The Case of Marge and Al
Answer these questions to the case study provided below and Write a 550-word paper identifying the ethical issue or issues.
Describe the ethical issues that confront you, as the caseworker.
Describe how you are going to help resolve these issues while maintaining ethical standards.
The Case of Marge and Al
Marge and Al come to marriage counseling to work on the stress they are experiencing in rearing their two adolescent sons. The couple directs the focus toward what their sons are doing and not doing. In the course of therapy, the counselor learns that both Marge and Al have full-time jobs outside the home. In addition, Marge has sole responsibility for all the household chores and management as well. Her husband refuses to share any domestic responsibilities. Marge doesn’t question her dual career. Neither of them shows much interest in exploring the division of responsibilities in their relationship. Instead, they focus the sessions on getting advice about how to handle problems with their sons.
What would you do with their presenting problem, their trouble with their sons? What might the behavior of the sons imply?
Is it ethical for the therapist to focus only on the expressed concerns of Marge and Al? Does the therapist have a responsibility to challenge this couple to look at how they have defined themselves and their relationship through assumptions about gender roles, and how their values may be influencing the behavior of their sons?
If you were counseling this couple, what might you do? How would your interventions reflect your values in this case?
Commentary. This case represents a fairly frequent dilemma for family therapists. These overextended parents may have little time to give to their children, yet the children are presented as the problem. This needs to be explored—but not by way of blaming the parents. By working with the entire family, we can make an accurate assessment of the nature of the problem. It is often the family system that requires intervention, not the child alone. We agree with the systems perspective that a “problem child” often reflects hurt within the family system.
This case illustrates how critical it is for therapists to be clearly aware of their values pertaining to gender as well as being aware of their own gender bias. For example, a more egalitarian therapist will have to resist imposing his or her values regarding the distribution of domestic duties within the marriage, especially if strong cultural or religious values underlie the couple’s practices. It would be a good idea to explore with the couple how satisfied they are with the current division of labor.
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