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Group dynamics and several other interpersonal constructs are important in dealing with families in family therapy. There are several theories that explain the family and its functions and describe how the family unit copes with changes within their systems. The Emotional Strategic Theory (EST) is a model that combines important concepts from Bowen's family theory, Hayley's Strategic Approach and Bateson's communication model. The theory emphasizes the importance of communication and communication styles in family systems. It also incorporates the importance of family roles and hierarchy and how these factors are affected by the changes in each family member's life. This paper briefly discusses the core concepts of Emotional Strategic Theory and how it views the family and its dynamics.
they learn what type of communication is effective for survival and parental acceptance. families who suffer these symptoms should be given immediate solutions that can help them identify the underlying problem. the system also is greatly affected by its internal processes. As children. are inadvertently learned and passed down through different generations. the communication patterns are rarely recognized while the cycle is inherited by the next generation. How we encode and decode verbal and nonverbal cues have been influenced by how we communicate with our family members. Relationship roles that are too complementary make it difficult for members to differentiate and distinguish its uniqueness to his or her role. understand their familial patterns and change ineffective communication approaches in working out plausible solutions for the system to develop. they become more enmeshed and uncertain of how to move forward as the life cycle progresses.Introduction Communication patterns. People learn through constant interaction with the other family members that there are behaviors that are accepted or prohibited. like relational patterns. Through trial and error. These relational patterns of role fusion are also unconsciously transmitted to following generations. Emotional Strategic Theory combines Bowen's theory of differentiation to familial roles. Bateson's communication theory on family dynamics and Hayley's Strategic approach to family 2 . As an immediate intervention. Although the environment has a significant role in the development of a system. Because information is unconsciously picked up. If the members of the system cannot identify themselves as separate entities. individuals learn how to interact with people through their parents.
one day. As children become accustomed to these patterns. When individuals receive ambiguous messages they always second guess what is being communicated. Emotional Strategic Theory. During conflict. It proposes that effective communication is an integral part of a family's communal life and affects their relationship patterns. EST therapists facilitate the session for families to realize the communication patterns that have influenced their relationships. It sees conversations and interactions as laden with emotional signals and cues that are sometimes ignored or unrecognized by the interlocutors. As a family. Communication traditions are passed on from the generation to generation to ensure that the system will subsist on its own. How a parent communicates to a child will greatly affect how the child will perceive the parent and vice versa. or EST. The theory looks at conflict as caused by ineffective communication strategies which is an effect of years of the family of origin interacting with its environment. they carry it with them in future interactions and. Evidently. direction and perceptible while ambiguous messages are the exact opposite. these messages become convoluted and may worsen the system's dilemma because of the nature of the messages sent and the speakers approach. whether it is negative or positive. Clear messages have purpose. The Emotional Strategic Theory's core concept is effective communication. The theory proposes that the communication patterns are transmitted from one generation to the other. focuses on two things: communication patterns and emotional interdependence. The nature of messages that are sent can be classified as either Clear or Ambiguous.hierarchy and life cycle changes. their families. the members exchange ideas and thoughts through verbal or nonverbal messages. the ambiguous messages can usually cause anxiety 3 .
4 . EST identifies four patterns of communication: Clear – Proactive. Ambiguous – Proactive. recognizes challenges and allows room for improvement. Using the proactive approach. This also helps in differentiating the relationship roles of 'You' and 'I' to create a clearer system of interaction and responsibilities. A family then can develop depending on its dominant pattern of communication. Speakers with a confrontational approach would directly address conflicts and are generally aggressive to get what they want. Confrontational and Passive. Following Strategic Family Therapy. Clear – Confrontational. anticipates difficulties. These are the people who would most likely push someone to do something about it rather than take the first step forward. When the structure is clear. there are three types of approach in communication: Proactive. Aside from communication. It asserts that families with ambiguous structures tend to meet problems as they move from one lifecycle to the other (Carr. Emotional Strategic Theory asserts that directing the family to a more congruent and structured hierarchy is one of the key elements in helping families cope with life cycle transitions. Based on Heffner's communication styles model. Emotional Strategic Theory acknowledges the importance of family structures. members can interact with more flexibility since their interactions cease to be complementary or symmetrical therefore the communication process can develop as the family move on to the next stage. the speaker elaborates. The confrontational approach puts conflict channels out in the open and forces people to face the situation without concrete solutions in mind. 2006). Ambiguous – Passive. Speakers who avoid anxiety-inducing situations and are prone to comply with anything that has been suggested have a passive approach to problems. Ambiguous – Confrontational.and conflict in the system.
