Multicultural Counseling Approaches Used in the Application of the Family Systems Theory
The purpose of this discussion is to explain the multicultural counseling approaches used in the application of the family systems theory.
First we will define the Family Systems theory. Then the discussion will review three counseling approaches that utilize the theory in a multicultural context. These approaches will include family therapy, family literacy and cross cultural marriage workshops.
Family Systems Theory
Family systems theory asserts that people can change behaviors if they are aware of the impact current and historical family behavior has on the definition of his or her choices. In the context of the family systems theory the word "Family" may be composed of the immediate family that the person presides with, the extended family of relatives and friends, and the community in general. (Bowens Family Systems Theory 2002, ¶1)
The family systems theory was pioneered by Dr. Murray Bowen, and has many characteristics.
First and foremost the theory is a way of understanding present situations in terms of past relationships. The theory seeks to understand the entire family as an emotional unit composed of linked relationships that have existed over different generations.
Family system theory claims that an individuals' behavior is directly correlated to how that individuals' family functions. (Bowens Family Systems Theory, ¶3)
One of the primary goals of the system is to move beyond the cause and effect aspects of a problem and focus on the many elements that lead to problems. The theory also recognizes that there are genetic, biological, psychological and social factors that lead an individual to behave in a certain manner. The theory also makes the assertion that human behavior is similar to the behavior of other life forms and that most human experiences are guided by emotions that can be controlled. Finally the theory concludes that individuals can control their emotions by understanding the manner in which the family functions. (Bowens Family Systems Theory, ¶3)
Family Systems Theory in a Multicultural Context
The first approach was conducted using a family therapy approach, and combined the theoretical frameworks of the Bowen model and Olson's Circumplex model. The Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine defines Family therapy is as, "a form of psychotherapy that involves all the members of a nuclear or extended family. A pair or team of therapists may conduct it. In many cases the team consists of a man and a woman in order to treat gender-related issues or serve as role models for family members." (Frey 2002) In this instance family therapy was used to resolve problems created by a blended family.
The Bowen and Olson models were used to restructure family relationships in an effort to prevent the reoccurring runaway behavior of a 15-year-old Mexican-American female. In this approach a structured family interview was performed to identify problems and a genogram was used to obtain the family's history, and therapy was given to change the functionality of the family. (Coco 1998 ¶ 1)
This family consisted of a mother, age 35, a stepfather, age 38, Melinda, age 15, who had a one-year-old son living with the family, and two brothers, ages 13 and 16. The siblings were from the mother's first marriage. Her teacher referred Melinda to counseling. Melinda was a freshman in high school and an average student. Melinda did not have any learning disabilities, but was often absent from school and wanted to drop out. Running away from home and sexual promiscuity were the problems that Melinda presented. The stepfather was an alcoholic and the mother admitted to previous drug use. The mother and Melinda admit that the stepfather expected Melinda to help with household chores and that he was the disciplinarian while the mother was more lenient. The mother is unemployed and the father is a construction worker. Both parents are on probation because they sold marijuana. (Coco 1998)
In this instance a genogram is used to gather information about family history and it also serves as an intervention technique. This is essential to understanding the runaways problem because, " Bowen contends that the transmission of pathology transcends generations and affects the patterns of behavior in the family. In dysfunctional families, each generation produces individuals with progressively poorer differentiation, who are increasingly vulnerable to anxiety and fusion."(Coco 1998)
The goals of the counseling were to raise the quality of communication in the home, ensure that Melinda stay in school, ensure that Melinda stop running away and to teach Melinda how to parent her one-year-old son and also that Melinda would help with household chores. The family had three sessions involving the entire family except for the stepfather who refused the therapy. Most of the sessions were with Melinda and her mother. (Coco 1998)
The study found that the multicultural issues that this Hispanic family faced in American culture played a large part in contributing to the problems that Melinda was experiencing. The study concluded the following,
The role of females in the Hispanic family was an important element, as much of the conflict involved discordance between the value systems of Mr. And Mrs. C. And their highly assimilated teenage daughter. The majority culture's permissiveness conflicted with this Hispanic family's attempts to protect their daughter and structure her environment. Melinda used running away and sexual promiscuity to distance herself from her family. She was attempting to individuate, which accounted for the increasing levels of mother/daughter conflict." (Coco 1998)
By the end of the therapy sessions Melinda had decided to allow her aunt to raise her son. The family situation had improved; Melinda was attending school and helping with household chores. The mother was employed and both mother and daughter were more satisfied with the family relationships.
The second approach that involves family systems theory in a multicultural context is the family literacy approach. Family and intergenerational literacy programs are proposed to progress the literacy of educationally deprived parents and children, the program is based on the assumption that improving the literacy skills of parents' will result in better literacy for their children. Although theoretical justification for the concept exists, research evidence of its effectiveness is emerging more slowly.
The concept of using the family systems theory to promote family literacy is based on the premise that,
In family systems theory, children shape family life and parent behavior as much as the family influences children. Studies of low-income families assert that children's achievement and motivation are influenced most strongly by such family characteristics as values, standards, educational attitudes, and use of everyday activities as opportunities to explain and teach." (Kerka 1991)
The family literacy approach concluded that literacy should be taught holistically rather than as a set of skills. The approach treated the family as a single unit and sought to involve as many family members as possible, and also acknowledged the community context. This study asserts that, "The meaning, uses, and value of literacy are not the same for all members of society. Furthermore the construction of meaning, rooted in experience, culture, and language, is at the heart of literacy." (Kerka 1991) The family literacy approach used the family systems theory in a multicultural context to determine whether or not schools should teach meanings to students. The study concluded that teaching meanings would pressure learners to accepting the interpretations of the dominant group. (Kerka 1991)
The final multicultural approach involved cross cultural marriage workshops conducted by John Mandrodt, a minister. The workshop combined contextual bible study, dialogue and the Bowen family systems theory.
The contextual bible study began with the reading of scripture, which was guided by a flow chart. The reading of the text involved the social, economic, religious and political issues of the time and was compared to the same issues of modern times. The dialogue for the workshop was created with a list of ground rules including respect for one another and listening for understanding. Finally, the Bowen family systems theory provided a way of looking at human groupings, including families and congregations, as emotional systems, and examined the way these systems manage change and anxiety. (Mandrodt 2002)
The workshop consisted of the reading of scripture, which created dialogue and forced people to discuss family history. Mandrodt writes, "a Syrian-born man talked about coming to America for schooling. A Cuban-born woman talked about the 13 scary days at sea in a small open boat. An American-born man shared that he was adopted and knew little of either parent's background."(Mandrodt 2002)
One of the participants acknowledged that she was in triangulation with family members and also her husband's ex-wife. Other participants realized that their families handled the stress and anxiety of migrating to a new country in one of two ways; by separating themselves from other family members, or by maintaining absolute unity within the family structure. In this counseling approach the participant were also required to make a genogram of his or her family, which provided the person with a view of their positions within the family unit. (Mandrodt 2002) The study…