuclear family and managing a household. Added to this is the changing in the family structure has caused the idea of the nuclear family impossible to obtain. Step-parents, grandparents, and other members have become apart of families to help with finicial and social support to assist in raising the children.

    In chapter 3 the major theme that is relevant to my role as a therapist is a quote from the book; “The difference between men’s and women’s hours is even greater when they are raising children, with men working on average 50.5 hours and women 40.6 hours, with the largest difference occurring when children are under 6 years of age. With the added stress of working more hours on top of raising a child under the age of 6 it is important to put yourself in the shoes of the individual. Having to transition so quickly from “work mode” to “child rearing mode” would make interactions with children more tense when someone is tired and just wants to get some sleep. It was also interesting to see the differences between the earnings of individuals of different races white families make $80,000 while black families make $58,000 and Latino families make $48,000. This difference is shocking and is important to remember when suggesting activities or things that cost money for a family. Because although a family works 2 full time job plus a part-time job they still may be struggling to make ends meet and provide for their most basic needs.

    A chapter 14 theme that would be relevant to my role as a therapist would be another quote from the book; “It is time for us as professionals to give up our attachments to the old ideals and put a more positive conceptual frame around what is: two-paycheck marriages; permanent “single-parent” households; unmarried, remarried, and gay and lesbian couples and families; single-parent adoptions; and women of all ages alone. It is past time to stop thinking of transitional crises as permanent traumas, and to drop from our vocabulary words and phrases that link us to the norms and prejudices of the past: “children of divorce,” “out-of-wed-lock child,” “fatherless home,” “working mother,” and the like.” Changing the ideals and focus on the strength of the family instead of dwelling on the ideal family will assist clients and their families to find the strengths that they possesses instead of what they feel like society wants them to have. Allowing clients to find what works for their families by addressing concerns about the change in family dynamic would be important to allow a family who has multiple stressors to come up with their own system that works as opposed to relying on social norms.

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    • Melissa Recore
      Sep 19, 2013 @ 14:26:01

      I really enjoyed your post, especially what you wrote about chapter 14 and the role of the clinician. I agree with you that clinicians need to be sensitive and understand that families are not that “traditional” husband, wife, two kids, a dog, and a white picket fence anymore. Just because families are not this older, ideal image does not mean that families are dysfunctional or doomed to have children with emotional/behavioral issues. I think as modern clinicians we need to embrace alternative family styles and appreciate the strengths and not focus on possible stressors.

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    • Brandon Pare
      Sep 21, 2013 @ 01:24:09

      Emily,
      I really like your quote selection from each chapter. All of which pertain to the fact that as counselors we need to be open to the fact of change in roles that are part of the family system and what society considers to be appropriate and common now a days versus 40 years ago. This is tough considering most of the parents of children these days grew up in homes where there was a potential for different parental roles then the common ones we see today.

      Reply

  7. Anthony Rofino
    Sep 19, 2013 @ 10:59:46

    For Chapter 1, defining what a “normal family” is the key to the chapter, and is very important for us as future therapists. The chapter describes various views of what the “normal” family is, but then goes on to debunk these myths. I like that the chapter dresses that the normal family is a shifting and moving definition ever since the idea came into place. One particular section I enjoyed was the section about the asymptomatic family being normal. The section goes to describe how their is a general belief that the normal family is asymptomatic, but debunks this with various points about how being in therapy is not a bad thing and if a family is not in therapy, does not mean this is healthy. This is very important to discuss with one’s clients, as some may come in with a preconceived notion that, because their family needs therapy, they are not normal. If anything, they are most likely more healthy than some families who refuse therapy and live in a toxic home environment.

