A Genogram Assignment…

Abstract

The purpose of this assignment is to identify trends in patterns throughout my family by creating a genogram. Attached are photos taken genogram along with commentary on visible trends. After examining these familial trends, I will consider how they are likely to influence me as a future therapist.

Genogram Overview

Metcalf (2011) describes the genogram as a “diagnostic tool [that is utilized] to help families see patterns within their past and present” (p11). While similar to a family tree, the genogram also includes information on key life events, communication patterns, and relationship quality (Genopro, 2015). A close examination of the family tree allows familial hereditary trends and us to develop a psychological history (Genopro, 2015). What follows is an overview of insights gained from this exercise. An enlarged version of my family genogram is attached to the end of this paper.

Initial Reactions

While this project was definitely a challenge technologically, it was also educational. I’m fairly happy with the outcome, although I noticed one minor mistake. I forgot to put the male parent on the left (Metcalf, 2011, p14). While I wasn’t able to make these changes to the attached photos, a corrected version of my genogram was emailed to the instructor with a registration key for viewing.

Sources of Information

My primary sources of information were my parents and sister. My grandparents are all deceased, and my mother’s family lives in the Philippines. Due time-zone differences, calling them wasn’t possible. I am also not very close to my father’s family and have not decided to contact them for this assignment. My husband’s portion of the family tree, was from his own memory. He isn’t very close to siblings and his parents are both deceased.

Key Insights

While I was unsure of whether or not it was necessary to include my husband’s family tree, I decided to do so, only because his family background differs so greatly from mine. It provided an opportunity to understand the ripple effect of family history on development and growth (Metcalf, 2011). In addition to a history of abuse and addiction, there are quite a few divorces throughout my husband’s family tree. In contrast, my family background included no history abuse or drug addiction or abuse. However, a huge cultural gap between my paternal and maternal relatives was quite problematic for me. I attribute this cultural gap to an misunderstanding between my maternal grandmother and mom. Additionally, this factor can explain in part why I was never close to my maternal cousins. I discuss this further below:

Genogram for My Maternal Side

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Acquiring information for my mother’s family was especially challenging because much of the information we require predates World War 2. Few records are still existing from this time period due to widespread loss resulting from the war. The time zone differential also made contacting my mother’s family problematic. Several key insights can be noted when viewing this side of family tree.

My mother is closer to her maternal sisde.

My mother says she rarely had an opportunity to meet her father’s family. However, after World War 2, her four aunts and uncles lived nearby and she grew to know her mother’s extended family well. Without asking my grandparents, it is impossible to know the reason for this.

My mother has a distant relationship to her sister.

My mom and her sister both came to the United States in the 1960’s in order to complete medical school. While it was never their intention to stay here, they ended up marrying and settling down in the States. Despite the fact they live in the same country, they rarely speak. While they deny animosity, I am uncertain as to the reason for this. My mother is unwilling to elaborate.

I feel a closer relationship with my maternal grandparents.

Culturally, the Philippines is collectivist in its orientation and life centers around family. My mother has explained that a sense of love and connection comes through honoring your “duty”. This notion involves committing a significant portion of your identity and life’s purpose to your role within the family. In the individualistic society we live in, this is a foreign notion. As a byproduct of this cultural difference, I was always closer to my maternal grandparents. I felt they took it upon their selves to fulfill a role as grandparents and were aware of how important this role was. I came to understand all their actions and words as reflecting a sense of duty, which I understood as an expression of their love.

The women in my mother’s family are all well educated.

As the story goes, my maternal great-grandmother (Dorotea Santiago-Gonzales) was an only daughter with several older brothers. Her family put the sons through college but not their daughter. T his angered her, and she determined all her daughters would get an education. Consequently, her daughter Maria became a teacher, Guadelupe a Chemist/Business owner, and Consuelo, an M.D. Her oldest daughter, Maria, carried this tradition further, and put her two daughters (my mother and aunt) through medical school.

Genogram, for My Paternal Side

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Similarities between my mother and father’s family include well-educated individuals who appear to enjoy long-lasting marriages. However, key differences, in a culture gap and divergent perspectives on a women’s proper role in the family. What follows are a few key insights from this side of my family tree.

My paternal grandmother did not get along with my mom.