the system receives the stimulus from the environment and decides whether the information is useful for its survival or not. undifferentiated roles and ineffective communication patterns are the underlying causes of the problem which lead to conflict. The family. It needs to know what is around it for the system to adapt accordingly and at the same time it needs to have a concrete internal structure for the system to keep itself intact in the face of unexpected situations that may threaten the system. therefore. is also resistant to the changes influenced by environmental change. Following the concept of the feedback loop. It then permits internal recursive patterns to escalate to neurotic patterns that can cause the family to seek help. It is a system that prides itself of its history and fortitude. It is. These are problems that have been passed on from one system to the other. They are called family heirlooms. It forces the system to be static and resist any outside influence from perturbing its internal process. Inconsistent family structures. It is a multigenerational outcome of its continuous interactions with the environment. It receives and sifts through the environmental feedback as well as denies all forms of influence and maintain status quo to prevent the system from becoming agitated. On the other hand. a system that moves towards change and adaptation as they progress to the different life stages. the family seeks to become a self-sustaining system that will no longer be affected by environmental processes. The family relies on interaction to survive. Symptoms of the neurotic and stymied family may become manifest in one member or in the whole family. problems 5 .The Family The family is an inter-relational system that carries a generation of inherited communication and relational patterns. as much as it aims to develop.
parents are overpowered by their children. Regardless of which heirloom it is. the parents will no longer be considered the head of the family. the fight for control becomes worse. when roles are undifferentiated children will grow up with misconceived notions of familial responsibility. the family tries other learned processes to attempt to solve the problem. it cannot recognize that the solutions it has made in the attempt to confront the problem are ineffective and are further aggravated by its communication patterns and approaches. When problems crop up. the system realizes that the problem helps keep it 6 . Communication heirlooms are unrecognized communication patterns that help worsen new conflict as each new system faces challenges. When the system's solutions are unsuccessful. These heirlooms form a bigger problem once it is reintroduced to the system.that have been passed on from one generation to the next to seemingly help the family keep together. They are classified into two: Communication and Structure. If the cause can't be uncovered. both contribute to the negative relationship patterns. Over time. Take for example a child that grew up to take care of his siblings. When children are uncertain of the family structure. The system closes itself from the environment and tries to fix the problems on its own. are blotted out from the system. they start to ask who is on top of the food chain. systems would tend to handle it on its own. Structured heirlooms refer to the unstructured family system where. A series of events will lead to Entrapment where the family forces every member to become and remain the same to lessen the anxiety. in extreme cases. the system identifies symptoms and attempts to solve it. Instead. As they grow up. Since the system becomes closed to outside influences. more of than not. the other members will consider them a liability to the family and. As his siblings grow older. Similarly.
A pattern of blame. the members understand that they are part of the system but they do not exist as parts of the system alone. They also create solutions as a system.together and continues to allow it to revolve as long it serves its purpose. Most of the time the family would look for help but would cover it up by presenting a symptom. The messages that they send to each other are clear and purposeful. it will choose a scapegoat to exonerate it from its inability to solve the problem. Once the pressure builds up within the system. 7 . These are the people who are often identified as the reason why the family is burdened or teetering to break. the worse it becomes. The nature of their messages and each member's approach in delivering these messages can improve or worsen the problem. It does not always rely on what has already been learned from its family of origin. Because the system is proud. Healthy families have members that are proactive communicators. how the members react to it and how they communicate to each other is very important. asking each member to contribute to the decision making. The more they interact and the more symmetrical their interactions are. it will eventually self-destruct. They talk about their concerns as a system and make the members understand the course of action that has been taken. Similarly. matters a lot in solving its problems and improving their relationship patterns. incrimination and justification strengthen the already negative relationship between members. The system realizes that they are an outcome of the previous system but they are not the same system. Families sometimes don't notice that how they communicate. When members of the family are in conflict. They are future parents that will help enhance their inherited system by creating their own families. or the absence of which.
