Advanced Psychology of Marriage and Family Systems

Vignette Analysis I

Advanced Psychology of Marriage and Family Systems

April 2022

Vignette Analysis I

            Robert and Christine present with dysfunctional communication patterns that their children have observed and participated in. Robert uses disrespectful language when addressing his partner, and judges her appearance and activity in the home, which I would demonstrate curiosity around with respect to cultural norms and expectations of their specific Latino identity. Both Christine and Robert target sensitive and traumatic elements of their upbringing in their families of origin when arguing, and I would like to support them in improving their communication when under the influence of strong emotions and influences from the outside world. These factors may include stressors such as acculturation difficulties, institutional racism, and challenging financial situations due to structural challenges (Benson-Flórez et al., 2016). Robert Jr. uses disrespectful language toward his mother, a way of communication that he has observed from his father, and may be modeling his body language after his father as well.  Madeline’s body language communicates discomfort with the interaction between her parents, and potentially about being observed by an outsider, and I would work to identify how to support her in increasing feelings of safety, identifying and managing overwhelming emotions, and utilizing her voice to communicate her feelings and needs in a manner that is culturally aligned. My goal would be to support improved communication amongst the family and in establishing positive connections throughout family generations, or familisimo (Benson-Flórez et al., 2016) to encourage stabilization of family roles. The fact that they showed up together communicates they value their relationship as a family and want to work to improve their dynamic.
            Robert and Christine’s family appear to be repeating similar communication patterns, highlighted by attacking each other’s vulnerabilities. Their pattern of communication has not changed, and their children have developed their own predictable responses including parroting and shrinking in fear. Robert Jr. is repeating the patterns of his father, Madeline may be repeating behaviors of Christine as a child as a response to abuse, and Robert is making comparisons between patterns he has observed in Christine and her mother.

Formulating a Therapy

Based on the analysis of the situation, it is apparent that the couple requires effective family therapy that would help them to get over their situation. Hence, the most suitable intervention in this case would be for Robert and Christine to visit a qualified therapist who has the capacity to deploy various mechanisms into dealing with the matter. The practitioner should approach the matter holistically rather than focusing on particular aspects while disregarding others (Varghese et al., 2020). A holistic approach in this context is one that does not only focus on the spouses alone, but also on the children because they are part of the family. Deploying the approach while referring to various existing models and concepts would help to achieve the targeted results.

                                     Repeating Similar Solutions Over and Over Again

Often, when families are not able to get over a particular issue, they tend to reuse similar remedies over and over again without excelling. Robert and Christine illustrates this in the way they because they think that they would deal with the issue by getting angry at each other. However, it is because the family fails to explore other effective mechanisms, which make it difficult to get out of the difficult situation. Thus, it is imperative to explore various available options when experiencing similar issues because this would increase the chances of succeeding in dealing with the problem.

Applying Intervening Therapeutic Approaches

Using Bowen’s Family Systems Theory
            When utilizing Bowen Family Systems Theory, I would begin by supporting Robert and Christine with differentiation of self, the ability to distinguish themselves emotionally and intellectually from their families of origin (Gladding, 2019) and mitigate communication patterns that focus on each partner’s parents. In order to assist them in identifying patterns in their family life, I would work with Christine and Robert to complete genograms to locate areas of conflict cutoffs where emotional repair may take place (Gladding, 2019). I would provide psychoeducation about triangulation, and coach the couple to work through instability in their relationship with each other without bringing other family members into disagreements, especially their children. Christine and Robert engage in a pattern of onto the other when they are experiencing overwhelming feelings, and I would support them in learning new ways to interact. I would utilize coaching and direct feedback to instruct Robert and Christine to be experts in their own family by identifying areas where pressure has continued to express itself in the family (Gladding, 2019). Their children would not be directly included in the therapeutic process.

