The Link Between Relationship Problems And Behavioural Problems
A Case Study
16-year-old Brett came to us with symptoms of depression. An assessment of Brett’s functioning indicated that in most areas of his life he exhibited only mild levels os distress. However, he reported significant distress surrounding his relationships with his parents.
In particular, he reported that his parents were too strict and that they were constantly getting into arguments about household rules.
Brett’s mother and father were eager to help with this issue and so agreed to join Brett and the psychologist.
An observation of the family’s communication and conflict resolution styles revealed maladaptive communication behaviours. The family reported that the hostility that had developed between them had lead to reduced time spent together and an increase in distress for all family members.
Brett’s problem was viewed as a family issue and treatment focused on improving family interaction styles, problem solving skills and general relationship satisfaction.
First, the psychologist helped the family to gain insight into the ways they interacted. Each family member was responsible for identifying their own adaptive and maladaptive styles and considering the consequences of these styles.
Next the psychologist gave tips on effective ways of communicating. The family was asked to practice these skills at home and in other contexts. The family was also taught how to solve day-to-day problems using problem-solving model. The problem they identified as the largest source of conflict was the household rules.
Using the communication skills and problem solving strategies they has learnt, Brett and his family were able to calmly and effectively work through this issue. With the psychologist’s help, Brett and his parents were able to devise a set of ground rules that applied to all members of the family and were considered fair by all.
Consequences for breaking these rules were also discussed and agreed upon and the psychologist helped the family to monitor implementing the rules over the next few weeks.
In addition, the family was encouraged to spend more time engaging in pleasant activities with each other to strengthen and build on their relationship. These techniques were found to correspond with a decrease in distress for Brett and his parents and an increase in the quality of their relationship.
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