it is a secondary concern to the process because it more often than not complements the patterns of communication. the theory has a collaborative and directive approach. collaborative in creating goals because it recognizes the clients' capabilities and directive in leading the clients away from the patterns that they are used to. the therapist creates a treatment plan that he shares with his clients. After the goals have been set.Overview of Therapeutic Process Since the Emotional Strategic Theory sees ineffective communication patterns as an main underlying reason for families to be unable to solve their problems. in the form of an interview. would map out dominant patterns in the family relationship and check out any observable family heirlooms. During the Middle Phase. Therapeutic goals are then discussed by the therapist and the clients. They are encouraged to admit ownership on the decisions and actions they make and 8 . They also discuss each member's underlying needs for a concrete goal to be set. Assessments would take about three to five days depending on how cooperative the family is. the therapist slowly works on each goal employing techniques that will allow them to improve their communication lines and talk more freely about the problem. the therapist shows the clients their relationship and communication patterns in relevance to the client's problem. Clients would usually approach the therapists with a problem or a scapegoat and the therapist. Following the tradition of Strategic Family Therapy. In therapy. one of the goals of the Assessment Phase is to uncover the dominant patterns. Although hierarchical structures are also important in understanding the system's dynamics.
moving on. The Communication Map is similar to the genogram but it highlights the communication style of each member and the communication pattern each on has in a specific problem. The goal of the Middle Phase is not only to ensure that the goals are met but to also stop any negative communication patterns from persisting. ultimately leading to the termination of the therapeutic relationship. Blame is slowly pushed out of the system's thought and replaced with accountability. Paraphrasing is a useful tool to help clients understand what is being said by the other. They are made to realize that patterns are not indispensible they only serve as a guide when a similar problem arises and they are modifiable. It is a supplement to the genogram in psycho-educating clients. Once accountability of actions and communication has been set and the goals have been met. the therapist and the clients look back on the treatment plan and review it. The therapist follows up on the clients' progress with less supervision. Techniques The Emotional Strategic Theory uses the following techniques: The Genogram is a useful assessment tool that can help families understand transmitted relationship patterns and familial hierarchies. Therapists direct clients to create their own treatment plan once a similar problem arises. The client is tasked to listen to what the other person is saying and relay what the person 9 . The therapist and clients talk about techniques they have learned and assess how well they did in the course of the therapeutic relationship. The therapist encourages them to modify existing problem solving patterns by creating action plans as a family.
the receiver of the message tells the sender of the message if he or she said it in a positive manner." This will create a different impression of the task and influence the way of thinking. she or he' statement into an 'I' statement. They are encouraged to use gestures to explain their feelings. The therapist discourages them to move their facial muscles and body and just say what they want to say as a plain statement of fact. As part of the feedback process. Both Verbal and Nonverbal Omission techniques are designed to exercise control. they are asked to change the 'you' or 'him or her. the therapist discourages clients to use words to express what they feel. when clients start blaming each other. can't and never. the partners will discuss how they will adjust to the situation and agree on a work around. the therapist discourages the clients to use negative words such as 'no. clients are coached on how to create Positive Scripts when delivering messages to the other person. 10 . Nonverbal Omission is a technique when clients are asked to say what they want to say without any non-verbal cues. In Coaching and Feedback. From "I can't do it" to "I am meeting challenges with the task. Once reasons have been laid out. When initiating Breaking Even.had just said in his own understanding. Owning Statements require clients to share accountability for what they said and did. In the therapy session. therapist lets one family member speak and explain what his bottom line is while the other listens and vice versa. In Verbal Omission.' The therapist coaches them to create statements that have a way forward. either directly or indirectly. In Positive Scripting. They are asked to start with an 'I' statement to express how they feel as something that is simply fact. The initial speaker is tasked to explain his thoughts until he and the client can reach a point of agreement.
