The case study presents a family issue that can be improved with adequate therapy. In this case, Roger, a single father, and Jeff, a 13-year-old boy, are unwilling to openly discuss the mother who abandoned her son due to drug abuse, financial problems, and mental health issues. Moreover, the son has difficulties at school and isolates himself from others. The family systems theory explains how the parents’ and grandparents’ family history impacts the child. To assess the issues, it is crucial to use the genogram. After examining the patterns, conflicts, and mental health history, Jeff can use such behavioral modification tools as contingency contracting and operant conditioning. This will benefit Roger in terms of behavioral problems and Jeff in regards to beneficial parenting. Moreover, first and second-ordered changes will lead to more open communication between the father and the son. Such methods will create a more positive family environment and a safe space for previously avoided discussions.
The case study presents a situation where Jeff is a single parent who has issues communicating with his 13-year-old son, Roger. Jeff is not willing to talk about his ex-wife because of her drug problems and her abandonment of their son. Moreover, there is a history of mental health problems on the maternal line (both diagnosed and undiagnosed). The son has been struggling at school and tends to isolate himself. The basis of the implementations that will create a more positive family environment is Bowen’s family systems concept. According to researchers, this theory takes into consideration multiple aspects, such as conflicts, mental health problems, and relationships between family members (Erdem & Safi, 2018). A genogram would be the first step toward the examination of the whole family structure. The following strategy teaches Jeff about behavioral modification principles and gives the father the necessary tools to improve communication with his son. Such changes within the family structure will lead to positive outcomes for both parties and help them understand how individuals are affected by their family histories.
Family History Assessment
The first therapeutic involvement is assessing the patients’ family history. There are several methods of examining relationships, patterns, and conflicts within the unit. However, in this case, a genogram would highlight the family members and assess a possible medical history, hereditary tendencies, and other aspects that can influence Roger’s current behavior. Since this method uses images and symbols, it can be a great tool that helps individuals visualize their own past experiences (Browning & Hull, 2019). A genogram is similar to a very detailed family tree. It includes not only names and connections but also histories of addiction, certain conflicts, mental health issues, and other essential data. In this case, the genogram will illustrate the mother’s drug abuse and possible undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Moreover, the genogram will be helpful in the visualization of the family pattern. It is known that the maternal grandmother has been diagnosed and is in treatment for bipolar disorder. While this does not necessarily mean Roger suffers from the same conditions, it is crucial to conceptualize them and effectively minimize their influence on the younger generation.
The genogram has been introduced as one of the bases for the family systems theory. Bowen’s belief is that the family shapes an individual, and this is why it is vital to assess the structure and possible hereditary patterns to have the right therapeutic approach (Nichols & Davis, 2016). The reason for using this specific tool is to record relationships between family members and examine certain character traits that cause conflicts to occur within the structure. Moreover, it is helpful to minimize dysfunction and intervene if a pattern causes high risks of self-destruction. It can be highly effective because it will open a conversation about Roger’s mother. As the father is reluctant to talk about his ex-wife and the son does not know much about his mother, a genogram would be an excellent visual representation of who she is as a person and what went wrong. It can positively influence the young boy because he will realize that his mother is sick rather than someone who left him because he was not worth her effort.
Some of the positive results include a better understanding of the family structure and an answer to the son’s questions about his mother. Moreover, the father will have a risk-assessment tool that would allow him to have the right approach to minimizing or controlling the son’s predisposed conditions. However, there are possibilities of adverse outcomes that may appear after this assessment. Roger can develop resentment towards his mother or fear due to his family’s history of mental health issues. Moreover, there is a possibility that the son will interpret his current tendencies of isolating himself as one of the symptoms of his mother’s or grandmother’s conditions.
After assessing the family history using a genogram, it is crucial to give Jeff the necessary tools to improve the parent-child connection with his son. This involves teaching the father certain behavioral modification principles to give the relationship dynamics a favorable structure and positive outcomes. Moreover, such models will not only be useful for Roger but for Jeff too. He will be able to apply the new strategies to become a better individual and father. One of the main principles that would benefit Jeff and Roger is operant conditioning. It is a method based on consequences that correlate with a behavior or an action. If the father wants Roger to have a positive behavior pattern, specific actions or behavioral practices must be adequately rewarded. In case some actions have to be minimized or diminished, they have to be punished.
