Psychodynamic Approaches within Family Systems Therapy

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Psychodynamic approaches within family systems generally believe that the cause of the symptom is often embedded directly in personal events in the past, sometimes related to family, at other times not. However, with the advent of family theory, practitioners began to appreciate the importance of family roles, and related theoretical notions, such as cybernetics and systems theory, began to deemphasize internal states and emphasize the individual in his/her social context.

The two principal elements of psychodynamic approaches are transference and counter-transference provides useful avenues for understanding and helping clients. In counseling, transference is a process whereby the client unconsciously transfers certain aspects of past or present interpersonal relationships onto the current relationship with the counselor. Transference refers to the client’s unconscious tendency to experience feelings, attitudes, longings, and fears toward the counselor that were originally felt for other important people in the client’s life (Kahn, 2007).

For example, a woman who was raised in a family where feelings of anger were not accepted may begin to feel and express anger toward her counselor during her counseling sessions. Transference also includes the client’s unconscious tendency to attribute attitudes to the counselor that in reality are, or were, held by other important people in the client’s life. For example, the client whose wife is highly critical of him may begin to perceive the counselor as critical, when in fact the counselor has no feelings of disapproval for the client.

Counter-transference on the other hand, refers to all the reactions or feelings the counselor experiences toward the client, which may be due to the client’s behavior or to the counselor’s own issues (Kahn, 1997). Counter-transference is useful to a counselor, because it help understand how client’s behavior affects other people, and how in turn other people’s reactions affect your client. For example, if a counselor frequently find himself feeling irritated by a client, then that would made him understand more clearly why this client complains that people are always avoiding him or her.

On the other hand, the counselor may be feeling irritated because the client reminds the counselor of someone from the past. Self-knowledge and awareness of own issues are essential, so that a counselor can monitor counter-transference feelings and be certain that they do not interfere with effectiveness as a counselor. Heinz Kohut (1997) is another psychodynamic theorist who writes that human beings require that a counselor/client relationship or alliance should meet the three basic needs in order to develop complete alliance and effective therapeutic outcomes.

These are: • The need for mirroring, which means being valued and approved of • The need for an idealized other, which means having another person to turn to for comfort and safety • The need for belonging, which means feeling like other people and being accepted as part of a group Kohut (1997) explains that people have these needs throughout the lifetimes and that often their sense of well-being is determined by one`s ability to find other people, whom he terms self-objects, who can meet their needs.

Although ideally these needs are met by parents during early childhood, an incomplete sense of self can be repaired even in adulthood if these needs are met by a caring other, such as a therapist (Kohut, 1997). Kohut’s ideas, which form the basis for his self psychology, have importance for the counselor/client relationship in three ways. First, recognizing the underlying unmet needs that are causing the clients pain helps him to be more empathic. Second, the counselor may understand more clearly what sort of therapeutic response would be most healing for each client in light of his or her unmet needs.

This allows the counselor to formulate interventions more effectively. Third, the counselor can provide hope and a sense of empowerment to the clients by helping them understand that their needs and yearnings are universal and that there is a way to feel better by learning to establish healthy relationships throughout their lives. There are a variety of psychodynamic approaches within family systems therapies, and each has a specific theory of change, concepts, and therapeutic techniques.

Some of them pay attention to family structure; some focus on solving-problems; and some emphasize communication patterns in a system. Family therapies, however, generally share the same basis which has benefited from concepts of systems theory, cybernetics, and communication theory. The concepts of all these theories are intertwined and constitute the core of family theory. They are, for instance, wholeness, homeostasis, feedback loop, and process. These concepts are the bridges that link Bowen Family Systems Therapy to psychodynamic approaches.

Bowen`s therapy is based on natural systems, which make the contribution of Bowen Family systems therapy as unique because the other family theories are based on the concepts of cybernetics, general systems theory, and communication theory, which focus more on the immediate present and the prospective future. Although other family theories have a here-and-now stance to therapy, Bowen theory expands into past relationships including the extended family because Bowen claims that the family contains two distinct systems: “the family relationship system and the family emotional system. ” (Kerr and Bowen, 1988).

Thus, its strength includes regarding the family as “a multigenerational network of relationships” but its limitation includes focusing its attention especially on the mother-child relationship. Furthermore, Bowen assumes that humans are more dependent and emotionally oriented than many people have imagined. The relationship between counselor and client in Bowenian therapy is of paramount importance in determining the effectiveness of counseling (Corey, 2001). It is the key therapeutic ingredient, as well as the primary means of inspiring positive change in clients (Corey, 2001; Holmes, 1999; Kahn, 1997).

