Marriage and Family Therapy

12 December 2016

This paper will also evaluate five major themes relevant to Marriage and Family Therapy which include: ethical dilemmas in marriage and family counseling, premarital counseling qualifications of marriage and family therapists including licensure and certification. The biblical insight related to marriage and family therapy will also be explored as well as my personal reflections about this topic. History and Development of Marriage Counseling Marriage counseling was established in the early 1930’s.

Counselors recognized the advantages and effectiveness of treating married couples in joined sessions. This growing appreciation for patterns of relationships in families led to numerous studies on marital conflict and dynamics and the effects on children’s development. In 1932, there were three marital clinics said to open. They worked with individuals and their difficulties adhering to traditional gender role expectations. Developed and founded in the late 1970’s was the Marriage and Family Therapy’s code of ethics which is called The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT).

The organization’s philosophy was that marriage and family therapy were two separate areas, each with their own histories, concepts and differing practices. (AAMFT, 2012) Introduction of Marriage and Family Counseling Counseling is to help persons understand and clarify their views of their life space, and to learn to reach their self-determined goals through meaningful, well-informed choices and through resolution or problems of an emotional or interpersonal nature. (Burks and Steffire, 1979 . Focusing on a broader field in counseling, What is Marriage and Family Counseling?

Marriage and family counselors work with couples and families on a wide range of clinical problems including, but not limited to, depression, marital strife, communication, and anxiety and child-parent problems. Marriage and family counseling is not just for unhappy or struggling couples, couple’s therapy can be used proactively to strengthen bonds and to gain a better understanding of one other. In addition, before a marriage begins pre-marital counseling can help couples achieve a deeper understanding of each other and iron out differences before their wedding day.

They also help families learn to solve their problems by managing their relationships effectively. Family therapists often work with individuals, the couple and parents and children to get a better perspective of patterns that affect the entire system to develop strategies for modification. (Corey, Corey & Callanan p. 450 2011). Family Counseling is important to the counseling field this therapy can help people within the family to resolve their disputes and quarrels through effective communication.

Proper communication with the help of a therapist or a counselor can help family members discuss their problems and issues with each other. The importance of the family in our development as whole and healthy individuals is recognized as a basic truth by. In most cases, however, a disturbed and distressed client will have some difficult, challenging relationships within his/her family and these will need to be explored and addressed if the client is to discover and create relief and resolution of their problem.

Biblical Insights related to Marriage and Family Therapy In the book, Competent Christian Counseling it states that “To understand the individual, the one must see the individual in the context of his or her system of relationships” This implies that the quality of a individual is much more than one person, the person is a part of a social system that begins with family. (Clinton & Ohlsclager p. 518 2002). From a biblical aspect Family is described as a social system that progressed by forming a set of rules, roles, power structure.

Forms of communication and way to solve problems. There are four key principles that a Christian counselors point out when approaching any family. The first one is “The family, in is social dimensions, reflects God”. Meaning that The Father, Son and Holy Spirit all have unique distinctiveness however they are “one” as God; this is compared to the Family. A family can consist of a mother, father and children or a mother and husband. If thought they are their own persons, they are considered “one”.

The second key principle that is describe is “Family health, individual health, and maturity are inseparably entwined”. This key principle entails that the powers of family identity and socialization is significant for growth and development among each family member, which can ultimately lead to healthy family living. “The Family is also like the church is that next basic principle, meaning that a family has functions like the church. Finally, the last key principle describes states that “Trouble is reproduced, but can also be stopped, in families and in generations of families”.

This key principle indicates that there is a psychosocial and spiritual relation among family reproduction pertaining to alcoholism and other issues as describes in Competent Christian Counseling as “generational curses”. Christians believe that these issues within families from generation to generation can be transformed through Christ. A example is that of Abraham found in Genesis 20. Abrahams family was said to show favoritism to certain children, which continued for three generations.