Contingency contracting is another helpful model that may improve Jeff’s and Roger’s relationship. The concept suggests that the father agrees to make specific changes if the son does the same. In this case, Jeff can promise that he will be more open about his ex-wife if Roger is more transparent about his difficulties at school and other internal issues. The therapeutic bases for using these tools are improving the overall family dynamics and creating a more positive environment where both parties can openly discuss problems and work together to address them. If Jeff takes the role of a fair parent who knows when to discipline and when to show affection, Roger will have a more comprehensive understanding of what behavior will benefit him. Moreover, Jeff will understand that his negative feelings towards his ex-wife should not affect his son.
Some of the positive implications are the improvement of the family structure, positive outcomes in terms of interactions, and the minimization of distorted behavioral patterns. However, there are possible adverse outcomes, such as a sense of rebellion for both Jess and Roger, since they are not yet accustomed to such principles. Moreover, the parent who sometimes takes the role of a disciplinarian when punishing bad behavior has to be reasonable. Otherwise, the children can feel rejected and may experience limited control over their lives.
Based on Jeff’s and Roger’s relationship, some issues have not been previously addressed. However, in order for new changes to occur, it is essential to express all the concerns and wishes verbally. This is why it is vital to have a healthy communication pattern. A change in the verbal connection may begin with a first-order change. While such implementations will not have a drastic effect on family discussions, there will be some minor improvements that will not overwhelm Jeff and Roger.
In regards to the therapeutic reason, such superficial changes will become preparatory measures before more effective implementations are included. For example, the therapy will result in behavioral improvements that will be highlighted by a higher rate of father and son verbal interactions. After such adjustments, it is essential to pay attention to second-ordered changes. These are more radical measures that have a substantial influence on both individuals. It is vital to use this therapeutic tool because the outcomes will revolutionize the interpersonal connection between Roger and Jeff. A healthy result would consist of honest and open conversations every time a family member is willing to discuss internal problems or other feelings. Moreover, the father and son will have applicable tools in regard to internalized anger and isolation for one another.
Several possible benefits will follow after the changes are made. The most beneficial results include positive communication and a safe environment in which both Jeff and Roger can discuss family issues, trauma, concerns, or even previous experiences that influence them in the present moment. This will allow the parent and the son to talk about the issues that affect them and look for solutions together. However, there are possible negative results that the new modifications may cause. The first-order changes might seem too insignificant for both the father and the son, discouraging them from implementing more drastic measures. At the same time, revolutionizing their communication patterns may cause anxiety and distress due to the essential impact that both parties are not yet familiar with.
Jeff and Roger find it challenging to connect due to a lack of communication and understanding. The first step towards a better family environment is examining the history through a genogram. This will highlight possible issues such as substance abuse, mental health problems, and patterns of conflicts throughout multiple generations. Moreover, the father will learn to apply such behavioral modification tools as contingency contracting and operant conditioning. This will allow him to know when and how to reward or punish his son’s actions if necessary. Moreover, it will create a bond between Jeff and Gorge due to the fact that both parties will participate in the changes. In order for communication to improve, it is vital to have first and second-order changes. This implies the enactment of both minor and significant adjustments within communication practices. According to the family systems theory, all these steps will allow Jeff and Roger to understand how one family member influences others and correct specific negative implications that have occurred due to conflicts and feelings of resentment.
Browning, S., & Hull, R. (2019). Treating multidimensional presenting problems with a mutually integrative approach using the genogram. Family Process, 58(3), 656–668. Web.
Erdem, G., & Safi, O. A. (2018). The cultural lens approach to Bowen family systems theory: Contributions of family change theory. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 10(2), 469–483. Web.
Nichols, M. P., & Davis, S. (2016). Family therapy: Concepts and methods (11th ed.). Pearson.