The ethics of a larger system, such as the school, involving the Juvenile Office requires that the involvement should be based on the available evidence. Schools should determine whether involving outside systems is necessary or not based on the carefully gathered and evaluated data with the goal of improving the learning process and student involvement (Zyromski et al., 2018). In Sally’s case, the school attempted to contact the parents before referring the matter to the Juvenile Office and provided a substantial list of observed concerns regarding Sally’s behavior. Considering this, the school’s involving the Juveniles appear sufficiently ethical.
In this case, the counselor would do well by beginning to work with the family distress. Sally’s assessment that she feels “left out” as well as the reports of frequent yelling at home and the lack of the Dad’s involvement in his daughter’s upbringing suggest that the impaired functioning of the family lies at the core of Sully’s problems at school as well. The relative inefficiency of “taking things away” practiced by the parents in the past suggests that such methods of disciplining address the symptoms rather than causes of Sally’s problems. Therefore, working with the family’s distress to identify and address the stressors that likely affect Sally’s behavior is the appropriate way to proceed with addressing the multiple layers of the system.
Dealing with the outside systems should, first and foremost, rely on increasing the amount of data available. When dealing with the school, the counselor needs more information on Sally’s social interaction patterns in the school context. It will likely require observations as well as conversations with Sally’s teachers. When dealing with the Juvenile Office, the counselor should be ready to present an evidence-based explanation for Sally’s conduct as the plan of addressing it, which also requires a more thorough assessment of the situation.
Sally’s obscene notes to her classmates externalize her thoughts in a direct and unconcealed manner, which makes it inappropriate in a school setting. A more socially acceptable way of externalizing mental models, including those of sexual nature, would be the use of metaphors. The counselor may encourage Sally to externalize her thoughts metaphorically, using some type of a projecting technique, such as drawing or constructing an imaginary landscape reflecting her perception of a given situation (Ricketts & Lockton, 2019). This intervention would render Sally’s expression of her thoughts socially acceptable but should still be accompanied by the work on improving her social skills.
The central issue seems to be the lack of complementarity between the family members. Addressing the issue would require ensuring greater harmony in the distribution of family roles to the mutual satisfaction of those involved (Gladding, 2015). The fact that the entire family, including Dad, who does not seem to participate much in Sally’s upbringing, came to the first appointment indicates that there are strength reserves in the family that could be identified and used for this purpose.
It is possible that Sally’s family could make greater use of the resources of the community. In some cases, effective utilization of those is known to produce improvements in financial and personal management areas (Gladding, 2015). The fact that the parents did not wish to access their insurance benefits for counseling services and agreed to pay the full fee suggests that the family has no immediate need of financial aid. Identifying specific non-financial outside resources that could be useful in this case (neighbors, the local church, etc.) would depend on the given community as well as the family itself.
- Gladding, S. T. (2015). Family therapy: History, theory, and practice. Boston: Pearson.
- Ricketts, D., & Lockton, D. (2019). Mental landscapes: Externalizing mental models through metaphors. Interactions, 26(2),86-90.
- Zyromski, B., Dimmitt, C., Mariani, M., & Griffith, C. (2018). Evidence-based school counseling: Models for integrated practice and school counselor education. Professional School Counseling, 21(1), 1-12.