The family life cycle is the dynamic and multidisciplinary development of family relationships between spouses and children when present. It is true to emphasize that each family has an individual history and background of its members, which must be taken into account when using interventions to improve family well-being. However, the uniqueness of each experience does not contradict the concept of universal stages of the family life cycle developed by Duvall and Hill (Martin, 2018). The present study examines a case study of a same-sex Stevens family consisting of Jeff and Mark. According to the scenario, Jeff and Mark are going through a difficult time in their relationship because, after a prosperous five years of healthy bonding, Jeff feels challenges in accepting this family and is not sure he wants to be with Mark for the rest of his life (Gladding, 2018). Thus, the first question is associated with a discussion of this scenario in terms of the life cycle paradigm.
According to Duvall and Hill, the first stage in the formation of a new family is the emerging family, which takes up to five years on average. From this point of view, it is obvious to postulate that the Stevens family belongs to this same stage since the duration of their relationship until the moment of marriage was five years: they had no children, with a marriage between the men (Ramsey, 2018). This stage is traditionally associated with the most intense personal development of each partner in the couple with the other; from the Stevens family perspective, Jeff’s decision to change his last name corresponds well with this kind of personal development in which the man consciously invests in forming a stronger bond with his partner. It should be noted that Jeff chose to accept responsibility for his fate and openly declare his decision to the world, which allows the first phase of their relationship development to be viewed as solid and assured.
Meanwhile, the transition between successive stages of the individual requires a set of knowledge and skills to minimize possible difficulties. In fact, individuals will, in any case, be able to move to the next stage when they have finished the previous one: for example, Jeff and Mark will be able to adopt a child, if they want to. However, the absence of resolved conflicts during transitions creates problems for the further harmonious development of the family (Akhmadovna, 2022). More specifically, if the Stevens cannot resolve problems between themselves and choose to ignore them by adopting the child and continuing to live together, then the conflict has not actually been resolved, potentially leading to more severe problems in the next phase. In other words, in terms of the life cycle, Jeff and Mark are now at the end of phase one or the beginning of phase two and are legitimately experiencing conflict. Understanding the structure of family life cycles is necessary to provide more in-depth family therapy work and to understand what processes and issues more reliably may be occurring in the current phase. For this reason, in order to provide professional services for this family, additional information must be gathered. This includes exploring each partner’s desires and paths, determining if they want children, and developing an understanding of Jeff’s true reasons for wanting a name change.
Psychotherapeutic Principles and Interventions
In developing family psychotherapy approaches and interventions for Jeff and Mark, the gay context of this family should be considered. The individual’s primary concern as a professional psychotherapist is to ascertain their own feelings and intentions about these families (Gladding, 2018). The gay context of the family should not be a barrier to high-quality family therapy, so many feelings and emotions that are disruptive to the therapist’s effectiveness must be carefully worked through. In addition, the therapist should be aware of local laws and regulations regarding gay families, as this is a very sensitive issue in today’s society, and not all communities openly encourage same-sex marriage. According to APA guidelines, psychologists, when working with sexual minorities, should not perceive clients’ orientation as an illness or trait and should never attempt to change it in any way that is substantially detrimental to the client’s well-being (APA, 2021). Thus, specific intervention proposals should be guided by the principles mentioned above.
Thus, one of the primary interventions aimed at the gay family is Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy (AEDP) therapy. AEDP refers to an emotional intervention that allows the client to consider their feelings and experiences when discussing problems carefully. AEDP therapy has demonstrated excellent applicability to gay families, so it can also be applied to the Stevens family (Medley, 2021). Specifically, the therapist can address Jeff with the reasons that led to his doubts about his own intentions and a deep discussion of the client’s emotions in such a conversation. Other evidence-based interventions for the gay family are positive psychotherapy approaches based on focusing on positive and well-being aspects that raise the client’s inner resources to address personal issues (Leite & Catelan, 2020). A specific example would be a mindfulness-based intervention that allows the client to mobilize their inner strengths and focus on the present moment to come to an understanding of the problem (Beaudoin & Maclennan, 2021). Such interventions are expected to come to an understanding, not a quick, but an accurate and conscious understanding that will help resolve the inner family conflict.
Personal Cultural Background
Effective psychotherapeutic interventions are applicable to straight families as well since the basis for such approaches is the intentional rejection of hetero- or homonormativity of the family. From my cultural background, the use of positive psychotherapy would also prove to be a reasonably beneficial approach, as it would allow me to focus on the positive resources of each member of my family but not create conditions to aggravate existing conflicts. Obviously, as in any unit of society, there are undercurrents and unresolved issues between my family members based on cultural differences and different perceptions, among other things. Positive psychology allows us not to single out any of us as wiser or more experienced but instead creates a foundation for encouraging positive traits in everyone, which motivates a healthy search for solutions to conflicts. Notably, positive psychotherapy interventions for my family can be implemented either individually or in a group format, depending on the preferences of the participants. Regardless of the specific format of psychotherapy, the professional mobilizes the inner resources of family members through mindfulness practices, gratitude exercises, or positive cognitive-behavioral therapy — this promotes the healthy functioning of each family member in an effort to resolve conflicts.
Akhmadovna, M. N. (2022). Socio-psychological characteristics of disputes in family relations. Web of Scientist: International Scientific Research Journal, 3(02), 930-933. Web.
APA (2021) APA guidelines: For psychological practice with sexual minority persons [PDF document]. Web.
Beaudoin, M. N., & Maclennan, R. (2021). Mindfulness and embodiment in family therapy: Overview, nuances, and clinical applications in poststructural practices. Family Process, 60(4), 1555-1567. Web.
Gladding, S. (2018). Family therapy history theory and practice. Pearson.
Leite, M., & Catelan, R. F. (2020). Affirmative family therapy with lesbian, gay and bisexual persons. Pensando Familias, 24(1), 239-254.
Martin, T. F. (2018). Family development theory 30 years later. Journal of Family Theory & Review, 10(1), 49-69. Web.
Medley, B. (2021). Recovering the true self: Affirmative therapy, attachment, and AEDP in psychotherapy with gay men. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration, 31(4), 383–402. Web.
Ramsey, C. N. (2018). Developmental theory of families [PDF document]. Web.