When it comes to marriage counseling, Christian counselors believe marriage counseling helps couples to understand God’s pattern for husband-wife relationships, diagnoses unbiblical patterns and their root causes, and prescribes God’s solutions for soul change that leads to relational growth. Biblical marriage counseling should result in enhanced relationship: closeness with Christ, intimacy with your spouse, and a sense of greater peace. Biblical insights involving to family counseling, the focus is solutions, not simply external solutions.

Your counselor will help you to understand God’s design for healthy family living, will assist you to assess unhealthy and unbiblical ways of relating as parents and children, and will equip you to reconcile and grow in your family relationships. Counselor Identity, Functions and Ethics of Marriage and Family Counseling The practice of Marriage and Family counseling rest on the foundation of systems theory, which views psychological problems as arising from within the person’s present environment and intergenerational family system. Corey, Corey, Callanan p. 449 2011). The systems theory is very similar to the views on Christian Counselors as stated earlier; “Trouble is reproduced, but can also be stopped, in families and in generations of families”. Marriage and Family therapists follow a specific code of ethics know as The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy (AAMFT). Founded in 1942 as the American Association of Marriage Counselors, the AAMFT has been involved with the problems, needs and changing patterns of couples and family relationships.

The association focuses on increasing understanding, research and education in the field of marriage and family therapy, and ensuring the quality training of marriage and family therapists. AAMFT members meet standards for education and training and are held to the ethical standards of the profession. (AAMFT, 2011) AAMFT ethics are broken down in eight core areas. The first area is the responsibility to Clients. Marriage and family therapist have a responsibility to the welfare of both the family and individuals in the family.

Therapists are to make reasonable efforts to guarantee their services are used properly and accordingly. Confidentiality is the next core area, which applies to all code of ethics pertaining to the counseling field. Confidentially in Marriage and Family is distinctive because the therapist is dealing with a group of people. However, the AAMFT insist on therapists to respect the confidentiality of each individual client. Although, confidentiality is essential, there are some exceptions. Those exceptions include, mandates by the law pertaining to cases of child and elderly abuse, incest, or abuse to persons with disabilities.

A therapist has an exemption from confidentially when it is necessary to protect clients from hurting themselves and others (AAMFT, 2011). When working with a family, all family members must agree concerning the release of any information. Some therapists, in fact, arrange for sessions with individual family members to actively encourage the sharing of “secrets” to better understand what is occurring in the family. The therapist then may work with the individual client in the hope of enabling that person to disclose the same information in the family session.

Marriage and family therapists are to maintain high standards if professional competence and integrity. Therapists must remain current on any developments and advances relevant to their field of practice. They can do this by continuing education, training, workshops and interacting with other professionals in the marriage and family therapy field. (Corey, Corey & Callanan p. 452 2011). Therapists also have a responsibility to students and supervisees. They are not to manipulate the trust and dependency of the students and supervisees in which there are working with.

Responsibility to the profession is the next core is in the AAMFT code of ethics. This includes reporting people practicing without a license and contributing to community service for advancement of the society. The next core area is financial arrangements. Marriage and family therapists are not to misuse clients financially for services. Issues and Ethics in the Helping Professions states that clients are to be “truthful in representing facts to clients and to third parties regarding any services rendered”.

The last core area in the ethical standards of Marriage and family therapy is advertising. Therapists are able to truthfully represent their competence, education, training and experience in marriage and family therapy. Nevertheless, they should not advertise themselves as specialists with show evidence and supporting this assertion. The therapist’s primary responsibilities are to protect the rights and to promote the welfare of his or her clients. The dilemma with multiple clients is that in some situations an intervention that serves one person’s best interests may be conflicting to another.

Indeed, the very reason that families tend to seek therapy is because they have conflicting goals and interests. The family therapist must insure that improvement in the status of one family member does not Occur at the expense of another family member. Other therapists implement the policy of not keeping secrets from other family members. They clearly discourage the sharing of any information that might lead to a special alliance with one individual and that excludes the remaining uninformed family members.

