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The family unit is the oldest institution that has ever existed in the lives of human beings. With this in mind, every society has a family unit. In other words, people in the society belongs to a particular family and there is no single person who is developing normally in terms of psychological, emotional and physical aspects that can do this without belonging to a particular family. In this regard, the family unit has become a center of study with scholars and researchers committing their time towards understanding its setup and how different aspects of life affect it. This has led to a realization that irrespective of the fact that this is an important part of the society, the family faces a lot of challenges on a daily basis. Therefore, there is need to develop critical principles and approaches to deal with these challenges. One of the approaches is cognitive behavioral style in Family Counseling.
To begin with, cognitive behavioral style or rather cognitive behavioral therapy can be defined as the psychotherapeutic approach towards dealing with behaviors, cognition and dysfunctional emotional problems by use of systematic, goal-oriented procedures. Notably, cognitive behavioral approach to counseling is a combination of cognitive and behavioral therapy. In reference to Corey (2004), cognitive behavioral approaches focus on the role of thinking and doing and tend to be action-oriented (p.4). In this connection, the cognitive behavioral approach to family counseling will form as one of the most important method of dealing with problems that continue to be experienced in the family in the modern world and in the society in general. Importantly, cognitive therapy, behavioral counseling, and their combination have growing in importance in family therapy since the 1980s (Seligman, 2004, p.246). There are different models that have been developed over time to deal with family matters under the cognitive-behavior therapy. One of these models is the Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy, REBT.
Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy
To begin with, Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy, REBT focuses on the role of irrational, dogmatic, and rigid thinking in causing psychopathology (Rational emotive behavioral approaches to childhood disorders: theory, practice and research (Ellis & Bernard, 2006, p.276). It is also important for one to understand that irrational beliefs are pervasive, tacit, rigid schematic depiction of the way the surrounding environment is and the way it ought to be. In consistent with this, REBT focuses on the individual interpretation of the happening in a particular environment and in this case the family environment. Therefore, the existence of the family depends heavily on the ability of the entities in this family to be in a position of interpreting the family environment and how it ought to be.
The application of REBT in family counseling as a cognitive-behavioral approach plays a critical role in creating an environment that will be appropriate for counseling services. Therefore, as a counselor, one has to understand that members of a family have different perceptions towards certain issues in the family and towards the world in general. In this respect, there is no way one can be able to conduct family counseling without first understanding that the world view towards the family and the world in general by entities in a particular family setup varies greatly. On the other hand, one cannot in any way ignore the fact that there is need to develop consistent and appropriate methods of evaluating individuals in a family.
With this in mind therefore, Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy plays a critical role as a cognitive-behavioral approach to family counseling. Importantly is the fact that members of a particular family have the ability to create their own worldview from the events and issues that happens to their lives. The introduction of REBT as one of the approaches to dealing with counseling issues in a family focuses on the fact the family members are treated as individuals rather that collectively as a family due to the fact that each one of them has his or her own worldview. In other words, whereas people may be living together as a family, each one of them has his or her perspective towards the family and the outside world.
In reference to Corey (2004), the approaches that have been used in the recent times by counselors in dealing with family issues have focused on understanding the core beliefs that individuals in these families have (p.171). The REBT approach to family counseling therefore focuses on understanding how the beliefs that individuals in these families are developed. Remarkably, individual behaviors and believes are mostly influenced by other family members in a particular family setup. For instance, when parents fight in the presence of their children, there is a high possibility that these children will develop a perspective that the family is all about fighting and that a man and a woman cannot in any way live together as a husband and a wife in peace. On the other hand, there are certain behaviors that develop among children as a result of their observation of these behaviors in their parents.
For instance, there are many parents across the globe who believes that unless somebody is schooled, one cannot succeed in life. These believes are rationally correct to such kind of parents and they will always work on imparting them in their children whether their children have the formal learning ability or not. Whereas these are believes of these parents, their children may be talented in sports or any other career that does not need a lot of learning. According to Corey (2004), these beliefs and perception towards oneself and towards the family in general are generally utilized by individuals to maintain family ties or relationships. With reference to the example given above in regard to parents who believe that their children cannot succeed without using education as a channel of success, the relationships between such parents and their children will be maintained as long as these their children are able to perform in school.