    For Chapter 3, it is important to discuss the aspect of the dual-earner family. According to the chapter, “64.2% of all married-couple families with children under 18 are dual earners.” This creates a layer of stress that is added to the relationship. Conflicting schedules, including large amounts of hours at work, can lead to the stress of feeling like one is neglecting their family or their work if they are spending too much time at home. Also, financially this creates a stress for those with younger children, as a nanny service/daycare/etc may have to be used in order for both parents to continue working. Having a child can additionally increase a person’s hours, as they need the financial gain from this time to fund the child. It is important, as a therapist, to look into the duel earner status of the family and to help alleviate the stresses that come with this situation

    For Chapter 14, the major theme to focus on in therapy is the family cycle. A family dynamic is constantly shifting and changing. Too much of current therapy may dwell on certain issues and crises as permanent, but the family dynamic can adapt and change. As a future therapist, it is important to look at the family cycle as a whole as something very fluid. Using a metaphor, a family cycle is like a stream. It shifts and changes as time passes. If someone is to throw a large bolder in the stream (a major life stressor), the stream will continue to flow, but will change it’s course slightly. So too should therapists help the new family cycle adapt to life stressors and continue to move on, and not fixate solely on this issue.

    Reply

    • Kristina Glaude
      Sep 19, 2013 @ 15:58:32

      Anthony:
      I thought that the quote that you noted from the book about dual earner homes is interesting. I think that it is important as therapists to recognize that families now have to do this in order to still obtain the items that they want in a daily life. Having a dual earner income although has the benefit of having more money come into the house also has the increased stress of finding the balance between everything within the home.

      Reply

    • Brandon Pare
      Sep 21, 2013 @ 01:44:04

      Anthony,
      I think you bring up some very valid points. I like your statement on how even families that refuse therapy could be potentially be more healthy then a family that is asymptomatic. What I also enjoy is your analogy of the boulder being tossed into the stream as a life crisis that the family cycle would have to work around. This reality is very true. In order to survive families need to learn to carry on past and around stressors in order to survive. This is an important skill that the counselor needs to help teach the family.

      Reply

    • Angela Vizzo
      Sep 21, 2013 @ 23:00:08

      Anthony, I liked the metaphor you used when describing the changing life cycle of the family, it gives a good visual to demonstrate what the authors are saying. You also make a good point that as therapists we can see the larger picture, and that the family will adapt and continue on despite a major life stressor, however, I think it’s also important to see that from the family’s perspective they may not be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel after dealing with that stressor, and not inadvertently make less of their current problem.

      Reply

  8. Katrina Mitchell
    Sep 19, 2013 @ 14:07:46

    In Chapter 1, Walsh (2003) defines the broad theme of a “normal family” according to four perspectives: (1) normal as asymptomatic, (2) normal as typical or average, (3) normal as ideal, and (4) normal regarding systematic transactional processes. Previously, the idea of a normal family was centered around what is labeled a “nuclear family”. A typical nuclear family includes a father whose role is to maintain a job/career and support his family and a mother whose role is to be a housewife and raise children. However, as Walsh (2003) suggests this idea is conflicting to embrace in the diverse society we live in today. While it is difficult to concretely define exactly what normal is, in my brief experience as a therapist it seems that many of my clients can identify with at least one of the four perspectives that Walsh (2003) presents. Just recently I had a discussion with one of my clients surrounding what her idea of normal was. She identified biological parents versus foster parents and typical after-school activities such as dance lessons versus counseling sessions. It seems she identifies with a combination of the first three perspectives identified. In this way, it is crucial to adopt clients’ understanding of what normal means to them in order to meet them where they are at and support their perspectives while providing treatment towards related goals. For the previously described client, she identifies with her foster family as her “normal” family. Their home has become her home and their family has become her family. Therefore, I am careful not to refer to them as her “foster family” and address them using the labels she gives them. She reports other mental health workers who do not consider her perspective of what normal is for her and as a result she does not have as close of a therapeutic relationship with them and is less willing to talk with them. Furthermore, identifying which perspective best suits clients’ idea of normal on a broad level is useful during the counseling process.

