Applying Systemic Approaches

Select a speaker who shared their story of recovery in the Psy8430: Portrait of Addiction video viewed in Unit 2. Assume that they present for treatment as they were when they were early in recovery with their family or significant other. Describe how a specific systemic treatment approach could be used to assist the couple or family and how it might be applied given what the speaker describes of their life before recovery. (Note that the speakers are identified by name at the end of the film at 53:40.)

Unfortunately the video Portrait of Addiction did not start for me but I remember the characters from earlier viewing just not the names. One man was a pilot and he spoke about his addiction to morphine during his service, which eventually developed into heroin abuse. He grew up in Bronx or Harlem, not sure now and he could be a member of a minority group, probably Portorican descent. I will name him “Paul” just for the purpose of this assignment.

What I noticed about this video was the western, autonomic and individualistic promotion of addiction and recovery. It was filmed in 1998 and besides all the models of addiction that was discussed here in this course the video was really a reflection of the atmosphere at the time in America. The economy was booming, the American Dream was still legit, capitalism was a nice word and a person was his own fortune maker. Nowhere in this video have I heard about the upbringing or other circumstances that lead to the abuse. All these individuals blame themselves for their misfortune ( though very refreshing analyzing it from today’s point of view) without considering any extrinsic factors. This not so long ago video confirms the development of such tactics in recovery and its traditional approach with focus on an individual only without involving family members or considering outside influences (Lewis, 2013).  

“Paul” did not share any details about his upbringing except growing up in 1960s it was very shameful to be an addict and the view was once a user always a user. His family might have had the same opinion and if he was a Latino descent it could be even more shameful. However Paul is around 45 years old and even though some unresolved issues could linger between him and his childhood family, the family system therapy would concentrate on Paul’s spouse. She needs to understand how hard it is to be recovering addict and how it could affect Paul’s daily functioning. On the other hand she could be coping with her struggles and this therapy should be designed to aid her as well. In Bowen Family System the counselor fulfills the role of a mediator where the tension is released from the couple to an un-bias third person. Assigning tasks or reenactments are some techniques used in family systems to help with reinforcing the learned behavior, discovering new experiences, keeping couples engaged till next session to name few (Lewis, 2013). Systemic-motivational therapy is based on the principle of substance abuse effect on the whole family and the target of the treatment is the whole unit. It is also grounded on MI and family system approach in therapy and even though trial research is not complete, the reliability should be strong (Steinglass, 2009).

On a personal note- I am actually not even close to consider family systems counseling for the simple fact that for rookie counselor it is a huge task and responsibility.



Lewis, T.(2013) Substance Abuse and Addiction Treatment: Practical Application of Counseling Theory. Pearson Learning Solutions. VitalBook file.

Steinglass, P. (2009). Systemic-motivational therapy for substance abuse disorders: an integrative model. Journal Of Family Therapy, 31(2), 155-174. doi:10.1111/j.1467-6427.2009.00460.x

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