The family as a social group is valued as a social unit that provides a supportive network for its members. The family therapist acknowledges that there is a diversity of family forms, such as nuclear, extended, cohabitation and same-sex, to name a few. It is also acknowledged that the different forms a family each have inherent strengths and weaknesses. Hence, the family therapist emphasises interventions that facilitate individuals to form social couples and households, or family groups. It is the aim of the family therapist to assist with relational development within the couple or household, and to support the learning of new ways to problem-solve. As a human service worker professional, the family therapist does not discriminate on grounds of gender, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, and religion or health status. To enable effective and efficient intervention, the family therapist needs to adhere to a theory that reflects their personal therapeutic philosophy.
The social construction framework is useful to human service workers in the fields of family therapy and psychotherapy in that it allows practitioners to investigate and empower client's creation of meaningful understandings of themselves and the wider world (Swann, 1999). The framework focuses on the key influences of sociocultural forces and the environmental context of human understanding, learning and accumulation of knowledge. Within family therapy this theory provides the therapist with a powerful ability to draw family members away from blaming each other for their behaviors, and placing these behaviors within a larger sociocultural context. For example, the Western values of independence, competition and profit contributing to the family to place pressure on their son to find gainful employment and to do better in life than what they have. In turn, the son has felt misunderstood, isolated and unable to achieve due to constant "failures" and has chosen to drop out of society. Now living in a shelter, the son is attempting to find work, but constantly faces rejection, which is further inhibiting his self-esteem. His parents feel they are unable to help him, feel guilty for his poor upbringing and don't have anyone to talk to.
The framework is useful for the family therapist in this instance in that the family can be encouraged to exhibit agency within the therapeutic process, such as role playing each other as well as perceived ideals, and with their increased agency and autonomy be less dependant on the therapist to provide meaning for their experiences.
Justification for the Proposal
Family therapy is grounded in the theories of social and developmental psychology. The actual practice of family therapy did not occur until the mid 1950's (Swann, 1999). The dominant psychological paradigms at this time were psychoanalysis and the medical model used within psychiatry. However, it had become increasingly evident that emotional and mental disorders extended further than the individual patients themselves, and that relationships within their significant social units also impacted on the health and well-being of a person. Today, the family therapist considers that therapy involving the family as a whole is more effective, and also provides quicker results, rather than individual treatment of family members (Scarzoni, 1995).
In the early years of family therapy