    In Chapter 3, Walsh (2003) examines the intricacies of work stress and family stress. While each environment creates numerous stressors independent of each other on one individual they also inadvertently merge into one another and affect each other creating stress among the entire work system and/or family system. Such stressors create conflict, emotional distress, fatigue, etc. Maintaining a balanced work-life relationships between partners as well as their families is useful in delineating some of these stressors. This past week I actually had an intake interview with a client experiencing both work and marital issues. For him, work stressors involved multiple warnings that lead to his eventual termination. For his wife, work stressors involved lower income than what he was making and shifts that ran later than his. Before losing his job his wife often complains that due to their conflicting schedules he does not have the time to pay the attention to her and “pamper” her. As the main source of income for he and his wife, losing his job naturally created more tension within their relationship. Now he feels pressured to file for unemployment or hope to find a job as soon as possible. Therefore, the combination of work stressors and family stressors created conflict between this husband and wife leading to emotional distress. Additionally, there was little if any balance between work and their relationship creating more stress. As a result understanding each families’ balance or lack thereof between work stress and family stress is crucial to providing support and working towards better functioning both at work and among family in my role as a therapist.

    In Chapter 14, Walsh (2003) discusses family life cycles involving transitional periods where the experience of stress is most often demonstrated. Such transitional periods among family life cycles include the process towards reaching a developmental task or overcoming an emotional upset such as divorce or death. How families handle these transitional periods defines their success in the future. Based on research, Walsh (2003) suggests that a lack of resolution in face of emotional issues and developmental tasks during a specific family stage can lead to hindrances among family relationships later on. My role as a therapist is to identify such issues and hindrances in order to support the family with putting them into context then developing coping mechanisms in order to successfully transition to the next family life cycle. I am currently working with young sisters whose parents are going through a divorce. They have mixed emotions and struggle with meeting the expectations of both parents all while attempting to reach typical developmental milestones and the stressors that go along with development for children their age. I work with them to discuss their stressors and provide them with coping mechanisms to ease the stress of their parents’ divorce and allow them to focus on their own development.

    Reply

    • Julianna Aguilar
      Sep 20, 2013 @ 10:40:04

      Katrina, you make a good point about the importance of understanding your clients’ perspectives of normality, rather than operating under one definition, in order to be able to help them in a more specific and concrete way. It is important that we do not make assumptions about clients that could lead us to give inaccurate advice or place faulty or offensive labels on significant aspects of their life. On the other hand, I think it is still important for us as therapists to identify and help reconstruct definitions of “normal” if they are dysfunctional for that person. For example, if a single-parent’s strict definition of “normal” is that a family should have two parents, that individual may never feel as though he or she can provide adequate love and care to the family. In that situation, it would be helpful to understand and validate the client’s concerns, but to provide education about the many definitions of “normal” that can be healthy and functional. In that sense, it is important to support the client’s perspectives as long as they are adaptive, but to also keep a close eye on when those perspectives may be detrimental to their well-being.

      Reply

    • Emily B
      Sep 21, 2013 @ 19:41:48

      Katrina that is a great real-life story when you were discussing chapter 1. I think that it was great that you were able to respect her vocabulary and I am sure that this made your relationship even stronger. It is important to reflect with clients about what a normal family is, especially when a child is placed in a foster home. The term does give the connotation of a difference.