com/html/strategic_therapy.com/meta/communication_styles. Family Therapy: Concepts. (1999). from Jay Hayley on Family Therapy: http://www. Taking turns require the clients to remain quiet and listen to what the other is saying as the therapist encourages them to discuss their thoughts and experiences. Inc. 11 .org/pages/theory. England: John Wiley& Sons Ltd. (1997-2010). M. from The Meta-Profession Project: http://www. 2010. from Interpersonal Communication: http://www. Retrieved March 10. Communication Styles.html Anonymous. Retrieved March 8. (2005-2010). J. 2010. from The Bowen Center: http://www.com/commstudies/interpersonal/inpatterns. Jay Hayley: The Strategic Therapist. Family Therapy: A Systematic Integration. Mirroring is similar to paraphrasing only that you change what the speaker said to something more positive and workable.html Carr. Relational Patterns. 2010. D. R. & Becvar.thebowencenter. Process and Practice. & Theall.. A. SSQ. S. The Bowen Theory. USA: Allyn and Bacon. 2010." References Anonymous.. (2010). T.abacon. someone says "I am incompetent" the other will mirror the statement and say "You need to learn more skills. (1988). Retrieved March 8. This is to give family members a glimpse of what one member understands and is seeing. For example. A.cedanet. Borchers.htm Becvar. R.jay-haley-ontherapy. Retrieved March 10. (2006).html Arreola.
from Parenting IS Prevention: http://www. Retrieved March 11. 2010. She also studied Law before she got married. He has married a model and was living in Geneva. Communication Patterns of Family Members. (1999-2010).html SAMSHA.html Vardigan. (2010). from A Healthy Me!: http://www. the mother. is a painter with nomadic tendencies and the youngest. Sabrina Kaye Leighton is the only child of a well known lawyer in town. Leighton.com/documents Emile. William J. He was not part of the therapeutic session. Retrieved March 8.drwayman. Lecture Documents. (2005).com/az2/webenglish/commstyles. William II or Willy. 2010. Shawn. from Building Lasting Relationships: www. Retrieved March 8. (1998). P. only Shawn has a different profession from everyone else.com/topic/verbalabuse Sample Case The Leighton's family descended from a long line of doctors and lawyers.whitehousedrugpolicy. is the head doctor of a prestigious hospital and is the only child from his family. The father. D. Lifestyle and Wellness. Retrieved March 8. Wayman.angelfire. Based on the Genogram that was drafted. Styles of Communication. B. 2010. 12 . from Emile's Webenglish: http://www. The Leightons have two male offspring: the eldest. is a troubled high school student.gov/publications/prevent/parenting/r_communications. 2010.Dale V.ahealthyme.
They wanted to keep the family tradition going and unconsciously placed pressure on their children to take courses related to medicine or law. The identified goal of the therapeutic session was for clients to send clear messages. The family contacts an EST therapist to help them understand their problem. the therapist assigned each family member to interact in the house without using words (Verbal Omission).The family is seemingly supportive of their sons' career choices. to listen and understand them and to create way forward strategies to help the family come to an agreement in the decisions. it was found out that the dominant communication pattern was Ambiguous – Proactive while the sub-pattern was Ambiguous – Passive. the parents told the therapist that there was open communication at home. tension would always be apparent between the parents since they have different opinions. The assessment also showed that the mother tended to be the more vocal of the two parents whereas the father allowed her to do what she wanted. After the communication map was drafted. the therapist found out that the main problem wasn't really Willy but it was how their parents communicated their wishes and aspirations to their children. going out with shady people and coming home late. 13 . In the previous session. During the initial phase. After a series of interviews. Whenever the issue of college came up. They even theorized that the youngest son was jealous of his older brother because of the attention that was given to him. The script below is the outcome of the ninth session. The mother defends that they talked to him and made him understand that they were just trying to help his brother. They laid out their main concern as their youngest son who is skipping school. It has been established that the Father serves as the bridge between Mother and Son. The parents said that they always talk about their children's plans and help them achieve their goals.
