Respond to two colleagues who chose a different Bowenian concept in analyzing the events, and offer an alternative viewpoint.
Colleague 1: Denise:
Helen is emotionally attached to her mother and her son Alec. According to Bowen’s theory the family is viewed as an emotional unit. Helen becomes very upset because her son is making ‘bad’ decisions which are in turn affecting her mother, her marriage, and herself. A breakdown in communication began to happen when Alec moved in with his Grandmother. In my opinion Helen viewed Alec as her relief, she no longer needed to stress about her mother, because her son was there to take care of her. When Alec’s behaviors began to come into question, Helen’s world began to crumble and the stresses of taking care of her mother began to creep back into her life.
If you apply Bowen’s triangular theory to the Petrakis family you can see the how Helen’s relationship with her mother was deteriorating, because she felt torn between her mother, and her husband. Helen was hoping for some relief by bringing in a third person (Alec) to help spread some of her tension. However, the tension was not relived, it grew even stronger because of the poor choices Alec had made.
Colleague 2: Julie
Bowen’s family theory could be beneficial in treatment in the case of the Petrakis family. Helen Petrakis presents as emotionally distressed and overwhelmed (Plummer, Makris, & Brocksen, 2013). Helen appears to be in a fused relationship with several members of her family (Plummer, et al., 2013). She overextends herself to protect the emotional state of all the members of her family. She wants to make her husband happy by taking care of his aged and ailing mother (Plummer, et al., 2013). She wants to make her mother-in-law happy by taking care of her needs (Plummer, et al., 2013). She wants to make her children happy by taking care of all of the things that they do not want to do, like laundry, financial matters, and other things that they are old enough to manage (Plummer, et al., 2013). Helen’s response to all that is involved in this role she has taken on is anxiety (Plummer, et al., 2013). Bowen’s theory suggests that fusion can be demonstrated by an extreme sense of responsibility for the reactions of another family member (Brown, 1999). Fused relationships can be seen in the anxious reactions to perceived demands (Brown, 1999). The person in a fused relationship is typically not able to talk about issues directly with the other person or understand that there are choices available to them (Brown, 1999). Helen is experiencing anxiety as a reaction to the perceived expectation of her husband, John to care for his mother (Plummer, et al., 2013).
The second concept that demonstrates the effectiveness of Bowen’s family theory in the case of the Petrakis family is triangles. Helen’s husband, John, and their son, Alec, have been experiencing tension and conflict (Plummer, et al., 2013). Helen withholds information from her husband John because she claims that he will humiliate and hurt Alec (Plummer, et al., 2013). There is a triangle between John, Alec, and Helen. Applying Bowen’s family theory to this case study could involve asking Helen questions that could help her to become aware of her role in the triangles that exist in her family (Brown, 1999).
To apply structural family therapy to the Petrakis family case study would involve assessment of the family’s systems. The subsystems, boundaries, functions, relationships, and social supports, of the Petrakis family would need to be explored with structural family therapy (Vetere, 2001). The family member’s communication and interactions would need to be analyzed in using structural family therapy (Vitere, 2001). The social worker would create another system that would help all of the other systems to achieve a balance that would benefit all members of the family.
The family theory model that I found to be most helpful for the Petrakis family is the Satir Model. The Iceberg Metaphor is an excellent illustration that can help family members to visualize their internal experience (Banmen, 2002). The Satir Model asserts that coping is the issue that should be addressed, rather than solving a problem (Banmen, 2002). These concepts would be beneficial to implement with Helen Petrakis. Improving Helen’s ability to cope could dramatically reduce the symptoms of anxiety that she has been experiencing. Satir’s Model is more strengths-based as compared to Structural Family Therapy. In structural Family Therapy the therapist is woven into the fabric of the treatment process. The focus is on the systems that are impacting the family. With Satir’s Model, the family themselves are the one’s that are being empowered. This is done through helping them to see that they have the power to make their own choices and that they are responsible for own lives (Banmen, 2002). These concepts are consistent with the strengths-based perspective.
Banmen, J. (2002). The Satir model: Yesterday and today. Contemporary Family Therapy, 24(1), 7-22.
Brown, J. (1999). Bowen family systems theory and practice: Illustration and critique. Australian and New Zealand
Journal of Family Therapy, 20(2), 94-103.
Plummer, S. -B., Makris, S., & Brocksen, S. (Eds.). (2013). Sessions case histories. Baltimore, MD: Laureate
International Universities Publishing.
Vetere, A. (2001). Structural family therapy. Child & Adolescent Mental Health, 6(3), 133-139.