January 9, 2013
Jenny Brenn, MFT, LCADC
The Brice Family: A systemic approach
The Family Crucible, written by Augustus Napier and Carl Whitaker (1978), exemplifies a fragmented family system. The family consists of David a VIP lawyer, Carolyn an angry mother, Claudia an enraged teenager, Don the 11-year-old peacemaker, and six-year-old Laura. Co-therapists, Napier and Whitaker have taken on the task of working with the family using a systemic approach to conceptualize the family’s difficulties. Herein, this writer will describe how Whitaker and Napier depict the family struggles, how these struggles relate to the family unit in deference to an individual focus, and how specific interventions employed support the systemic approach. Conceptualization of the Brice Family’s Difficulties
Conceptualization is more of an ideational structure with a potential for realization, very similar to a schema (Webster’s Thesaurus, 2013). Identifying how Whitaker and Napier (1978) conceptualize the Brice family’s struggles brings forth an unimpeded view of the issues from an experiential perspective. The first session was to include the entire family so the therapists could visualize the family dynamics and the inner workings of the individuals involved. When Don did not arrive with the family, Whitaker began to question the family’s commitment to the therapeutic process. According to Whitaker (1978, p. 6), “to start the process with one fifth of the family absent would be unfair to Don and I think unfair to you. He’s part of the family, and we need him here if the family as a whole is going to change.” The family became frustrated and began employing Don as the scapegoat for the lack of commitment to therapy (Nichols, 2013, p. 292). Whitaker (1978) expressed his view of Don’s absence as an unconscious process wherein Don was elected by the family to stay home (p. 8). The family in turn would not have...