please excuse me for cutting you off. Therapist: (addressing to everyone) Does everyone feel the same way? The family murmur softly. One of the things that we have discussed in our previous meeting is to listen carefully to what others are saying and understanding their point of view. Therapist: (addresses father) How was it for you? What did you feel? Father: It was silent. I liked it better because I could understand what everyone wanted to do for once. don't say that. sweetie. We were too used to talking to each other that saying nothing at all was difficult.Therapist: (directing to the family) How was your week? Mother: It was very difficult. we were 'talking' more than we did when we actually talked. Leighton. Now. 14 . We always made sure you understood what we wanted you to do. right? (looks at her kids and husband) Father: Right. Even if we had difficulty expressing ourselves. (Faces the family) Did you feel that you communicated more when you didn't talk? Willy: I did. Therapist: I understand. A little awkward but it was something that I liked. If you understand what I'm talking about. but let's go back to one of the goals on listening. Mother: I'm sure everyone felt the same way. Therapist: Mrs. let's allow Willy to talk about his experience this week. Therapist: Does that mean that you've never understood what everyone else wanted before? Willy (nods) Mother: Willy.
that was it really. Father places an arm around her. For me. Therapist waits for the mother to calm down and offers her a box of tissue when she does. right? I haven't forgotten that. you are grown up. I don't mind being reminded but if they'd keep telling me what to do every single time I do something then I'd feel like a kid. I mean. You told me before that I have to be responsible. Mother: But you're our son! Willy looks down and doesn't say anything. For once mom and dad weren't complaining about me playing videos. Look at her and say "I'm a grown up. why'd they have to keep on telling me what to do when I already know what to do. Mother: (looks at Willy) Willy. I'm a grown up. I don't want to let go of that. Mrs. Therapist: (looks at father): What do you think about the situation? 15 . Leighton. Willy? Willy: I'm not a kid. you will always be my son. It's hard for me to admit it but yes. Willy: Mom. I sort of had fun. I can make my own decisions. What do you want to say to Willy? Mother is silent for a couple of moments." Willy: (looks at mom) Mom. Leighton? Is there anything you want to tell Willy? Mother starts crying. That was enough for me.Mother: All right. I'm grown up now. I can never see you as a grown up. I don't run to you when I have problems. Willy: Well. Therapist: What do you have to say to that. They'd just tap on the screen and tell me that it's time for bed. Therapist: Can you direct that to your mother. Mother stays silent Therapist: (talks to the mom): Now. Therapist: Mrs.
Leighton have discovered that they need to let go of the child in Willy. Leighton does at home. When the mother calms down. and Mrs. start talking to Willy like how you would an adult. we will discuss your experiences and thoughts on this exercise.Father: I'm seeing that my son knows what he wants to do and that Sabrina is having a hard time letting go. start giving him responsibilities in the house that Mr. Therapist: Can you tell Willy and Sabrina what you think? Father: (facing Willy) Son. Mr. Leighton. like washing the car. Therapist waits for her to calm down. Leighton. the therapist proceeds: Therapist: Today. and Mrs. Willy has expressed that he is grown up and is capable of making his own decisions and Mr. we have established a more honest communication line. Leighton is used to doing. we need to let go. mowing the lawn – any daily tasks that Mr. coaching and feedback to allow the Father to gain control of the situation and reinstate himself as the head of the family. (sets next appointment with clients) In the script above. (turns to mother) Sabrina. As homework for Mr. you are now responsible for your decisions. Next week. Mother starts crying again. The therapist aimed to make the mother listen to allow her to realize what she has been saying. the therapist utilized taking turns to allow the passive Willy to speak up. and Mrs. 16 .
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