The impact of the therapist’s values, unavoidable in any counseling process, can play a particularly role in marriage and family therapies. Issues discussed in family therapy elicit very important personal, familial, and societal values regarding preservation of the family system, extramarital relationships, and sex roles. Dealing with these values is not easy, particularly when the therapist confronts a conflict in values among different family members and is inclined to reinforce the beliefs and attitudes of one family member over another (Hines & Hare p. 65 1978). Premarital Counseling Couples now face more demands and have fewer supports than ever before. The typical complex marriage includes managing two careers while rearing children – really requires that couples have very strong, well-established abilities to communicate, resolve issues, maintain support and set goals. Without this foundation, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by stress and time pressures. Problems can intrude much more easily than most couples realize.

Therefore, premarital counseling is recommended for couples looking to eventually get married. Research shows that premarital counseling reduces the risk of divorce by up to 30% . Premarital counseling is a type of therapy that helps couples prepare for marriage. Premarital counseling can help ensure that you and your partner have a strong, healthy relationship, giving you a better chance for a stable and satisfying marriage. Premarital counseling can also help you identify weaknesses that could become bigger problems during marriage.

There are a variety of formats of counseling through local psychology and counseling centers, including individual counseling, small group counseling and interactive seminars where couples participate with a large number of other couples. (Wright p. 65 1992) Characteristics and Qualifications of Marriage and Family Therapists To be qualified as a marriage and family therapist requires not just that you get the right degree, pass the right tests and meet the licensing requirements, but that you possess qualities that prove you to be both sensitive and firm.

Corey, Corey and Callanan in Issues and Ethics in the Helping Professions identifies personal characteristics for effective marriage and family therapists as being assertive, confident, accepting, appreciating the influence of diversity to just name a few. Self knowledge is predominantly vital for marriage and family therapists because when working with a family, their reactions and perceptions are influenced by their own regard to family of origin issues.

Marriage and Family Therapists must be sensitive to dealing with people’s most personal and graphic secrets, shame, guilt and rage. A Marriage and Family therapist should be embarrassed to hear about these things or make distasteful comments about a chosen lifestyle or action, otherwise she risks shutting out the patient. An effective marriage and family therapists must listen to stories that are painful to hear but should remember that those stories are always more painful for the teller than the listener.

An important quality in an marriage and family therapists is recognizing the difference between judging and advising. A good marriage and family therapist will help the patient with insights into sensible decisions that lead to greater personal happiness and responsibility but will not tell the patient what choice to make or ask the patient to adhere to the therapist’s own likes and dislikes. An marriage and family therapist should distinguish between dysfunctional qualities in a patient and those that are simply non-normative.

Marriage and family therapists may hear confessions of illegal activity or hear from the victims of crimes, and legal codes dictate what they have to report. A therapist’s job is not just to listen but to encourage the patient to take action in his life to get the patient to see their actions in a clear light and make good decisions in turn. Marriage and family therapist can become eligible for state certification, or licensure, upon completion of their internship. First, candidates must register with the Association of Marital and Therapy Regulatory Boards.

The Regulatory board will examine the applicant’s credentials, education and experience to establish competency before the applicant can qualify for testing. State certification costs vary from state to state. Each state has different rules regarding retesting if the candidate does not pass the test on his or her first attempt. Upon completion of the test, scores are validated and mailed to the candidate. A candidate who has passed the state exam is called a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and is free to practice in a private or clinical setting.

The educational requirements to become a Marriage and Family Therapist are regulated by each state and thus may vary; however, most will require a master’s degree or higher in Marriage and Family Therapy or a related field from an accredited institution. It is essential for students to gain experience in working with a selection of families from different ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. A program that offers a all-inclusive course work and clinical supervision provides the ideal learning situation. Corey, Corey & Callanan p. 457 2011) Ethical Dilemmas is Marriage and Family Counseling Couples counselors and family and marriage therapists are likely to encounter many ethical dilemmas throughout their careers. Because of the nature of couple’s therapy, issues pertaining to informed consent, confidentiality, multiple relationships, and value systems can have a damaging effect of the counselor-client relationship if they aren’t handled appropriately and discussed by both parties at the beginning of the counseling relationship.

