Psychology is about understanding the human mind, both as individuals and in group contexts, and how this knowledge can be used to give psychological help to people. I, for one, understand the power of therapy in changing people’s perceptions of themselves and consequently their feeling and behaviors. In turn, this influences the perceptions, feelings, and behaviors of the people around them. In a sense, therefore, therapy plays a significant role in community building. This is why I am interested in marriage and family therapy.
The dynamics of a family have significantly changed. Marriage is no longer between two people of the opposite sex. Moreover, family units have become increasingly diverse, with the increase in the number of single-parent households and stepfamilies, many times as a result of divorce. Adding to these pressures is an increasingly complex and hectic society, new technological advances, for instance, have affected the way that people communicate and relate to one another. The result has been a general breakdown in communication, thereby significantly disrupting the family unit.
Whatever the nature of any particular family, it is still the basic unit of any society. It impacts on children and, by extension, society at large. It is no surprise, for instance, that many behaviors of adults (whether perceived as good or bad) can often be traced back to their families: the behaviors of specific family members (parents or siblings) and how such behaviors could have affected them directly or indirectly, both in the short- and long-term. This is the reason that I believe marriage and family therapy is important.
I subscribe to – and much more interested in understanding – Albert Ellis’ theory of cognitive behavioral therapy. The basic premise of CBT is that cognition (that is, how one thinks), emotion (that is, how one feels), and behavior (that is, how one acts) are all related. In other words, one’s thoughts determine how they feel and behave. Negative thoughts, therefore, can cause distress, while positive thoughts can boost one’s happiness. But these issues at an individual level do have broader impacts. Particular, by influencing one’s actions, one’s thoughts have an impact on others. In families, when a parent is distressed, they may take it out on their spouses or their children. Both ways, it significantly affects family dynamics and in most cases, children pay the bigger price. The objective of CBT, therefore, is to help one to develop positive perceptions and/or thoughts and drop negative thoughts that may lead to negative behavior, which would have broader impacts on the entire family. In this respect, the objectives of such a therapy would include: resolving conflicts in families; helping family members make better decisions; and achieving faster results in these respects. The primary purpose of therapy in this respect would then be to help to make positive changes in their perceptions.
Towards this, I have had experience with Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) therapy working with Autistic children. From my practice, I have used ABA to understand the behavior of my clients (autistic children) and in what ways these behaviors are the results of the environment in which they live, whether at home, school, or any other contexts that they visit regularly. The influence of such environments can be physical or social, and which nonetheless can significantly influence behavior. To be clear, ‘behavior’ here refers to not just actions, but also skills. In other words, the environment can have both positive and negative influence on behavior. This understanding has had a significant impact on me personally, but also my practice. I understand now that my objective as a therapist would be to help my clients leverage the environment to have a positive impact them as individuals. It is about changing perceptions, and in turn emotions and behavior.
This is why I am interested in the Master’s program in clinical psychology with a concentration in marriage and family therapy. The human mind is highly complex, especially as it is ever subject to the changing environmental factors. With this program, I would like to understand more. Most importantly, it will help with significantly help with my journey towards more specialization in a specific field because, indeed, I would like to devote all my time to this.
I believe that marriage and family require time. Despite the changing dynamics of both, many still believe in marriage and many still want to start a family. There is, therefore, a role that professionals can play in this. It is about offering a listening ear in the face of private family issues. Personally, after completing my studies, I would like to open my own private clinic where I will incorporate these theories into my practice helping people who need such help. This opportunity will enable this dream.
Specifically, I would like to learn three important things. First, I would like to learn how to identify harmful patterns of communication within families, and on my part be able to teach my clients the skills necessary to improve this behavior. Second, I want to learn strategies for adapting my treatment plans to the unique needs of each client or group of clients. Besides, even where families face exactly the same problem, the extent of such a problem and the intervening factors often vary. Third, I would like to learn how to guide families in their debates on their own problems and important choices around finances, life planning, and transitions, among others.