I would consider other equally essential factors when intervening in the case of the couple using Bowen’s family systems therapy. An approach related to the family therapy that I would apply in this instance is normalizing the family’s constraints by addressing similar issues in other households (Calatrava et al., 2021). Telling Robert and Christine that they are not the only ones facing such problems and even going ahead to identify or make reference to other families that experience similar challenges will encourage those seeking help because they become confident that it is not uncommon to encounter such issues and that the effort they put in mitigating the problem is all that matters. Besides, I would refer to how families that encountered the issues addressed their concerns to allow the couple to find out whether they would deal with their challenge using similar interventions (Calatrava et al., 2021). Moreover, I will remind the couple that they will find an amicable remedy to the issues that affect their relationship by urging them to focus on the needs and desires of individual members of the society because according to the theorist, the influence of each member of the household may impact on the current situation. Hence, it is better to solicit the attention, support, and approval of all family members before taking decisions that could impact on the whole family (Calatrava et al., 2021). The reactivity and connectedness according to Bowen enhance the functioning of the whole family as well as fosters interdependence. It is imperative to engage all family members when using Bowen’s family therapy because a transformation in how an individual acts or functions is likely to be followed by similar considerable adjustments in how others function (Calatrava et al., 2021). Otherwise, failing to consider these critical factors as recommended by Bowen could derails the attempts to intervene in the case of Robert and Christine who truly need help.

Using Structural Family Therapy
            From the perspective of a structural family therapist, I would begin by assuming a leadership role with the family and work to join with the family to begin the therapeutic alliance by expressing empathy and making an effort to get to know each family member individually to identify problems within the system (Gladding, 2019). Basically, the structural family therapy is a type of an intervention mechanism that focuses on structure or composition of the family and seeks to enhance the engagements between members of the family. The intervention approach is attributed to Salvador Minuchin and has gained prominence as a leading concept in family therapy. I would engage in tracking with both parents in order to summarize their frustrations with the other and to gather more information about their history in a non-judgmental way (Gladding, 2019). Specifically for Madeline, in family sessions I would work to provide her with confirmation, defined by Gladding (2019) as a method where the therapist utilizes affective words to bring a voice to unexpressed feelings. My goal would be to support the family system in rebalancing their relationships, and in order to do so I would first need to identify structural elements of the family dynamic which may be influenced by aspects of their Latino culture. Establishing boundaries will support them in establishing boundaries to support their caregiving needs as parents, roles and functions as adults in the home and with respect to their families of origin. My main focus would be in restructuring interactions in the family to become more functional (Gladding, 2019) so that Robert and Christine can differentiate themselves from their children and parent collaboratively without integrating their son and daughter into their unhealthy communication patterns so that they may increase mutual respect reduce anxiety. Each intervention utilized would be directed toward the parents in order to support boundaries and re-establishment of hierarchy within the family.

I would apply the structural family therapy because of the strengths associated with the technique. One of the reasons why this approach is effective is that the therapist is direct in their approach and even have the chance to change the power dynamic by momentarily supporting one’s ideas to deliver a message (Chappelle & Tadros, 2020). Besides, I would deploy the therapy technique because its serves well for parents with children who are showing inappropriate conduct. In this case, Robert Jr. seems to act contrary to her mother’s expectations, especially in the way he has no respect for Christine and constantly calls her names. Hence, deploying the structural family therapy while considering all key requirements would help to deal with the manner more appropriately and effectively (Chappelle & Tadros, 2020). The other reason why I would settle on the structural family therapy as a suitable option for dealing with the issue that Robert and Christine present is that it counters adverse or inappropriate happenings within the family as a way of helping all members.  This aspect makes it similar to Bowen’s framework that acknowledges the need to engage all family members taking into account that they all play critical functions. However, that does not mean that the therapy does not have its weak aspects. Consequently, I would consider the limitations as I use it to help the couple who seems to be in dire need of help. For instance, I understand that the model requires active participation and role-playing, which demands for participation from all members, something that some members may not accept or support (Chappelle & Tadros, 2020). In addition, I would have to be very keen when deploying the mechanism because some strategies associated with structural family therapy may cause a client to feel secluded (Chappelle & Tadros, 2020). Thus, knowing the strengths and limitations of the approach would help to use it in the most suitable manner.

