Working with Families-Stressors Through the Life Cycle

Sherry and Phil are the divorced parents of two children—Susie (12) and Greg (10). They have been divorced for five years after an eight-year marriage during which Phil was active military and deployed two times. After the second deployment, for support, Sherry moved off base with the children to live closer to her parents. She did not return to the base when Phil returned from his second deployment. Phil was upset; however, he understood and requested reassignment to an overseas post. He has since been discharged and has been struggling to find steady employment.

Sherry and Phil attempt to co-parent their children and share equal custody but live over 50 miles from each other. This distance creates transportation challenges for both parents around school activities, sports, and time with friends for the children during visitations.

Both Sherry and Phil single parents for several years and have each remarried spouses with children. Sherry and her husband, Jim, have full custody of his 17-year-old twin girls. The whereabouts of their mother has been unknown for at least ten years. Phil and his wife, Jill, share fifty percent custody of Jill’s 5-year-old son with her ex-husband, who is also remarried.

Choose a stage of this family system (Sherry and Phil’s marriage while he was active duty, Sherry and Phil’s divorce, Sherry and Phil’s single parenthood, Sherry and Phil’s remarriage) and discuss the challenges faced by both the adults and the children during this time period. Pick one of these challenges and use it as a presenting problem for the family. As their counselor, choose a systemic family therapy model and discuss how you would approach your work with this family in the context of the clinical model.

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