      Reply

  9. Melissa Recore
    Sep 19, 2013 @ 14:14:51

    In chapter 1 I found the most interesting topic was the change in the dynamic of the family, specifically the changing of gender roles and rules through the recent decades. It is well known that woman traditionally were thought of as property and were “used” for functional purposes such as child bearing, child rearing and maintaining the husbands property and possession. I think what is interesting to note is how the roles began to change with the beginning of industrialization and how the roles have continued to change today. Women have slowly progressed over the past decades to separate themselves from the “patriarchal breadwinner” household and have commenced actively participating in family income, as well as child rearing practices. It is well known that the addition of women into the work place has led to some stressors of there own (some critics complain that the children are denied proper care from the mother, or that women working can put a strain on the marriage). Even with women and men having unfair responsibilities in the home, and women clearly having much more responsibility and stressors then men, this “superwoman syndrome” discussed in the book is a real and necessary change made by women. As the “proper gender roles” are challenged, redefined, and then re-challenged it seems to be interesting how this topic alone could change the “normal” or “healthy” family.
    With this being said I think chapter 3 made an important point that these “traditional” husband wife families (regardless of whether the woman works or not) is not what makes up the “average” family anymore. Families are increasingly made up of single parents, divorced parents, blended households, unmarried couples, and gay families. These new family dynamics have been shown to led to the possibility of increased stressors whether it be for lower socioeconomic status, or marital stressors (ex. divorce, marital conflict). Divorce itself is such a big topic due to the literal physical separation of a family where the children must reside with one parent and only have visitations with the other. The amount of marital discord and conflict creates many stressors for the child which in turn increases the child’s likelihood to have behavioral problems. I know that divorce does not mean the child will end up with any behavioral or emotional issues yet it does increase the likelihood he will develop a behavioral problem if additional stressor are introduced such as lower income.
    Chapter 14 discussed the family life cycle. I thought it was most interesting the importance the chapter put on the young adulthood. This chapter described this stage as when young adults come to terms with their family which in term will determine who, when and how they enter into another family in the future. Such things are decided as what kind of person they want to marry, if they want children, etc. The chapter stated the more successful the young adult is in differentiating themselves from their family the fewer vertical stressors (racism, sexism, violence, addiction) they will experience in their future family. Furthermore, this stage is imperative for young men, especially those men who did not have positive male role models while they were children. This stage allows men the opportunity to develop intimacy in friendships and develop emotionally and expressively.

    Reply

    • Paige Hartmann
      Sep 20, 2013 @ 11:50:41

      Melissa, I liked how you discussed the change in gender roles, specifically women entering the workforce, and the strain this may have on the “normal” family. The “superwoman syndrome” is a real struggle that women face as they continue to carry more responsibilities than men within the household while the women are also working a full time job. Struggling to balance work and family life is extremely difficult, and I wonder with the constantly evolving roles of the family, if in the future more husbands will help with these responsibilities to make it more even.

      Reply

    • Stacie Z.
      Sep 20, 2013 @ 22:49:03

      Melissa, I also thought Ch. 14 brought up an interesting perspective on family life cycle and young adulthood. The idea that an important part of this development is deciding which qualities and aspects of their own family they want to hold on to, and those they decide to no longer carry with them, is an influential piece as young adults continue on to create a new family system. In reading this I thought that while some individuals may go through this decision-making process without being fully aware of it and have strong relationships, others may struggle for years in future relationships and family roles because these original issues required more examination.

      Reply

    • Amanda Thomas
      Sep 22, 2013 @ 15:06:37

      Melissa, you mentioned the various dynamics in family structure. I especially like the point you made in identifying that one stressor like divorce may lead to an increase in other stressors like lowered income. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it will happen but never the less it is important to be aware, as a therapist that stressors can build upon one another. Bridging that awareness to clients will help prepare them to cope will additional stressors that could snowball as the result of another stressor.

      Reply

  10. Angela Vizzo
    Sep 19, 2013 @ 18:01:13

    Chapter 1 focuses greatly on the .com “normal” family. I think many families seeking therapy will have this idea of the nuclear family as a “normal” family, however as the chapter describes, this is a socially constructed idea and in actuality their idea of a “normal” or “average” family is atypical or abnormal. These idealized families would fall on the extremes of a normal distribution of families in America. The chapter, then goes on to describe how the picture of a family is changing and diversifying in a variety of ways, such as the family forms, changing gender roles, cultural diversity, an socio-economic differences. Educating families on these facts will be important during family therapy.

