In this paper, I will discuss two different theoretical perspectives on family therapy that we have studied in class. Also, I will present the perspective of an individual who is seeking help from a therapist to deal with the death of a brother. The models that I will be discussing are the Emotional-Focused Couple Therapy Theory and Structural Family Therapy Theory. These two theories are based off the lack communication between family members, their dynamics, and how they interact with each other.
Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy Theory: What the Jarretts are going through is the best way to describe the Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy Theory. The Jarretts’ family is experiencing a lack of effective communication and a lack of communication. Each member has varying priorities. Beth, the mother, is always telling Calvin that they need to take a vacation.
I was struck by the scene where Calvin’s wife Beth was only concerned about what Calvin was wearing and Calvin couldn’t remember anything else from the funeral of his son Buck. Beth cares more about her appearance than Calvin, so she tells him to change shoes and shirts. Calvin wore to the funeral of Buck, his son. To him it was irrelevant.
Jarrett’s family did not reach out to family or friends after the death of Buck. Beth was trying to give the impression that all is well. She even ignored her own family’s needs. Conrad is an example. He quits the swimteam and keeps the news to himself. But a year later, his mom finds out through a friend. Conrad insists his mother’s anger at his decision wasn’t caused by the fact that he quit his swim team. Instead, he believes it was because his friend told her and not Conrad.
Conrad’s frustration and anger at his mother and her behavior towards him is evident throughout the film. Conrad has a hard time expressing his frustrations to his mother. Instead, he tends to isolate himself and lash out.
Conrad Jarrett is the youngest Jarrett son. Conrad is in high school and has recently returned to his home after a four-month hospital stay following a suicide attempt. Conrad displays signs of PSTD, as well as depression. He has nightmares related to the boating crash that killed Buck and is therefore unable to fall asleep. He blames himself, has no appetite, is not in contact with friends and can’t focus on schoolwork or homework.
Conrad’s dad Calvin is first introduced at a theatre with his wife. She seems to enjoy the play, while he sleeps. Calvin immediately approaches his son Conrad in his bedroom to discuss the possibility of him seeing a therapist. Conrad’s dad is more concerned with his health and well-being than Beth.
It is obvious that Beth’s marriage is in disarray and that gender roles are reversed in the Jarrett residence. Beth does not act as what we would consider the traditional caregiver. In most families, the mother is the primary caregiver. She is also the one who receives the most affection. But in the Jarrett family, it’s Calvin.
Conrad and Beth’s mother gets upset at first because Conrad doesn’t seem hungry. She immediately throws Conrad’s breakfast into the garbage disposal. Beth is showing a passive aggressiveness and a lack of communication towards Conrad.
With the Jarrett family we see the pattern of a complimentary role of a tough-mother/tender-father. Calvin is more like a traditional mother in the Jarrett household. He plays the role of “expression” and shows his son Conrad tender love, care and emotional support. Beth is the one who makes the majority of decisions in the Jarrett family. She decides on everything from Conrad’s clothing to the vacations she and her husband are going to take. Beth even tells her husband which shoes and shirt he should wear at Bucks funeral. Beth’s desire for control, power and structure within the family brings about a lot of tension.
In accordance with the Jarrett structure, the Jarretts show a disengagement model in their approach to Conrad and the mental and emotional problems he faces as a result the death of Conrad’s brother. A family therapist must begin by helping Beth and Calvin to understand that Conrad should be the focus of their treatment. Conrad’s symptoms would become clearer if Beth and Calvin were challenged in different ways to analyze them. Beth being a control-freak, it is important that the family instills new rules and structure.
I observed the mother in the film and it was clear to me that she felt like she was being blamed for everything. Beth will not let anyone see anything but perfection in her family. She also thinks going to a therapist for family issues would be a complete waste of time and humiliating. It is clear that she is not willing to change her family. This is who I am!
I would send them to a therapist for a session of joining families and ask them map out the patterns and interactions in the Jarrett household. I would arrange for the Jarretts family to have joining sessions over lunchtime so they can observe their communication as a whole. The therapist would then work on setting boundaries between Beth, her son Conrad and the Jarretts family in general. This would mean restructuring family relationships.
In this film, we see the difference in the emotions and feelings of the family members. This has a huge impact on the relationships between the family members. Each one has a specific pattern and habit that affects the dynamics in the family. This family requires a positive reconstruction. It needs to be re-trained to value family, and learn to enjoy spending time together. Jarrett’s family is associated with negative connotations as none of the members have dealt with their tragedies in a mature manner. Instead, they have pushed them to one side and failed to cope appropriately. Conrad’s idea of family may be grief and loneliness, while for his father and mother it may mean failure, responsibility and chaos. All of the meanings that these words have for family will need to change into feelings like “love”, home, comfort, security and support. The Jarrett Family would benefit from both Family Structural Family Therapy Theory, and Emotional Focused Couple Therapy Theory. You could also use Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. SFT puts more emphasis on the family structure than the individual. It is therefore better for Jarrett’s family because the current system appears to be flawed. SFT could also help the Jarretts, as they have a fractured family. SFT helps the entire family. The Jarretts would benefit from EFCT because it is an excellent therapy to help with communication problems. It will also help with emotional issues that have arisen since the death of the Jarrett son/brother.
I personally would prefer to use a combination of SFT, EFCT and cognitive behavioral therapy if I worked with the Jarrett Family. This combination would work best for the Jarrett family. In the movie Jarrett was shown as a well-educated and wealthy family, with a good foundation in social life. This family focused on the good things instead of the bad. Conrad and Beth could both benefit from individual intensive therapy. Calvin and Conrad in the movie are two characters that I feel could adapt well. Beth’s inability to accept change will make her the most difficult person to adapt.