My grandmother Charlotte was a stay-at-home mother. She was a byproduct of the “Leave-it-to-Beaver” era, and believed a woman’s place was in the home. My paternal grandmother never got along very well with my mother, and often made snide remarks about the fact that she worked. When I asked my mother about this, she downplayed the severity of things, although I notice she was often uncomfortable around the holidays. I think the fact that my mother is Catholic and my grandmother Charlotte was atheist didn’t help matters either

I never felt comfortable around my cousins and was never close to them.

In my immediate family, my mother was the disciplinarian. My father preferred to allow her to take the lead in this respect. As a result, I was raised according to my mother’s cultural beliefs. My mother discouraged me from dating until college. I was much more naïve and inexperienced in this particular area than a typical woman of your age. Additionally, my mother made me dress conservatively and preferred me to not wear any makeup until college. Finally, in keeping with her culture, I was to always show my mother respect. These character traits made me very different from my cousins. I had two female cousins the same age as me, and I was the oddball. They were your typical rebellious American teenagers. They wore makeup and the latest most fashionable clothes. I was a naïve tomboy that always listened to her mother. Fitting in was difficult for this reason.

My father is very close to his brother Ted and has a distant relationship with Mike.

My father has one brother who is about 15 months older who is still very close with. In contrast his youngest brother, Mike, is 18 years younger. They are not really very close, since my father was out of the house by the time Mike was born.

My Husband’s Family Tree

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My husband’s genogram is reflective of a greater degree of turmoil, in comparison to my own. While this family background has been the source of much pain, my husband has endured these experiences to become an amazing and thoughtful husband/father. Key insights reflected in my husband’s family include the following:

My husband’s Father was Abusive.

While my husband bears a great deal of anger towards his father, he has forgiven him. Nonetheless, painful memories still exist.

He was close to his grandmother who raised him.

My husband is the youngest of four siblings, and didn’t get to know his parents very well. Fortunately, for this reason, he seems to have repeated fewer of their mistakes.

He never knew his mother.  She was a chronic alcoholic.

He never new his mother very well since she wasn’t around. Due to lasting effects of prolonged substance use, she lasting cognitive deficits later in life. This made a relationship with her impossible.

Divorce is common in my husband’s family.

Excluding my husband and his half-brother Wesley, everyone has been divorced at least once.

He isn’t close to his siblings.

He is not close to his siblings Galen and Kathy. Since they are repeating many of the unhealthy patterns of his parents, he as chosen to distance himself from them. He doesn’t want this sort of influence upon our two sons.

References

Genopro [Computer Software]. (1998). Retrieved from: http://www.genopro.com/setup/
Genopro (2015). Introduction to the Genogram. Retrieved from:
http://www.genopro.com/genogram/
Metcalf, L, (2011). Marriage and family therapy: A practice oriented approach. New
York: Springer Publishing Company

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Feeling the Gratitude….(& A Few Oprah Favorites)

6230854973_52df93805d_zThis week a beloved member of our family died. His name was “WARFY”.  He was a 19-year-old cat my husband got from a farmer while looking at a camper shell from a local craigslist ad. This elderly man had about 20 animals on his farm and was having difficulty “keeping up with them”. As a big Star Trek fan he decided to name his pets after various characters from the show. My husband fell instantly in love with two tiny kittens who were born from the same litter. “WARFY” was the large, dominant and friendly one. “DATA” was a much more shy and reserved feline….

….At any rate, I remember getting ready for my Sunday night shift and passing Warfy as he was attempting to climb up the stairs. He stopped part way and looked up at me as if to say, “Can you carry me the rest of the way?” I called my son and had him grab our old friend. I told my boys, that the time is near and they need to say good-bye. At 16 and 10, they did understand, but it was nonetheless difficult for them. He passed in his sleep some time that night while snuggling next to my oldest son….

image….Fast-fowarding a couple days, I’m was confronted with more sad news today. My son came home today and told me his friend’s mother just died at the age of 31, due to complications from drug and alcohol use. This was like the cherry on top of a sundae. Throughout the week as a therapy student and healthcare worker, I’m already inundated with sad news.  this sort of ring-side seat tragedies and turmoil definitely leaves is impact upon me…

…Today, while scrolling through the OWN Network Youtube Videos, I found myself watching on a few random clips and reflection upon the happenings of my week.  Here are a few favorites …

