Family Therapy Term Paper

Pages: 17 (4825 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 5  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: Master's  ·  Topic: Family and Marriage

¶ … Parent Trap 1 and 2" is a movie that depicts a family that would benefit from family counseling. Using Bowen's Family Systems Therapy and McGoldric's Ethnicity and Family Therapy, the following essay outlines the cultural and social contributors to this family's issues. Drawing on the theoretical approaches covered in this course, the following is a 15-page analysis of the family dynamics and structures that are causing the presenting problems. It provides ample examples and explain relevant theoretical notions. It also describes the strengths and resources that would enable this family to tackle these issues more effectively. Finally, it develops and justifies three culturally sensitive therapeutic interventions: family intervention, dyad, and individual.

I decided to use the "Parent Trap" since it revolves around a family conflict -- children separated from parents - and show the subsequent stressors. Both twins (Hallei and Annie) have a divided picture of their lives. It is only when their picture is merged that they can feel complete. Bowen's Family Therapy is, I feel, ideally suited to this situation since she talks about stress of one individual being exacerbated within and by family, of this stress expanding by involvement of others within 'triangle', and of need to differentiate one. The triangle was extending in Parent Trap 2 by Susan becoming involved with the family comedy almost imploding into tragedy.

Bowenian therapy would focus on having twins and other family members understand the family dynamics and help them differentiate themselves.

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I further decided to use MacDougal's theory, too, to help Hallie, Annie, and their parents in Parent Trap One and Sharon, Susan and Nikki in Parent Trap 2. Whilst MacDougal's theory of ethnicity, as I show, is irrelevant to this family who are educated, multi-generation American, influential Whites, and the theory of genograms is extremely relevant since various striking patterns have been transmitted through three generations that are played in the movies. The therapist can practice individual, dyadic, and family therapy by informing members of these genotypes and helping them better recognize their roots.

TOPIC: Term Paper on Family Therapy Assignment

The Parent Trap

The Parent Trap is an endearing move about twins (Hallie Parker and Annie James) who have been separated at birth and find themselves in a girl's camp after a quarrel and punishment to be related. Each pretends to be the other and goes off to the other's home for one to find that her father is intending to remarry. Displeased with the woman and determined to stop it, the girls intervene, the parents reunite only to briefly quarrel before making up their differences. Parent Trap 1 also leads into Parent Trap 2 where the girls many years later are adult. They are now called Sharon and Susan. Sharon is divorced and planning to move to New York. Nikki, her daughter resists. Meanwhile Nikki has a best friend in her class (called Mary Grand ) who wants Nikki's mother to marry her father, Bill. The classmates try various strategies each of which backfired. Eventually they bring Susan who lives now in LA into the scheme. With her husband, a Navy official, abroad, Susan impersonates the sister, with Bill wanting to marry her as a result. The plot straightens out in a funny twist, and Sharon almost leaves for NY, but for the girls stranding man and woman on the sea and Sharon and Bill agreeing to marry.

Bowne's Family Therapy

Family therapy, developed by Murray Bowen, believes that all problems of the individual stem from the family. Families are interconnected; an integrated whole and any emotional dysfunction originates therefrom. Each family member seeks approval from the other; some end up as scapegoats. Whilst too there is interdependence, at the same time there is a huge amount of independence and when one family member feels stress, this stress escalates and rubs off onto he others with the result that each member is stressed and effect the family dynamics as a whole. The emotional system is, therefore, at the core of the family functioning.

This emotional system is aroused by external factors and by a system of emotional stress that may be internal in the family and be passed down to it as inheritance., if family does not react to it productively, it may affect each of the members and cause ongoing destructive stress.