It is important for one to come to an understanding that there is no single problem in the society that can be solved without a focus on its genesis. Therefore, REBT helps in identifying, analysis and understanding of a particular issue of concern in the family. It is worthy to note that whereas people who are living together may be one family, they may have a different background from each. In this regard, their perceptions towards the general world and their own family vary from each other. In line with this, counselor must be able to understand such challenges and develop a model that would help these members to accept each other and the fact that whereas they may b living together, their background has created in them a system that causes their perceptions to differ from each other. As a result, if they are to stay together, they have to develop an acceptance and understanding perception towards each other.
It is also important for counselors to accept the fact that the happenings in people’s lives may affect them for the rest of their lives irrespective of the fact that these may have happened and forgotten in the past. In this respect, when approaching the issues in regard to family counseling, it is important to understand that the inability of a particular family setup to function properly may be as a result of the beliefs that one has that were developed in this person in the past even before they met with the person they are living with and formed a family. For instance, when a woman is raped when she is still young, she may develop an attitude that men are ‘animals’ when it comes to sexual matters. Therefore, her sexual life would be problematic as she will dwell mostly on the negative part of sex rather than accepting her mate, i.e. her husband the way he is. This may complicate the sexual life of this family leading to its breakup when no one is able o help them tackle the issue.
Therefore, REBT as a cognitive-behavioral approach to family counseling helps in undoing the beliefs and other behaviors that have develop over time in regard to the family. In this respect, it also acts as a way of shaping people’s behaviors towards each other and the family in general. Additionally, it is important for one to understand that behaviors and beliefs are also shaped by the family origin of a person. For instance, there are families that believe that certain matters should never be discussed in the family. This is particularly so among married people who are living together as a family. In this regard, when two people come together to form a family, they do so under the premise of the fact that each of them has a set of believes and norms that they carry from their previous family setups. Therefore, above everything else, the use of cognitive behavioral approach in dealing with family matters is based on the fact that as a counselor, one has to understand the problem that a particular family is facing not from what he or she is told but on an analysis of both the past and present influence on the beliefs of this person(s).
Cognitive-behavioral approach or rather therapy can also be used in problem solving in the family. There are different problems that the family faces on a daily basis. Much of these problems emanate from the way people relate to each other and the beliefs they have towards themselves and other members of the family. In connection to this, it is important for the family to acquire knowledge and skills on different approaches that can be used in dealing with problems that arise within their setups. For instance, drug and substance abuse remains as one of the most challenging problem among many families across the globe. In essence, many young people in the society and in the family have resulted to abuse of drugs and other substances as a way of dealing with the problems that they face on a daily basis.
Smith & Montilla (2006), different groups have developed family empowerment intervention, a systems-oriented family counseling program offering structural interventions delivered in the family home by well-trained paraprofessionals (p.123). The understanding of the aspects that are involved in cognitive behavioral therapy play an important in laying a foundation that would enable counselors to formulate problem solving strategies in the family. In this regard, there are different problems that can be solved in the society by understanding the way these behaviors develop in terms of cognitive behaviors. The problem of violence demands an integrative, multisystem approach (p.126). In addition there are problems in the society that involves reexamination of exaggerated gender role stereotypes and behavioral expectations (p.126).
In essence, the problem that the family faces today emanates mostly from the belief system that one has. For instance, most societies across the globe have beliefs that the society need to treat a woman as a weaker gender rather than treating her as an equal to man. In line with this, when a woman who has a liberated mindset is married to a man who is not liberated in regard to societal stereotypes, there would be problems in the family that is formed. For counselors to solve these problems, they need to understand their belief system and background. It is also important for one to grasp the idea that not all problems in the family face couples alone. There are other problems that affect children either directly or indirectly. In this respect, there is also a need to develop a communication and problem solving approach that would create room for parents to deal with issues that concerns their children.
In reference to Kiselica et al (2007), problem-solving communication is one of the most important techniques of counseling families whenever there is a problem in one or more of the family members (p.260). The application of problem-solving training as a cognitive behavioral approach to family counseling entails strategies that could help one to unlearn certain myths and beliefs that have been integrated in the mindset of a person. On the other hand, new beliefs are introduced in such a person to help him or her develop a healthy perspective towards the other in the family setup. For instance, as mentioned earlier, most parents believe that their children must obtain education as it is the only way to their success in life. However, this is not the case always. There are a lot of people that have been able to succeed by exploiting their talents e.g. through participation in sports. Therefore, when conflicts arise, such parents need to unlearn myths that a person cannot succeed in life by exploiting his or her talents.
