Ordinary People Intervention Family Dynamics Essay

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They have grandparents who visit them during the holidays. However, for the most part family members deal with their problems as individuals, not as a family unit.

Information provided by the family is an important source of information about the family. However, one cannot ignore outside sources of information as well. For instance, the worker may contact the school, neighbors, or others who are involved with the family to examine factors that may influence the current situation. The assessment plan will involve contacting the school to find out about Conrad's performance in terms of grades, attendance and overall performance.

Systemic Goals

The case of the Jarretts is complex, with many individual goals that must be completed on the way to resolution of the systemic problems. In this case, the identified patient is Conrad, as he was the one who tried to commit suicide. The goal of family therapy is the ability of family members to differentiate, improved communication between family members, the loosening of previously automatic behavior patterns, and the resolution of the problem that led to the crisis.

In the case of the Jarretts, they are all dealing with grief over the loss of Buck in a different way. This was the event that triggered communication problems and allowed problems that were already in existence to come to the surface. All of the family members must come to terms with their grief and be allowed to process through their loss in a healthy manner. This represents key individual goals, as well as family systemic goals as well. Resolution of grief should be a key treatment goal.

The second major issue of concern is communication among family members. This is a particular concern for Beth, who refuses to speak to anyone about her grief and loss. Resolving communication issues between Beth and Calvin, Calvin and Conrad, and Beth and Conrad will be key goals of the treatment plan.

The ultimate goals of the family treatment plan will be to develop a family in which all members have healed from their grief and the loss of their family member. They need to maintain open lines of communication where all family members can express their feelings. Open communication is a key goal for this family. All members of the family need to feel that they are important members of the family unit.

Systemic goals need to be clearly stated and concrete. They must include specific tasks to be done by each family member and by the family as a whole. The goals must clearly state the payoffs for each action. They must also provide specific timeframes for completing the tasks. Some of these issues do not apply to the Jarretts.

One example of a concrete goal for the Jarretts may be to complete a series of individual therapy sessions to help them work through their grief as individuals. It is difficult to place a timeframe on this goal, as the length of time needed for therapy may differ from family member to family member. Family therapy is another goal that needs to be a part of this plan. The family will participate in therapy sessions weekly at first, then tapering off to monthly as they progress. One concrete goal of therapy may be to establish family rituals, or other ways to honor the memory of Buck in a positive manner. This will help family members to put their loss in the proper context and to recognize and acknowledge their loss in a positive manner.

Individual therapy for family members should focus on teaching them positive ways to express their feelings. Family therapy should coincide with the above mentioned therapy to help family members to learn to communicate there feelings to one another. A potential goal for this portion of the treatment process may be to have them schedule weekly family activities together to encourage bonding through good times together. The purpose of this intervention is to allow them to focus on their time as a family rather than as individuals.


Bowen family systems theory is one of the most relevant theories to this case. Bowen theory views the family as an emotional unit and uses systems theory to examine interactions within the unit. In any family, the members are highly emotionally connected. However, family members can feel emotionally disconnected from their family. Bowen suggests that families can be so disconnected from one another that they can feel that their
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emotions are the same (Bowen Center for Study of the Family, 2010).

According to Bowen, the connectedness of the family makes the members interdependent on one another for emotional support. Changes in one persons functioning has a reciprocal affect on the functioning of other family members. The Jarretts all experienced a change due to the loss of Buck. Each of the family members reacted to it differently as individuals. They all had their own way of dealing with their grief.

According to Bowen, families need a certain level of cohesiveness in order to function and provide for their basic needs. Moods and emotions are infectious in families. When the anxiety level of one family member goes up, the levels of all family members goes up. When this happens, the connectedness can be stressful, rather than comforting to one another. In the case of the Jarretts, Beth disconnected from the rest of the family and refused to talk about Buck's death. This produced a disconnect in the other family members. Beth began to distance herself from the other family members. This created tension, particularly as other family members attempted to reach out to her. Bowen demonstrates that this can lead to one or more of the family members feeling overwhelmed, isolate, or out of control. This was the case when Conrad decided to commit suicide.

Bowen's theory is a fit for the Jarrett family in many ways. Certain family members accommodate to release tension in others. The person will take on too much responsibility for the stress of others. In this case, Conrad blamed himself for his brother's death. Beth may have reciprocated by letting Conrad know that he was not the favorite. Conrad absorbed the anxiety of the other family members, making him the most vulnerable for problems such as alcoholism, affairs, physical illness, depression, or in this case, a suicide attempt. Bowens' regarding the positive and negative effects of connectedness support use of this theory for the Jarrett family.

According to Bowen, three person relationships are more stable than two person relationships. The theory states that spreading the tension between three members spreads of the affect and can stabilize the system. In the case of the Jarrett family, this did not happen because Conrad was treated as the outsider. He was being pushed out as the other two desired change. However, Beth was the primary person who wished to push Conrad out. In the end of the movie, Conrad and Calvin are no longer in a triangle and the dyad will be stronger than the triangle. In this case, Bowen's theory of triangles does not work, but many other parts of the theory do fit.

Family stress increases the dysfunctional symptoms of the family and can cause one of four symptoms to emerge. In the case of the Jarretts, the key stressor that brought out other problems was the death of Buck. Problems can come in one of four patterns. The first is marital conflict. This happens when one or the other spouse tries to regain control by externalizing on the other person. Beth is confrontational in several parts of the movie, externalizing her need to control on others. Another problem that can occur is dysfunction in one spouse. In this scenario, one spouse pressures the other to think and act in certain ways and the other yields to pressure. Sometimes the other spouse yields so completely that a psychiatric, social or medial problem arises (Bowen Center for Study of the Family, 2010).

Another scenario that can happen according to Bowen is the impairment of one or more of the children. In this case, the spouses focus their anxieties on one or more children. They worry excessively and have a generally negative view of the child. This is what happened between Calvin and Conrad. Calvin focused his grief on Conrad and worried about him excessively. Conrad became worried and anxious, so much so that he tried to commit suicide.

The fourth thing that can happen is that the family tries to distance themselves from one another. Beth is the prime example of the emergence of this type of problem. Calvin and Conrad try to avoid this type of problem, but in the end, Beth leaves and completely cuts herself off from them. In this case, Beth maintained her level of function, caring for the house and going on golf outings at the expense of others.

Bowens' theory fits the Jarretts in many ways that are undeniable. Although not all of Bowen's theory is an exact fit, many aspects of…

Sources Used in Documents:


Bowen Center for the Study of the Family. (2010). Bowen Theory. Retrieved April 13, 2010

from http://www.thebowencenter.org/pages/theory.html

Missouri Department of Social Services. (2007). Child Welfare Manual. Retrieved April 13,

2010 from http://www.dss.mo.gov/cd/info/cwmanual/section7/ch1_33/sec7ch25.htm

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