The Power of Gratitude….

imageThis video discusses the power of gratitude:  a feeling of appreciation and thankfulness.  I am a big believer in the idea that what you focus on expands.   In other words, like attracts like.  If all you do is complain, what you get back in life is more to complain about.  Focusing instead on what you have to be grateful for is a powerful force for change.   My job is helpful in putting things into perspective, I’m profoundly aware that life itself is a gift.  Tomorrow isn’t a guarantee.  Every day, is all there is…..

imageI’m grateful for my two boys & the opportunity I have to watch them grow into two young up.  I almost lost my oldest son & endured a miscarriage before having my youngest.  I love these two boys with every ounce of my being…

imageI’m grateful for my “partner in crime”.  He has brought into my life the experience of knowing what it is to be truly loved.  I am grateful for this in ways words don’t describe after surviving a “dysfunctional” relationship in my youth…

Finally, I’m grateful for 40+ years of perfect health.  I’m grateful for all the life experiences that brought me to the present moment.  They have allowed me to grow into the person I am today.  I spent my youth working through unresolved traumas.  I now have opportunities to work on myself, uncover my true potential & life purpose.

History or Destiny?  Which one are you choosing today???

“When you hold onto your history, you do it at the expense of your destiny….” – T.D. Jakes

I love this tidbit, definitely an “AHA MOMENT”.  As this video notes, you only have so much energy in life to give.  The question which then naturally comes to mind is: where are you focusing your energy?   It has taken me many years to let go of old traumas, and begin forgiving unresolved transgressions within my family.  As T. D. Jakes also notes: “Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself”

Taking Responsibility…

“When you know better you do better” – Maya Angelou

Here, Oprah describes feeling alone after being moved away from her grandmother.  She states she came to understand then that “If anything is going to move forward in my life, I have to be responsible for making it happen.”  This means seeing yourself as a solution the the problem, and living by the serenity prayer.  What can you change?  Focus on this.  What is beyond your control, (i.e. other people and/or circumstances)?  Let it go, forgive, and move forward…..
*The power to change things is in the present.  Put all your focus here….
*Be willing to see things for what they are.  This requires a bit of Radical Acceptance…
*Take constant & consistent action in the direction of your goal.  

Believing in Yourself

You become what you believe you are and you get what you believe is possible.”– My Mother …

imageBeliefs when unexamined exist as self-fulfilling prophecies.   Oprah calls these “Shadow Beliefs”.  Examining these belief systems and understanding them is critical to “Getting Unstuck”.  Failing to do so, means acting on all your unresolved bullshit.  You perpetuate what you deny endlessly like a hamster on a wheel.  Understanding this, has allowed me to dig deeper, into the true nature of my motivations.  What drives me forward?  As Oprah notes, until you understand this, all you can do is mindless acting on your shadow belies. In the end, you’re running away from what you don’t want, according to a predefined and skewed belief system.

The Secrete to Surrender…

“God can dream a bigger dream for you than you could dream for yourself – Oprah”.

I still struggle with this life lesson.  Surrendering control and allowing things to happen is difficult for me.  However, I’ve noticed that when I hold too tightly to something it escapes my grasp.  For much of my life I’ve felt “perpetually stuck”.  Creating forward motion has required me to learn to let go.

*I’ve set goals for myself.

*I strive to achieve them.

*I’ve hope for a successful outcome.

*I’m doing all I can, one step at a time.

*I surrender & hold onto my faith.

*Things will fall into place as they are meant to….

*This is what is meant by “letting go”

Love Liberates

“I’m grateful to have been loved and to be loved now & to be able to love because…love liberates it doesn’t hold – that’s ego.  Love liberates.  – Maya Angelou”

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Images: 1, &  2

 

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NCE STUDY – Native Americans

(((I am currently studying for a licensure exam & completing an internship.  This blog post is intended as a study exercise.)))