In this regard therefore, problem-solving technique works on dealing with challenges that arise on a daily basis in the family without necessarily alleviating one member of the society above others (Kiselica et al., 2007, p.145). Irregardless of the fact that a particular problem in the society can be solved and brought to an end, there is need for one to understand that the family has to deal with the fact that the available solution may be alleviating one person while on the other hand degrading the other. In this respect, there is need to develop problem-solving training that will be aimed at providing neutral and amicable solutions to family members while at the same time dealing with the issue of imbalance in the solution that is provided. For instance, in the case of a husband and a wife, none should receive a solution that will make one to make one to be a winner and the other one a loser. Instead, the solution that is provided need to create an equal ground from which they can work on growing their relationship again.
Therefore, problem-solving training is an important aspect that helps in alleviating coherence and maintaining of mutual respect among different members of the family. On the other hand, since it is based on cognitive behavioral approach in family counseling, it prevents recurrence of certain problems that the family faces on a daily basis. Outstandingly, LeCroy asserts (1983) that whereas generation of appropriate solutions played a key role in dealing with family problems, it was important for one to develop excellent skills that would enable him or her to be able to identify proper solution when these solutions are presented to them. This requires that counselors obtain appropriate training that would help them to learn how to identify proper solutions for a particular problem when solutions are presented to them. An extension of this training to a family setup on the other hand would alleviate the problems that families face on a daily basis.
Stress-inoculation training focuses on developing important skills that are critical in analyzing and dealing with stress in one’s life before it establishes itself. According to Meichenbaum (1977), stress-inoculation training has three important phases namely; the educational phase, rehearsal phase and application training. These phases play a critical role in dealing with stress problems in the family and thus they provide an important platform for the development of cognitive behavioral style that would enable counselors to be effective in their family counseling sessions. With this in mind, stress-inoculation training is an important aspect of cognitive behavioral training with respect to family counseling.
In reference to Meichenbaum (1977), the educational phase provide an important framework under which clients are expected to learn important issues that pertains to dealing with stress and other stress-related problems (p.150). When this is applied in a family setup, it is important for any particular family to come to the knowledge of the fact that responses that are offered or rather applied to a particular stress problem will determine whether these problems would be solved or not. In other words, when one member of the family is stressed, the actions that this member will take will determine at great length the way other family member would respond. For example, when one spouse is stressed as a result of tight work schedules, his response and that of his partner would at determine the fate of their relation thereafter. As a result, it is important for families to be taught on response behaviors in their families and how these behaviors affect their relationships.
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The second phase of stress-inoculation training involves the ability to select from a variety of coping techniques. According to Meichenbaum (1977), cognitive coping was introduced with the suggestion that both maladaptive and adaptive responses are mediated by sets of statements that one says to himself or herself (p.154). In addition to this, what a person said to the other person in the family also mattered a lot. Following this point, the family members had to learn to adopt positive thinking irrespective of the stress situation that they were in. this involved controlling of negative thoughts and images that one had towards a particular problem in the family. Similarly, it was also important to control negative thoughts towards other members of the family whenever there was a challenge.
Thirdly, stress-inoculation training entailed the application of what one had learnt in regard to dealing with problems that one had in the family. Whereas one might have a solution for a particular family problem, the application of this solution would go a long way in alleviating the effects of the problem that one was facing. Meichenbaum (1977) argues that once a client had become proficient in employing such behavioral and cognitive skills, it was then important to test out and practice his or her coping skills by actually employing them under stressful conditions other than the phobic situation (p.156). In this regard, the client who is a family member in this case has to exercise his cognitive and behavioral skills to deal with every form of stress in his or her life and be able to align his family in such a way that it would be able to run effectively.
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In summation, there are different ways through which cognitive behavioral approach can be utilized to deal with emergent problem in family counseling. With this in mind, there are different aspects of cognitive behavioral approach that can be pursued in dealing with problems that emerges in families and generally in family counseling. These include Rational-Emotive Behavior Therapy, Problem-solving training and Stress-inoculation Training. Generally, these aspects require a critical understanding of the cognitive and behavioral aspects of individuals in the family. More important is the fact that they require both learning of new belief systems and unlearning of myths that a person has towards himself, other people in the family and generally towards the outside world.