    Much of chapter 3 focuses on describing the prevalence of contemporary two-parent families (which is shockingly low, especially for 2001 at 23%) and the work/family relationship. At the end of the chapter, ways to cope in dual-earner families are addressed, and many of these are great suggestions. Working as a therapist, I believe teaching families these and other coping strategies will help decrease stress and/or conflict in many family systems. For example, teaching a family how to develop a “decompressing sequence” for when parents get home from work and kids get home from school could greatly improve the tension in the home.

    Chapter 14 discusses the life cycle of the family. One period which I think deserves attention, especially in our current economy, is the young adulthood stage and the families at midlife stage, respectively. With many young adults going off to college and then moving back home after graduation due to financial reasons, while they either further their education or begin their careers, can be a difficult thing for both parents and young adults to handle. This is happening more often now-days and causing struggles for those going through this situation. As a result, it may be advantageous for some of these families to seek therapy, and it will be interesting to see if families at this stage become a larger population of those families seeking therapy.

    Reply

    • Paige Hartmann
      Sep 20, 2013 @ 11:40:57

      Angela, I liked how you addressed the young adulthood stage, and how it has become increasingly more common for young adults to move back in with their parents after college. This transition causes a new stage in the family life cycle which can cause stress to both the young adult and the family alike. It is important for these families to seek therapy if this transition becomes too stressful for the family to cope with on their own.

      Reply

  11. Paige Hartmann
    Sep 19, 2013 @ 18:34:52

    Chapter 1 identifies four perspectives that define a “normal” family. The first perspective, Normal as asymptomatic, is based upon the medical model. From this perspective, a normal family is viewed in terms of the absence of pathology, or not possessing any symptoms of a disorder within any member of a family. This perspective is limited, as it focuses only on negative aspects rather than considering positive factors that shape a family. The second perspective, Normal families as typical or average, defines a normal family as fitting into patterns that are considered acceptable. A family that deviates from what is considered the “norm” is viewed as abnormal. The third perspective, Normal families as ideal and healthy, describes a normal family through ideal traits for optimal functioning. An optimal functioning family would promote the growth of individual members as well as accomplish family tasks. The fourth perspective, Normal family processes, is based upon systems theory. Normal families are viewed “in terms of basic processes in human systems, dependent on an interaction of biopsychosocial variables” (Bertalanffy, 1968; Grinker, 1967). Optimal family functioning according to this perspective is based upon how compatible the family, the individual members of the family, and other social systems are with one another. I found these four perspectives of normal family functioning relevant to a role as a therapist because it is important to understand that all families are different. A therapist should develop their own understanding of what is considered “normal” but also be aware that what may be normal to them, may be different to the families that are seeking therapy.

    Chapter 3 focuses on dual-earner families and the stress that results from struggling to balance work and family life. Walsh (2003) discusses how dual-earners are working more hours than ever before and how they often become overworked. With the increase in technology, there are many ways that keep parents connected to work while they are off the clock, blurring the line between work and family time. This chapter discusses many relevant points about the struggles that dual-earner families face trying to balance their lives. As a therapist, it is important to be aware of the complexity of the family you are working with. Knowledge of the difficulties that dual-earning families face; the long hours of work, coming home to take care of a family, the impact on the children, and the stress that comes along with it is essential in determining successful coping strategies for the family.

    The overall theme of Chapter 14 is the discussion of the family life cycle. As families are continuously changing, it has become difficult to define what is considered “normal” in terms of family life cycle patterns. Within the family life cycle, there are periods of transition that can cause stress within the family. As a therapist, the most important task is helping families understand and work through these stressful transitional periods. The therapist should work with the family in developing positive coping skills that will enable the family to move past the current transitional period onto the next stage in the family life cycle.

    Reply

    • Angela Vizzo
      Sep 21, 2013 @ 22:53:26

      Paige, I like how you identified the four perspectives that define a “normal” family, which were discussed in the first chapter. You did a really good job summarizing these key points in a sentence or two and really clarified what the author was getting at. I also agree with your point that what one person, or therapist, considers normal may differ greatly from another’s perception of normal.

