The age of sixteen is characterized by personal anxiety of teenager which acquires its specific display in his or her conduct. The personal anxiety is a mixture of inherent psychological determinants and external conditions. While psychological determinants comprise the characteristics of the emotional sphere of the teenager, his or her attitude to oneself and interpersonal needs, the external conditions are presented by social and psychological characteristics like gender, social status in the system of education and the status in the group of pupils.
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All these factors are to be closely considered when dealing with the problems that 16 years old Fai faced with. Accessing and helping the client will be based on the family systems therapy as the main approach and person-centered therapy and behavioral therapy as the assisting ones. The approaches chosen presuppose that the therapy is conducted in terms of close contact with the client and the obligatory assistance of his mother, the teachers’ active participation in the helping the boy is also preferred. Only when these circumstances are considered the client may be sufficiently helped.
The present situation with the boy’s case looks like the following. Fai’s conduct is not approved by the school: the absent rate is too high and the level of academic performance is low. The relationships between Fai, his teacher and classmates leave much to be desired. The situation has worsen when Fai was suspected in having stolen the classmate’s money and was punished by the teacher last year. Fai’s father died two years ago what increased the boy’s tragic assumption of the outside world. When the boy comes home he sees his mother with a strange man whom he does not like, this person will never substitute his father and the boy is reluctant to understand his mother’s love. The only remedy that the boy finds in his situation is playing online games overnight. The computer addiction does not influence positively the boy’s health and behavior. He is so absorbed in the virtual reality that he does not want to accept the laws of the real life: he refuses to have lunch and dinner and he continues to play truant from school for a week already. The situation aggravates because the boy does not realize his problem and is reluctant to adjust to the changes that the school and the mother offer him.
The goals of the therapies applied consist in the following. The general target of helping the boy is to nurture the change in the boy’s life and modify the priorities of his self-development. This will be done through increasing the sense of the boy’s family’s inter-connection and belonging, through encouraging the individuation of every family member. Other goals are to increase Fai’s self-esteem and greater openness to the school experience as well as to the relationships with his mother. It will be done through fostering the client’s agreement between his idealized and actual selves, better self-understanding, establishing more positive and comfortable relationships with his mother, his mother’s friend, his classmates, his teachers and other people around. The application of the behavior therapy presupposes such goals as changing the boy’s way of acting, feeling, thinking and coping. Through monitoring and evaluating the boy’s progress we are going to help him change in the way he needs to change. Unlike the first two approaches, this will be based less on Fai’s life experience; more attention will be paid to his present life. In terms of this theory we are going to improve the boy’s self control by developing his skills, abilities and independence not into the prejudice of his school performance or his relationships with the people around.
Family systems theory has developed from general systems theory when its application to families and other social systems was found effective. According to this system families are treated like systems built up of interrelated elements connected by regular interactions being interdependent on one another. Family systems interact in patterns; these patterns determine how the family systems should function.
Family system approach is an effective means when treating someone in recovery. We will treat Fai’s case as the one aiming at his recovery.
We will need the information on the family history and dynamics where Fai is an individual part. As the boy’s current living situation is known only in general, we will need to find out more about it. We will gather the information from teachers about the boy’s performance at class and his behavior there. We will inquire Fai’s classmates about their relationships with the boy. The concrete information about the boy’s life experience will be got from the boy’s mother and from Fai himself. It would be very helpful if we understand how the boy sees his problem. It is most likely that the boy will be reluctant to speak about his life experience, school performance and the like. Our task is to make the boy feel free in communication with us; he will trust us only in case of absolute confidence. The boy should not feel as if he serves a guinea pig, but should really feel that we are willing and able to help him in the present situation.
We will examine Fai’s self-identifications as well as his family experience around general misbehavior. The therapy will be started from Fai alone. Then, we are going to identify how systems, from a micro to macro level, may be a part of Fai’s perception and, consequently, the problem of misconduct. We will clear up how Fai’s misconduct affects the family and how it is integrated and is maintained by family relational patterns.
We will resort to the experiential-humanistic approach of family systems therapy. The goal of this approach is to assist the boy towards growth of self. Our client needs to realize his potential that will develop his autonomy in terms of academic studies and the boy’s behavior at school. Emphasizing the boy’s strength and getting rid of his weaknesses we will make the boy believe that he may devote his free time to some other activities rather than playing computer games. The boy’s interest in some other spheres should be provoked. The teachers should do their best to involve the boy in the learning process. Once encouraged for some task, he will become interested in one’s own further development.