Effective counseling is more than a theoretical approach or a particular set of counseling skills. A high-quality therapeutic relationship is healing for the client, regardless of the counselor’s theoretical orientation or use of specific counseling techniques (Corey, 2001). Although psychodynamic counselors use transference extensively as a therapeutic means to allow clients to “work through” their problems, it was suggested by Corey (2000) that by simply understanding the concept of transference may allow a counselor to be more helpful to the client during counseling.

For example, if a client expresses hurt because he or she perceives the counselor as uncaring during a session, when you in the counselor have been warm, showing caring feelings for the client, the counselor should first examine his behavior to be certain that no harm was really done or said anything to give the client the feeling that the counselor is uncaring. Next, the counselor should empathize and express to the client how uncomfortable it must be to perceive the counselor as uncaring.

Finally, the counselor should explore the client’s feelings by asking about the counseling relationship in the present and also by inquiring whether the client has ever felt that other people have treated him or her in an uncaring way (Kahn, 2007). Another psychodynamic client/counselor element, object relations refers to “interpersonal relations as they are represented intrapsychically” (Corey, 2001). Freud used the word object to refer to the significant person or thing that is the object of our feelings, wishes, or needs.

Object relations of early life are replayed throughout the life cycle, even in adult interpersonal relationships, because people unconsciously seek reconnection with their parents and therefore repeat early childhood patterns of interaction (Corey, 2001). The counselor can use this psychodynamic insight to encourage client to become aware of repetitive patterns in relationships. Often, a client can be helped to change a maladaptive behavior by understanding where the behavior is originating.

For example, a man who chooses emotionally distant, critical partners over and over again can be helped to understand that he may be recreating his own early, painful relationship with an unavailable or rejecting parent. With this knowledge, the counselor and the client can work on issues such as self-esteem, anger, shame, loss, and improved coping skills, so that he does not need to go on choosing damaging the client/counselor relationship. Using these clinical skills in the relationship requires not only knowledge of common human dynamics and interaction patterns but also great self-awareness on the part of the clinician.

Clients’ lives and stories are precious. The counselors` responsibility for their protection and safety in clinical work includes a responsibility to observe and adjust our own thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and intentions so that we stay client-centered and purposeful in the counsellor professional use of self. This ongoing self-observation is aimed at minimizing the effects on the clinical relationship of the counselors` unresolved issues, personal biases, and blind spots.

I believe that the development of awareness, knowledge, and skills about the relationship itself is one of the most difficult aspects of clinical education. Beginning counselors often think that because they are nice people or have had a lot of good relationships, the relational aspect of work with clients will come easily. New learners are routinely surprised to discover how complicated the relationship can become in the course of purposeful work together.

The counselor and the client enter into a relationship to work on a task or accomplish designated goals, but almost inevitably, they will also attend to the process of their relationship as they work together. Conclusion In Bowenian therapy, the counselor’s relationship with the client determines the helpfulness of counseling, and the client’s awareness of the counselor’s empathy is the most important aspect of the therapeutic relationship (Bowen, 1978). Therefore, a counselor should value himself as the most powerful means of helping the client.

As a counselor, the theoretical orientation, the specific treatment modalities use, and the therapeutic interventions of the counselor are not as important as the caring approach, sincere efforts to understand the client, and the counselors’ ability to convey to the client empathy, respect, and desire to be helpful. References Baldwin, M. (Ed. ). (2000). The use of self in therapy. New York: Haworth Press. Bowen, M. (1978). Family therapy in clinical practice. New York: Jason Aronson. Corey, G. (2000). Theory and practice of group counseling (5th ed. ). Pacific Grove, CA:

Brooks/Cole. Corey, G. (2001). Manual for theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole. Corey, G. (2001). Theory and practice of counseling and psychotherapy (6th ed. ). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole. Doyle, R. (1998). Essential skills and strategies in the helping process (2nd ed. ). Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole. Gabbard, G. (2000). Psychodynamic psychiatry in clinical practice e(3rd ed. ). Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press. Holmes, J. (1999). Ethical aspects of the psychotherapies. In S. Bloch, P. Chodoff, & S. A. Green (Eds.

), Psychiatric ethics. London: Oxford University Press. Kahn, M. (2007). Between therapist and client: The new relationship (2nd ed. ). New York: Freeman. Kerr, M. E. & Bowen, M. (1988). Family Evaluation. NY: Norton. Messer, S. B. (2001). What makes brief psychodynamic therapy time efficient. Clinical Psychology: Science and Practice, 8(1), 5-22. Satir, V. (1987). The therapist story. In M. Baldwin & V. Satir (Eds. ), The use of self in therapy (pp. 17-26). New York: Haworth. Yalom, I. (1995). Theory and practice of group psychotherapy(4th ed. ). New York: Basic Books.

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