      Reply

  12. Stacie Z.
    Sep 19, 2013 @ 22:56:12

    Examining “myths of the ideal family” (p. 20) in Chapter 1 I believe is a vital component of working with families. With competing responsibilities of work and family, parents can easily begin to feel that they are not successfully meeting their own expectations in every domain of life. What becomes important before even beginning to come up with strategies to better balance personal and career demands, is to take the time to understand what does each member of the family, as well as the family as a unit, view their “ideal family.” Where does this view originate from and is it similar or dissimilar to their experience of growing up? Furthermore, and just as important, is to objectively assess with those family members struggling to accept and cope with their current family situation, how realistic it is to attain those characteristics and qualities of their “ideal family.” Focusing on strengths that the members embody, and either teaching or building on these strengths, in addition to helping them recognize that what they are viewing as “ideal” may not actually be “ideal” for their situation, can help members to come to accept what they cannot change about their circumstances and know how to move forward and work on what is in their control. I found it very interesting in reading Ch. 1 that many of those ideals we hold as a society based on literature and media depictions of a “normal” family never really were as prevalent or without their own disadvantages as one may think.

    The third chapter notes that “A number of studies suggest that it is the perception of overwork, not simply the number of hours per se, and the experience of stress, rather than number or intensity of job-related stressors, that determine the degree of linkage between work stress and family distress” (p. 73). This idea relates back to the pivotal role appraisal has in the way an individual perceives a stressful event, influencing emotional reaction and ultimately, the individual’s behavior. I see a similarity between the idea that the relationship between the size and number of job-related stressors is not a linear cause-and-effect with levels of distress, and earlier articles we have read in class regarding risk factors and environmental stressors. In working with families as a therapist, I can help family members recognize the bi-directional nature of work stress and distress in family as a unit and its members. In general, humans feel more secure and comfortable when a direct linkage can be identified, so that what needs to be changed can be “fixed.” My role as therapist can help the family to explore and better understand not only what is going on with work and family as factors independent of each other, but to further process how each one influences the other and where adjustments could be made.

    Chapter 14 looks at the times in families where significant shifts occur in relationships between family members. The discussions of how stresses of parenting young children and adolescents differ in content, although the outcome can be similar. I think as a therapist, recognizing the difficulties and rewards of being a parent at varying stages of child development can help parents to understand their child’s perspective and natural changes that occur in parent-child relationships over time. For example, a teenager ready to be more autonomous may be resentful or frustrated towards parents when still being treated as a young child. Parents may view their treatment as being protective of their child’s well-being, and as a therapist I can help bridge this gap in communication between parent and child. Families of multiple children may even encounter greater difficulty as they learn to manage and meet unique needs of children in vastly different stages.

    Reply

    • Julianna Aguilar
      Sep 20, 2013 @ 10:18:41

      Stacie, I like that you highlighted the role that appraisal plays in magnifying stressors. Though many individuals experience legitimate stressors in the work place and other areas of life, it is also important to understand how they perceive those stressors. I have also experienced that many clients believe that cause-and-effect explanations are at the root of the majority of their issues. In those cases, it is important to educate clients about the appraisal process and the role they play in maintaining and, in some cases, worsening their experience of stress, thus causing additional stressors. By helping clients understand the importance of appraisal and the reciprocal nature of stress, we as therapists can more effectively help them to overcome these stressors.

      Reply

    • Amanda Thomas
      Sep 22, 2013 @ 15:00:33

      Stacie-

      I like that you identified the main theme from ‘myths of the ideal family’ as relevant to your role as working as a therapist. The greater awareness we have as therapists that this notion is a myth the better we will be able to convey that to the families we work with. The characteristics and qualities the ideal family has is unique to each family. This is essential to communicate to the families we work with as well to live by ourselves.

      Reply

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Adam M. Volungis, PhD, LMHC

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