Using Strategic Family Therapy

When approaching treatment from the perspective of a Strategic Family Therapist, I would begin by addressing the family as a whole and address aspects outlines in Gladding (2019) including family rules, family homeostasis, quid pro quo, redundancy principle, punctuation, symmetrical and complementary relationships and circular causality. I believe that each of these concepts that are the foundations of the Strategic Family Therapy framework would well to so support Robert and Christine’s family in reducing problematic patterns of communication. The establishment of clear rules such as, “in this family, we speak to each other with respect” and breaking patterns of homeostasis in their currently dysfunctional patterns will assist them in. Christine and Robert demonstrate a pattern of going back and forth with insults toward each other and continues to repeat the same cycles when frustrated, responding to the other in ways where they feel provoked. Symmetrical relationships are defined as relationships among equals (Gladding, 2019) such as parents, while relationships between unequal parties are complementary (Gladding, 2019) as between parents and children. My goal would be to support them in disrupting these patterns of alignment with Robert Jr. and Madeline. Reframing, directive, and paradox would be treatment techniques that I would focus on integrating. With reframing, I would provide the family a different meaning and interpretation of what they have presented, in different words that may potentially seem more neutral to the family. In this instance, I would reframe Christine’s complaint as a call for more recognition and positive attention and interaction from her husband and son. I would take a directive stance in order to actively target the areas that I highlight as needing to change, which in this case would be communication. With more experience and after primarily utilizing directives as a way to initiate change within the family, I may choose to utilize the paradoxical tool of redefining which is described as associating positive connotations to problematic actions (Gladding, 2019) which I would apply to Robert and his alignment with Robert Jr. against Christine to highlight the influence in his son’s life, while following up with directives and homework related to creating substitute behaviors that foster bonding and a positive connection between father and son while disrupting patterns of dysfunctional communication.


Being able to apply various effective intervention therapies would help to deal with the misunderstandings that cause division between Robert and Christine. It is apparent that the most suitable therapeutic intervention is one where both parents take part in the process because they both play some roles in contributing towards the development of the misunderstanding. The analysis presents three options that could work out adequately well in mitigating the issue. One of the approaches that could help to mitigate the concern is Bowen’s family therapy that requires the therapist to consider how all members of the family impact on the issue. The therapeutic approach encourages the intervener to take into account the needs and desires of all family members because they may have a role in creating the current situation. The other available option is using structural family therapy that focuses on the structure of the family while seeking to advance engagements and interactions between all members. However, a therapist must consider both the positive and negative aspects related to this therapeutic form to achieve impressive results. Another equally effective mechanism that would be equally handy in mitigating the case is strategic family therapy that is effective when interceding in the case of a family that has children. However, it is only possible to achieve impressive performance when using the various forms if the therapist understand how they function and how they are likely to determine the outcome of the intervention process. More fundamentally, it is essential to remember that it will be easier to achieve the targeted results in helping the affected family by engaging all members while seeking to understand how their presence or actions contribute towards the current stalemate.


 Benson-Flórez, G., Santiago-Rivera, A., & Nagy, G. (2016). Culturally adapted behavioral activation. Clinical Case Studies16(1), 9–24.

Calatrava, M., Martins, M., Schweer-Collins, M., & Duch-Ceballos, C. (2021). Differentiation of self: A scoping review of Bowen family systems theory’s core construct. Clinical Psychology Review, 91, 1-13. doi:10.1016/j.cpr.2021.102101

Chappelle, N. (2020). Using structural family therapy to understand the impact of poverty andtrauma on African American adolescents. The Family Journal, 29(2), 1-8. doi:10.1177/1066480720950427

Gladding, S. T. (2019). Family therapy: History, theory, and practice. London: Pearson. 

McDowell, T., Knudson-Martin, C., & Bermudez, J. M. (2017). Socioculturally attuned family therapy:  Guidelines for equitable theory and practice. New York, NY: Routledge. ISBN-13 ‏: ‎ 978-1138678217

Patton, R., & Fisher, U. (2017). Examining couple functioning and alcohol use among Latino couples: A dyadic data analysis. Substance Use & Misuse53(3), 484–489.

Varghese, M., Kirpekar, V., & Loganathan, S. (2020). Family interventions: Basic principles and techniques. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 62(2), 192-200. doi: 10.4103/psychiatry.IndianJPsychiatry_770_19

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