Fai’s mother’s asking for help is a good beginning. Now she should take an active part in the process of solving the problem. We do not know yet the features of the mother’s character, but in any case, she should be patient about her son. Constant quarrels and reprimanding will not work. Encouragement is the best way to treat the boy. Even the smallest success of the boy should be noticed by the mother. Together with the teachers’ impact this will increase the boy’s interest not only in the studies but in the boy’s general attitude to his life. The mother should be supporting as the boy lacks understanding in class. We also need to find out whether Fai has friends or not. If there are no friends, the boy’s only resort is his mother who should be ready to devote much of her time to the boy’s problems. If the boy has friends, the mother should know who they are and how they influence her son. The boy’s intercourse with the peers that have the same problems is unwanted. Instead, the mother should try to encourage the boy’s friendship with someone who is able to teach him something. If Fai has good friends, the mother should collaborate with them with the purpose of making the boy more caring about his studying and leisure time.
What is also important is to convince Fai’s mother that she needs to be more caring about her son. Her personal life should not be led to the prejudice of Fai. The boy lacks proper attention from his mother and he does not believe that someone cares about him. Hence the boy’s passion for virtual reality, here he finds answers to questions that torture him, but not in his mother’s words.
We will inquire the boy and his mother about the father. What was the boy’s attitude to the father? What role did the father play in Fai’s life? If the father had the same problems but solved them successfully, this should serve as an example for Fai. The boy should be encouraged to follow his father’s footsteps if positive influence is obvious. The mother will be asked about the methods that father used in bringing up the boy. Did award or punishment prevail? If the boy liked spending his time with his father and confided in him, the father’s role should be played by the mother. Her attempts to substitute Fai’s father for her boyfriend are not the right way to cope with the problem. The mother should act with the purpose to establish friendly relationships between her son and her boyfriend. As these are two people whom she loves most of all, the task is not that difficult: interesting evenings spent together will make Fai and her mother’s boyfriend closer to each other and the boy’s jealousy will die by itself. If possible, some consultations with the very boy-friend will be made; he may turn very helpful in the boy’s case. The boy should not be asked to forget about his father by replacing him by the mother’s boyfriend, but establishment of the normal relation between Fai and his mother’s beloved are quite possible.
Another system where Fai is engaged in is his school. Considering this system we will take into account the information we got about the boy’s school performance, his attendance and the bad habit. The case with the classmate’s theft also needs a proper analysis. The reasons to steel the money will be studied, the boy will be asked to evaluate this rash action of his and the way it influenced the attitude of the class towards him. Our task is not to blame the boy, but to help him look from the other side on his action. How did he benefit from it? Was he satisfied with the change of attitude towards him? Were there some other ways to behave?
Though school performance and attendance depends much on the boy, but the teachers’ role should not be underestimated. If they join their actions aimed at helping the boy to succeed in his studies, the results will not keep them waiting. Moreover, when the boy is involved in the learning process, he will find another application of computer instead of constant playing of computer games. Fai’s classmates should help him to catch up with them, but it will be done only when their attitude to Fai is changed. Therefore, the teachers should encourage the classmates to be friendly with the boy and give him another chance.
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To achieve the results expected we need to follow the principles of the person-centered therapy: congruence, unconditional positive regard and empathy on our part.
Congruence implies our openness and willingness to understand the client’s problems without hiding behind a professional facade. The boy needs to believe us firstly and then he will want to share his feelings and emotions with us. Unconditional positive regard means that the boy will be listened to without blaming him for this or that deed. Interrupting, judging, or giving advice will be reduced to minimum in the boy’s situation, as only in this case he will feel free to all of his feelings without worrying about the outcomes that this expression might have. The absence of our rejection will increase Fai’s desire to share his emotions, thoughts and ideas.
Active listening is a primary way of conveying our empathy to the client: careful and perceptive attention to what Fai is talking about, along with eye-contact and the method of reflection will help us convince the boy about the necessity of changes that should appear in his life. Without trying to modify Fai’s way of thinking we will succeed in making him recognize some alternative ways of thinking that will change the boy’s assumption of the life around.
According to the principles of the person-centered therapy we will adjust scheduling of our therapy session according to the boy’s expressed needs. But if we implement the principles of behavior therapy our sessions will be conducted in the following way: once a week we will talk with Fai about a particular problematic behavior and will explore some event from the past week. We will start from the chain of events leading up to the problematic situation, we will go through alternative solutions that the client has failed to take and will study what prevented him from doing this. And once a week we will conduct a group therapy sessions where the boy’s family, some of the teachers and classmates will be involved. Interpersonal effectiveness, reality acceptance skills and emotion regulation will be developed during this course.
As we can see from the mentioned above, only the complex system of family system approach, person-centered therapy and behavior therapy will help us to solve Fai’s problems. The teachers’, the classmates’ and the family’s involvement in the problem is an integral part of the problem’s solution. When all these rules are followed, Fai is guaranteed a professional help from which everyone involved in the process will benefit.
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