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MFTH 506 System Analysis: Foundations of Systems Thinking (Essay Sample)


The essay is about a family and how they relate. who is more important than who?


System Analysis Final A - Bateson
Lauren Wiley
Loma Linda University
MFTH 506: Foundations of Systems Thinking
The following case review is on Paul and his family. Paul, at the time, was a 16-year-old, Hispanic/American, male student at a non-public school who struggled with dependency on Alcohol and Other Drug (AOD), ADHD, and oppositional/explosive behaviors. Paul is the identified patient of his family system. His immediate family in the home included: Mother (40, caseworker → stay at home caregiver), Sister (23, case worker), Maternal Grandmother (65, dementia), and Maternal Grandfather (68, head of house → stroke). And, Paul never really knew his biological father (43) who was sentenced to life in prison when Paul was a young child.
The theoretical approach to this system will be conceptualized through Bateson’s theory of communication patterns, specially, isomorphic interventions applied in an attempt to change the interactional sequence. The members of the systems that will be utilized in session will be with Paul and his mother. Please note two items: 1) While sister lives in the home, she was frequently away and disengaged from the others, most likely due to age and the stress present in the system. While she may be valuable to creating change in the system, for the interactional sequence addressed, she is not pertinent to create change. 2) While maternal grandmother and grandfather are incorporated in the interactional sequence of events, they are not capable to be therapeutic members due to their neurological impairments. However, Paul’s grandparents must be referred to and utilized metaphorically to create positive change in the feedback loop. They carry weight to the process and without the grandparents, the interactional sequence might be different.
1 Sequence of behaviors at home:
* Paul engages in a high-risk behavior(s) (e.g. uses AOD, appears high, refuses to do his homework, and/or refuses to go to school).
* Mother attempts to speak with Paul about his behaviors, requests that he go to school or throw away marijuana/pills she found.
* Paul becomes angry and behaviorally expresses it (e.g. punches a hole in the wall, throws something).
* Mother and grandparents become scared. Sometimes verbalizing to Paul she will call the police. Called one time.
* Mother takes grandparents and leaves Paul alone in the house.
* Paul engages in further AOD behaviors, leaves the home, or plays video games.
* Mother comes home angry, frustrated and scared, and leave Paul alone.
* Paul stays in his room and refused to talk about it, uses AOD
*A few days later, the cycle repeats…
Batesonian principles contain such basic elements of human communication that isomorphic reframing can be a useful intervention regardless of the type of interactional sequences. This specific sequence was selected due to the inherit questions that Bateson/Watzlawick might ask and can answer through his theoretical frame: “How is Paul’s behavior helping the system?”; “What bind is mom in and how are this bind contributing to maintaining the feedback loop?”; “Do Paul and his mother have a workable situation?” “What game is Paul playing in an attempt to communicate his needs?” “Is Paul winning the game or losing?”
The intended effect of applying Bateson’s theory to this sequence is to bring to light the interactional patterns at all levels of metacommunication. There are clear intergenerational issues of power and control (e.g. Mother as “head of household” to her son and father – yet, she is going against the inherit power of the male role of Machismo). Additionally, mother is fighting her unresolved intrapsychic issues of physical and emotional abuse by Paul’s father and is displacing it on Paul. Paul is fighting the intrapsychic and developmental issues of needing love and support and control and differentiation that leads him to simultaneously pull away and desire to be close to his family.
Mother: Will come to see that she is has power and control over her emotions and her reaction to Paul’s escalating behaviors. She will see that she can move toward an object of fear that will both bring her in control of Paul and her flashbacks of Paul’s father. She will also see that to love and engage with Paul, she needs to communicate a nonverbal “moving towards” (not away/abandoning) and embrace his anger. In turn, Paul can embrace himself, thereby accept and love himself.
