In the recent past, the family was perceived as a system. This perception has turned out to be an increasingly fashionable and significant theoretical framework for not only counselors but also family therapy professionals (Atwood, 2001, p. 35). A family system functions as a unit, and each family member has a critical and unique role to play within the system. Therefore, it is impossible for one affiliate of the system to change without bringing about a ripple impact of change all through the family system.
In absolute contrast to the perception of the system, families have been customarily seen as a collection of more or less autonomous agents connected by their membership within the family, hence any given member’s conduct was not necessarily linked to the conduct of any other family member. Such a restricted perception of the family has led to the likelihood of parents assuming that, since they have two children who behave, for example, the daughter being terrific, yet the son causing trouble, then there must be something wrong with the son, considering that they raised them both in the same manner (Atwood, 2001, p. 42).
Within the system’s analysis, the previous statement gets interpreted quite differently. Every member of a family plays a specified role; the son is allocated his negative role, while the daughter takes up her role with equal willpower (Atwood, 2001, p. 43). When one examines this family closely, several elements might be operating that have established and sustained the system. For instance, the daughter might be a straight-A student, something that makes her get a terrific deal of parental interest for her achievement in school. Conversely, the son understands that he is incapable of contesting with his sister within the academic arena. As a result, his B-grade average results do not receive any praise; rather he gets comments like “study harder.” Soon, the son realizes that he is capable of becoming the center of his parents’ interest by acting out within the school, attaining failing grades while engaging in felonious behavior. Though the attention that he gets appears to be negative, the son feels satisfied as a full partner within the family system. This is a clear sign of what is ongoing within the Del Sol Family. In the same scenario, there might be a possibility that the parents frequently fight due to the father’s abuse of alcohol (though he refutes that he drinks excessively). As a result, the daughter believes that by getting remarkable grades, she is capable of improving things in the household. As the daughter strives to be perfect, the son continually feels dejected over the pain felt within the family, and is especially distressed when his mother gets hurt. Considering that he feels angry, his acting out in school or getting into trouble with the law draws his parents’ attention, hence less fighting at home. Additionally, the son understands that any upturn in his behavior presents his mother and father with the opportunity of concentrating on their own problems that increase their fighting (p. 78).
When it comes to therapy, this family will brand the son as being the “identified patient,” thereby demanding that something is done regarding his behavior. However, in the system’s view, the family will turn out to be the identified patient; therefore, changing the behavior of the son will necessitate a change within the family system. In case his parents comprehend the intention of his behavior and reconsider their application of praise, then this will be helpful. In this manner, the son is capable of receiving the attention he requires without having to turn to acting out or felonious behavior. Therefore, the parents have to become knowledgeable that to facilitate change in their son’s behavior, it is necessary that they take the lead by first adjusting their own conduct. As earlier stated, any change within the system will bring reverberations all through the system. For instance, if the parents adjust and thus quicken change in the son, the daughter might feel the pressure of sharing a positive interest with her brother, considering that this is something she has never gone through before. As a result, this will lead to new and additional stresses in the system, and all family members have to anticipate and deal with these stresses as they emerge.
A primary feature of the system’s analysis of families is the idea of homeostasis, which refers to a type of inertia that actually works against change within the system (Atwood, 2001, p. 82). In the earliest scenario, the daughter might feel fresh and unfamiliar pressure if her parents and her brother were to change their relationship. In this case, she is capable of unknowingly sabotaging change so as to keep her desirable role within the family system. However, in the second scenario, it is possible for the father to end his denial, acknowledge that he has to stop drinking, and carefully contemplate the results of his abusiveness. Despite this sounding as the perfect outcome, the idea of homeostasis is certainly at work. In this case, the wife might now have to share the duty for running the family together with her husband, thereby facing an unwanted load of power and control.
Similarly, the mother’s skillful exploitation of the moods within the household might no longer be needed, and the son’s diversionary tactics might now invite pressure between mother and father instead of relieving it as before. Though everyone will endorse the father’s latest behaviors overtly, eventually, life will be more familiar with the family roles being less confusing if the father decides to drink again. Although this is hard to believe, it is possible that the homeostatic force is likely to reverse the situation thereby leading to the dad getting back into the way he was before, i.e., drinking and being abusive (Atwood, 2001, p. 83)…
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