Example from Parent Trap:

Elizabeth and Nick are divorced. Hallie and Annie, their twin daughters, are unaware of this; each thinks their missing parent has died. Each twin has her individual problems. Even when reunited, the twins realize that to be happy they need to have the parents together or, at least, each needs to be with both parents. Each twin breaks up and dissimulates to seek the other parent. They call each other regularly. They're unhappy apart. They seek an integrated family unit. The scenes that show us the private life of each parent also indicate how lack of closure invests a sense of anxiety. Neither parent has managed to get on with his or her life. It needs their daughters to bring them together, but until the twins do so and succeed they evidence a huge amount of anxiety, squabbling, and stress that impacts the larger family group (grandparents, butler and housekeeper) from both sides and eventuate in the parents quarreling:

Hallie as Annie: His and hers kids. No offense, Mom, but this arrangement really sucks.

Elizabeth James: I agree, it totally sucks. (Imdb. Memorable quotes for the Parent Trap (1998)

In a longer sequence, we see this same stress:

Annie: Hallie, what was your mother like?

Hallie: I never met her. She and my Dad split up when I was a baby, maybe even before, I'm not sure. He doesn't really like to talk about her... But I know she was really beautiful.

Annie: How do you know that?

Hallie: Because my dad had this old picture of her hidden in his sock drawer and he caught me looking at it all the time so he gave it to me to keep. & #8230; (ibid.)

They talk about their pictures:

Annie: Mine's a pathetic little thing, ripped right down the middle... What are you rummaging in your trunk for this time?

Hallie: [she finally faces Annie as she hold a picture to her chest] This. it's the picture of my Mom. And it's ripped too.

Annie: [knowing] Right down the middle?

Hallie: [nervously] Right down the middle. (ibid.)

The picture ripped down the middle is symptomatic. The family is ripped apart. All are suffering, experiencing stress:

[they both gasp as they place the photo together and realize... ]

Hallie: That's my Dad...

Annie: That's my Mom...

Hallie: [as she wipes away her tears] I'm not so hungry anymore. So if your Mom is my Mom and my Dad is your Dad... And we're both born on October 11th, then you and I are... like... sisters. (ibid.)

There is the closure with the recognition:

Annie: Sisters? Hallie, we're like twins!

Hallie: Oh my god!

Annie: Oh my god!

[they hug] (ibid.)

The fact that that each of their pictures is ripped down the middle is telling in a Brownian sort of way. The family is ripped down the middle in stress. With the twin reuniting -- hugging -- and with each putting the pictures together the stress has started to dissipate.

Parent Trap 2 shows similar dynamics with neither Nikki nor Mary able to continue with life until her has parent has remarried. Sharon too still feels unsettled after her divorce. This introduces stress which Nikki seeks to defuse. She brings in her aunt. This stress then travels like a triangle through the whole pyramid. The entire family is stressed. Since Mary too is stressed and wishes her father to remarry, this element of stress impacts her father too. The stress travels back and forth, stirred and intensified by the classmates, until Sharon and Bill marry each other.

Bowen presented eight interlocking aspects for understanding the situation in order to promote effective therapy. Each, in this essay, is connected to the case history in Parent Trap and elaborated on below:

1 - Emotional Fusion and Differentiation of Self

This is where individual choices are set aside for the sake of stabilizing the whole. It can be expressed as "a sense of intense responsibility for another's reactions" (Kerr and Bowen, 1988, p. 15) or by "emotional cutoff from the tension within a relationship" (Herz Brown, 1991, p. 21).

This is the opposite of differentiation where individual makes self-directed choices within family system (Kerr and Bowen, 1988). Bowen's 'differentiation of self-scale' serves as instrument to measure this. At the one extreme you have 'complete differentiation' where individual has totally shifted out of triangle and is able to function as independent within family group despite family stressors. Bowen said that this is uncommon

2. Triangles

This process of triangles is central to Bowen's theory. Triangling occurs when a third party steps in who either takes a certain side or creates a detour for the anxiety (Lerner, 1988; James,… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Family Therapy.  (2013, March 8).  Retrieved September 28, 2021, from

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"Family Therapy."  8 March 2013.  Web.  28 September 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Family Therapy."  March 8, 2013.  Accessed September 28, 2021.