Paul: Will come to see that his mother will move toward and not away. Paul’s grief and anger toward his absent father leaves Paul feeling unlovable, in turn, leaving him unable to love himself. Paul will see that even when he intentionally escalates his mother is capable of helping him.
Potential Adverse Reactions:
Mother: The potential adverse reactions to utilizing a Bateson approach is that it requires addressing the underlying communication patterns that are filled with trauma and fear for her. Paul’s father’s emotional and physical abuse effects how she communicates and interacts with Paul. She may not be ready to face the trauma, trauma triggers, and displaced resentment and disengagement she displays to Paul. She may become overwhelmed with her intrasphychic issues and flooded with emotion. Other behaviors may develop in response to this. In order to prevent this, I will continue to remind Mother that emotional flooding is common when attempting to change a long-standing pattern. I will validate and normalize things getting “worse” before they “get better.” To get treatment back on track, I will give her a paradoxical intervention to continue engaging in the behavior that leads to flooding of emotional flashbacks in order to demystify the trauma.
Paul: Additionally, attempting to change this sequence may lead Paul to escalate to further AOD use or outward aggression due to his lack of healthy coping skills. In order to prevent this, I would also inform Paul of his potential urge to want to use more and identify a plan of healthy coping skills. If an adverse reaction does occur, I will get Paul back on track by congratulating him on maintaining the pattern and having more control than others to not let things change.
At every turn in the process, I believe it is my responsibility to circle back around to a mindful reflection of my therapeutic interaction with people. The relationship appears to be built on openness, respect, and curiosity, while maintaining a practice of accountability with the people in therapy, engaging at this level has the potential to infuse transformative power into the therapy process.
Isomorphism as an intervention is about intentionality as a therapist in cultivating emotional-relational transparency. I will be open about the dialogue and direction about the other’s sessions. Additionally, they will understand the “why” behind the intentional intervention. They need to feel safe to engage in emotionally risky tasks.
Due to the nature of their personalities and variance in interventions, it appears most beneficial to meet with Mother alone and Paul alone for at least 6 sessions each. Bateson would agree that transparency of the therapist intention may prove beneficial. This will bring awareness to the pattern and what the other is attempting to engage in.
Paul’s system is a self-regulating one due to the multiple systemic levels at play. Therefore, an isomorphic intervention or the use of feedback to engage the parallel emotional process, is necessary to create second-order change. Mother will be asked to intentionally move toward Paul during escalation, independently do work to process her trauma, and communicate to Paul her awareness of her disengagement. Hopefully, this will cause a shift by communicating to Paul that she can hold him emotionally when he is overwhelmed and can meet his needs. Rather than becoming scared by him or unwilling to try to help.
Example, one session with mother might look something like this:
Therapist: “I love how you two come back to the same outcome each time. I could leave on vacation and know what to expect when I come back.”
Mother: “Right?! I don’t know what else to do. Paul just won’t listen, he uses, and constantly scares my parents so WE all have to leave the house. Then come back to holes in the walls and Paul doing what he wants.”
Therapist: “Paul is doing a good job of winning the game, isn’t he? At least, I think he’s winning, if his intention is to push everyone away. Do you that’s what he really wants?”
Mother: “Well, it’s not a fun game, but yes. I don’t know what to do. I don’t even want to be around him. Even when things are going well, I am not calm because I’m waiting for him to get angry.”
Therapist: “Right now, Paul sees that when he escalates, you leave. And, when he is calm, he gets nothing, too. For Paul, it is a lose-lose.”
Mother: “I just see so much of his dad in him. I have such a reaction to him. When we’re just driving in the car quiet, I don’t want to talk to him because I don’t want to start anything. And, when I have to tell him to do something or give him consequences, he escalates. He always wins because he scares me. He is getting big, like his dad. He reminds me of his dad.”
Therapist: “This reminding of his father, holds a lot of power because his father had all the power in your relationship. You hold the right to the power in your relationship with Paul, except when the fear wins.” (Explicit...
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