Informed consent refers to the process of informing clients about the therapeutic process. Issues such as fees and payment schedules, appointment cancellation policy, theoretical framework that the counselor employs in his practice, approaches and techniques the counselor intends to use with clients and the limits of confidentiality should all be discussed. In addition to discussing verbal consultation, clients also should be given an informed consent package detailing all the information discussed in session.

Clients should be asked to sign an informed consent document for both the client and counselor’s records. In couple’s counseling, informed consent prevents misunderstandings, disagreements and hostility between the counselor and the client. (AAMFT, 2011) One of the biggest ethical dilemmas in any kind of counseling is confidentiality. This is particularly complicated when it comes to couples counseling in which couples receive both individual and couple counseling.

It is important for the counselor to determine early on in the counseling process whether information disclosed in individual counseling sessions will be kept confidential or if both individuals will sign waivers allowing what’s discussed in private sessions to be brought up in couples counseling. According to the AAMFT Code of Ethics, counselors must discuss the limits of confidentiality with their clients and make sure clients understand these limits. Article 2. of the AAMFT Code of Ethics states that “marriage and family therapists do not disclose client confidences except by written authorization or waiver, or where mandated or permitted by law. Verbal authorization will not be sufficient except in emergency situations, unless prohibited by law. When providing couple, family or group treatment, the therapist does not disclose information outside the treatment context without a written authorization from each individual competent to execute a waiver.

In the context of couple, family or group treatment, the therapist may not reveal any individual’s confidences to others in the client unit without the prior written permission of that individual. ” (AAMFT, 2011) In counseling, multiple relationships refer to a situation when the counselor and client are engaged in a sexual or nonsexual relationship outside the counseling relationship. Multiple relationships are often unavoidable, especially in small towns; as a counselor, you may attend the same church as your clients, your children might be on the same soccer team or you may serve on the same board or council.

However, multiple relationships should always be avoided when possible. In couples counseling, multiple relationships can further complicate the counseling relationship if the counselor is involved in a multiple relationship with one client but not the other. The client that is not involved in the multiple relationships may feel that the counselor is taking sides or treating her unfairly. (Corey, Corey & Callanan 2011) At some point in their careers, counselors are likely to encounter couples with a value and belief system that differs significantly from their own.

Within the counseling relationship, the counselor has a position of authority; the counselor must not take advantage of this position by trying to impose his values on the client or clients. Counselors must understand that individuals from different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities and religions than their own may have different value systems. It is not the counselor’s job to change his client’s value system; it is only the counselor’s job to help clients become comfortable with the decisions they make within their personal value systems. Article 1. of the AAMFT Code of ethics states that “marriage and family counselors respect the rights of clients to make decisions and help them to understand the consequences of these decisions. (AAMFT, 2011). Personal Reflections In today’s world more and more people are experiencing life struggles when it comes to family. These issues can range from problems in a marriage, how to deal with your children issues and understand yourself and how to deal with your family and certain issues. The area of marriage and family counseling/therapy has had an outbreak over the past decade.

The counselors are expected to work effectively with families experiencing a variety of issues and problems. In marriage and family therapy/counseling there are so many different types of techniques that are out there but should be used and looked upon not a cure, but a method to help mobilize the family. Choosing this topic wasn’t hard for me because of the love I have my family and evaluating what I believe needs to be repaired and what I believe stands strong for us. I believe in saving marriages and families, I think it is really important.

Having strong family and a stable marriage plays such a major part in kids lives today, they need a solid foundation in order to have a healthy life. Watching so many young couples get divorce after less than two years of marriage and seeing how the kids suffer really from the break up of the family. I believe that if younger therapist/counselors were out there and start getting involved in the community, church and conducting seminars relating to marriage and families this could be the beginning of change. This is why I chose this topic to research.

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