A Historical Cultural Assessment

In order to understand the Native American’s perceptions of the dominating Euro-American culture a historical context is important.  Historically, the relationship between Euro-Americans and Native Americans has been fraught with a mixture of cooperation and conflict (Hays & Iwasama, 2006).   The assimilation of Native American’s into the dominant Euro-American culture has been brought with trauma and varied forms of assimilation.  For this reason, an assessment of the cultural background and assimilation experiences of Native American’s who we provide counseling to.  As a biracial individual, I can personally attest to the fact that a person’s phenotypic appearance doesn’t reflect their cultural background.  It is therefore inaccurate to look at person and make judgments of their culture based on whether they appear Indian.  For example, while I look white, key aspects of my own childhood have provided me with a cultural belief system that reflects my mother’s culture.  I may not look very Filipino in appearance but have some belief systems that are reflect of this culture.

Educational Disparities

A great disparity has existed historically between how Native Americans have conceived education, and how it is viewed from a Westernized perspective.  Historically, governmental policies have managed to instill a high level of distrust in governmental services.   From an educational standpoint, our governmental education policies have included attempts to eradicate Native American culture and assimilate individuals into a Westernized educational system.  In fact, separating children from their home environment, takes children out of the natural setting in which they learned.   According to our textbook, Indian children tend to prefer visual learning to the verbal and auditory methods utilized in Westernized school systems.

Mental Health & Multicultural Competency

According to the 1999 Surgeon General’s report, the Native American community has  suicide rate 1.5x the national rate.   High rates of PTSD, and alcohol abuse exist in this population.   However despite this fact, the Native American community tends to under-utilize available counseling services and experience high drop-out rates.  Cultural competency within the counseling field is essential to overcome a 500-year history of oppression and domination from the American government.  Cultural sensitivity starts with an awareness of cultural differences and their underlying historical context.  For example, our course textbook states that 85% of psychologist are from an European American heritage in which the following cultural beliefs are dominant:

Assertiveness in social interactions take precedence over subtlety as a preferred response (Hays & Iwasama, 2006).  
Change takes precedence over acceptance and patience as a life-solution.  (Hays & Iwasama, 2006).  
Personal independence takes precedence over dependence and duty to family. (Hays & Iwasama, 2006).  
Self-disclosure and directness is preferred to cautious protection of a family’s reputation. (Hays & Iwasama, 2006).

Belief Systems & Counseling Practice

In this final section, I feel it may be useful to list some belief systems common in Native American culture that diverge from the typical Euro-American perspective that dominates the mental health field.  I list them below in no particular order:

Counseling Goals.

Within the mental health field a medical perspective dominates that choose to view problems as a matter of individual dysfunction.  The CBT-oriented perspective focuses on dysfunctional thoughts, feelings and behaviors, as an effective solution.  In contrast, Hays & Iwasama (2006) suggest that harmony of body mind and spirit is critical for wellness in Native American culture.

Acceptance & Mindfulness.

A Euro-American perspective is solution-focused.  In counseling this might translate to pragmatic CBT approaches, stages of change and motivational interviewing.   In contrast Native American culture might also include components of acceptance and mindfulness.  Traditional healers and the utilization of substances in context of spiritual practices are common.  Rosenthal, (2005) latest that “drinking large quantities of beer is a way of enjoying oneself and is more socially acceptable”.

Nonassertive & Agreeable Passivity.

Rosenthal (2005) states that a “counselor should feel free to ask questions in order to ascertain where the client is coming from and what they think.”  In Native American culture a nonassertive passivity is more preferred in the context of social interactions.  Direct the conversation with questions is essential to understand the client’s perspective.

Possessions & Self Worth.

American Indian’s historically have a relationship with things that diverges greatly from the Euro-American’s materialistic perspective.  For example, how does one “own the air”?  It is just out there as something to enjoy.  It doesn’t reflect who we are or our worth.  This perspective is divergent from the dominant perspective in American in which social class is dependent on an array of ecumenic factors that tend to determine our sense of worth, (i.e. “keeping up with the Jonses”).

Time Orientation

In American culture, we are long-range planners.  We think about our pasts and how we got to here.  We then examine our goals for our future, and sacrifice for today, what we hope to achieve for tomorrow.  This hamster-wheel existence diverges from Native American culture in which one lives in the present more.  Rosenthal, (2005) suggests they “are not generally accustomed to delayed gratification and long-range planning”.

References

Hays, P., & Iwasama, G.Y. (2006). Culturally Responsive Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy: Assessment, Practice, & Supervision. Washington, D.C.: American Psychological Association.
Rosenthal, H. (2005). Vital Information and Review Questions for the NCE and State Counseling Exams. Routledge.

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