The Family Crucible Essay, Research Paper
The Family Crucible: The Intense Experience of Family Therapy
In The Family Crucible, the authors provide a unique approach to family therapy that is almost never considered in our society today. Here Augustus Napier and Carl Whitaker have succeeded in writing a serious book that illustrates the different aspects of marriage and family therapy through an emotion packed real life drama. In reading the text, I felt as if I was the “fly-on-the-wall” watching as two caring and skillful therapists worked with a seriously dysfunctional family. Through the artful skills of listening, supporting, cajoling, and teasing, these two therapists motivated a family to embark on a journey that would eventually allow them to help themselves. I felt as if the journey was the true crucible. A crucible that allowed the family to see the fundamental cause of their problems in a way that also allowed them to find a solution to dealing with the basic problems that continually trouble a majority of today?s families.
The authors? approach to helping the Brice family was probably the most instrumental and awakening aspect of the text. The technique of using two therapists to help a family through therapy is unique and one in which I have never heard of. I thought at first that this may seem as if the therapists were ganging up on the family. However as I continued through the book, I thought that it was always the family who outnumbered the therapists. Also, it was interesting that the two-therapist approach allowed one to get close and personal to the issue at hand and the other to stay professional and evaluate the situation from an outsider?s point of view. In these situations, I felt as if the therapist had a therapist that proved to be useful when issues got really elevated and one therapist got pulled too far into the troubled system it which they were trying to explore. Thus, the two-therapist method allowed me to see a new way in which to confront the fact that when one becomes too close to the work they cannot see the complete overall picture.
In reading Chapter 1, The Question of Structure, I believe the authors? were instrumental in providing a clear example of what the family really needed and searched for. The family needed to realize that in order for the family to make a real change they need to utilize a structure that included the entire family. They also needed to know that the therapists were completely serious and in control. Their stance was something I could completely agree upon. However, I do not agree that the family was trying to question their authority or provide a strategy to defeat the new system in which they were beginning to enter. Barring this, the authors? posed a series of questions that they strongly believed the family was thinking. Did Don really wonder ?will the family undertake changing the whole family without me?? Therefore, I did not agree with the aspect of ?we know what you?re thinking?. I felt that this was too deep of an approach. The basic underlining problem of the family was that they did not know how to communicate and could not establish their own structure to allow their family system to operate in harmony.
Another aspect of the text that I thought was fundamental and provided me with a different outlook on approaching a perceived problem was the way in which the two therapists began the therapy. The family entered into therapy by believing that Claudia was their entire problem and that her actions alone were the root of their dilemma. However, she was just the perceived problem. And in order for the parents to see that Claudia was only the perceived problem the therapists reversed the blame that the parents had projected on to their daughter. I believe this technique was most attractive. Through the art of helping the family to view their situation differently, the therapists initiated a second-order change allowing the family to step outside their norm and see that their failure in marriage was affecting their parenting. Thus, the therapists gave Claudia meaning while reducing her feeling of failure and at the same time proposed the more serious problem that the parents had slowly began drifting away from each other and suffered the impasse of a deadening marriage.
In my view, once the fundamental problem of the marriage was introduced and the family began to realize that each had a role in a family system that was failing, many changes began to take place. Most importantly, I saw the problems associated with scapegoating the children fall by the wayside that allowed the parents to confront the hard issues they had so skillfully avoided through the dynamics they developed among themselves. It was good to see that confronting the parents with their underlining problem helped to reduce the polarization effect they were projecting on the family members around them. Now, this is not to say that all the issues disappeared instantly. There was still the fact that the parents triangulated the children in order to get reacquainted with their true feeling about one another. Likewise, a considerable amount of blame lingered throughout the entire therapy. And when the therapists tried to work the issues of blame, I had to disagree with there methods. It seemed as if they were constantly trying to evoke a confrontation between the two blaming individuals in order to get the family to surface their real feelings and issues. Consequently, when the confrontations turned into physical fights the therapists seemed surprised that such emotional distress took place. What more did they expect. I completely understood what they were trying to accomplish, however, I had a hard time understanding their methodology.
As I look back through my notes, I noticed many of the same underlining factors that seemed to keep surfacing. First, both parents were consumed in the self. The father was constantly consumed with his work and the mother seemed completely bored with her life and wanted a change. Here is where I had difficulty in understanding the authors? point of view. They thought that the parents were not consumed in the self, but just had difficulty showing affection toward the other. Now, I believe the there was a lack of affection, however, if they were any more consumed in doing what the self wanted this may lead to more difficulty when confronting the Other’s? wishes and the Self?s wants. I really got lost with this aspect.
Another difficulty I have with the authors? view on family therapy is the fact that they seemed to think that every issue was rooted in past family issues. This is a great aspect to try and tackle. However, trying to find out which issues in the past are the cause of the present problems can be very time consuming and expensive. I agree that this type of therapy can be revolutionary, but I do not believe that family therapy would be for everyone. Subsequently, I would also agree that this book did a great job illustrating why sometimes family therapy and not individual therapy can be the right solution. Maybe, this mixed message is why I still have opposing emotions about this very intriguing approach.