Comparing Prescriptive and Descriptive Decision Making

According to Sharf (2006), descriptive theories explain our career decisions while prescriptive theories state there is an ideal approach to making these decisions. Examples of descriptive theories include Miller-Tiedeman’s Lifecareer theory and Hansen’s Holistic Approach (Sharf, 2006). Described as a spiritual approach to career decision-making, these perspectives conceive the ultimate goal is the discovery of “inner meanings found deep within” (Sharf, 2006, p417) oneself. As a result of this self-understanding, clients can utilize their own inner wisdom to discover what is right for them. In this process, the counselor does not direct but simply guides. According to Miller-Tiedeman, “you are not looking for a career…your life is your career”. (Sharf, 2006, p418). In other words, the search for a career is the process of defining one’s calling or life path, which Hansen adds is one part of a greater and “meaningful whole” (Sharf, 200, p426).
​In contrast, a cognitive information-processing approach, utilizes psychological decision making theories its basis (Sharf, 2006). Questioning one’s belief systems and examining decision-making skills are key components of this approach. Utilizing what Miller-Tiedeman describes as a common reality perspective, (Sharf, 2006), this approach requires self-knowledge and us to acquire occupational before we can begin making a decision effectively. Additionally decision-making skills are said to follow a logical process that includes: “Communication, analysis, synthesis, valuing, and execution” (Sharf, 2006, p432).

In the second part of this discussion board post we are to apply these decision-making theories to the client’s we work with daily. I work in the health-care field, which is fairly prescriptive in its decision-making approach. This is because, when it comes to health-related knowledge, we are usually left to rely on the “experts”. The doctors inform patients of a diagnosis and provide their recommended options. When faced with a critical decision that can have a profound affect on one’s well being, we usually rely on their judgment. It is difficult to question their abilities and judgment until after the fact when we notice an issue of malpractice has occurred. For example, when patients are given the facts of the diagnosis, they are allowed to examine the options. With this information, they synthesize information, analyze options and provide a personal evaluation of which fits best. This is very cognitive in nature, as I see it.
Having said this, it is usually the job of nurses and social workers, to address the spiritual matters pertaining to a client’s decisions. For example, prior to a surgery, nurses are required to have clients fill out a consent form indicating they understand what is happening and decide to follow-through with the doctor’s recommendations. Struggling with personality reality concerns, as Miller-Tildeman describes, is often related to one’s mortality and the lasting personal consequences of a health-related decision. What will my level of independence be? What will my life expectancy be? Bigger picture questions, are often addressed by nurses and social workers, which help the client’s come to terms with the life-altering consequences of such decisions.


Sharf R.S. (2006). Applying career development theory to counseling. 6th Ed. Belmont
CA: Thomson.

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NCE – Self-Efficacy

QUESTION: “…many children in residential treatment, as well as adults, experience low efficacy as a result of many ‘failures’. How will this low self-efficacy impact the career choices of both children and adults…”

Sharf, (2006), defines self-efficacy as “people’s judgments of their capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performances” (p396). Additionally, our textbook notes that our interests and outcome expectations are influenced by our beliefs of self-efficacy (Sharf, 2006). In other words, our perceptions of, “what is possible”, is a reflection of how we view ourselves. In the question above, we are asked to consider how low efficacy impacts the career choices of both adults and children. If a person doesn’t get to experience a sense of self-efficacy, they haven’t had a chance to learn the true breadth of their capabilities.

Understanding the importance of context in which self-efficacy develops can be a useful starting point in career counseling for individuals in the above example. The background influences of a socioeconomic status, cultural values, or gender expectations on an individual’s influence our perceptions of self-efficacy in ways we don’t often realize. Utilizing this insight as a way of understanding how we form a sense of self-efficacy, allows one to question it with a more critical eye. This might be a useful first step in situation as described in the above question.

QUESTION: “… How can you build up someone’s sense of self-efficacy without setting them up for more disappointment?”

As stated above, a useful first step will be helping the client understand of the background context in which a person’s sense of self-efficacy develops. With this mindset in place it is possible to then re-examine how past career choices reflect our sense of self-efficacy. For example, how has one’s self-efficacy determined their understanding of outcome expectations? How are their interests influenced by self-efficacy? How do these concepts define their career goals, and actions (or lack thereof)? Finally, focusing more directly on the proximal influencers we have more control over can help build a sense of self-efficacy. For example, if a client addresses financial barriers to education through student loans, a sense of possibility and self-efficacy develops. As I consider the application of these concepts to the above example, the process starts with a readjustment in the client’s thinking. The critical final component involves taking action to actively rebuild one’s sense of self-efficacy based on new experience.


Sharf R.S. (2006). Applying career development theory to counseling. 6th Ed. Belmont
CA: Thomson.

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NCE – Super’s Model


This brief paper utilizes Super’s view of career maturity to an adolescent familiar to me. I provide an over of my assessment of this individual in terms of Super’s 5 components of career maturity and how this model can help assess the child’s needs.


​Super’s Model of career development provides useful insights from a life-span perspective. Many of the insights contained in this theory are based on key figures in developmental psychology including Piaget and Erickson (Sharf, 2012). For example, according to Super’s theory adolescent career development at first arises from curiosity and fantasy play (Sharf, 2012). Additionally, an adolescent’s progression toward career development is moved forward by an increased capacity for abstract thinking and drive towards identity development (Sharf, 2012). As a result, adolescent career development is centered on developing interests, and abilities while exploring various career paths. According to Super, adolescent maturity as it pertains to career development encompasses five key factors, which I will utilize to assess an individual I know personally in the remainder of this paper.

Career Planning

​The first subscale of career maturity for adolescents requires an assessment how much time they take to explore various career options (Sharf, 2012). The individual I am utilizing for this paper is an adolescent male relative, whom I am very close to. He is 15-years-old and a sophomore. Thankfully, he is a very bright boy who studies hard and does very well in school. Additionally, his development is also very reflective Erickson and Piaget’s insights. As a result, due to greater levels of abstract thinking our conversation have deepened significantly. He is definitely asserting independence as well. My goal, has been to encourage the development of real life skills. Therefore, I set clear parameters for him, and give him room to figure his way to fulfill them. This has resulted, in the development of a solid work ethic, and good study skills. Regarding the career planning subscale, this individual is currently working on narrowing down his interest areas. He has chosen to enroll in advanced science and math classes, and hopes to start focusing on getting some college pre-requisites out of the way while in high school. Finally, in order to explore his creative side, his is taking drawing classes at the Joslyn.

Career Exploration

The second subscale of career maturity focuses on their degree of desire and willingness to engage in the process of exploration (Sharf, 2012). In this respect, it reflects their overall attitude toward work. I am aware of adolescents on all ends of the spectrum regarding this specific subscale. As a result, I have come to the conclusion that this subscale not only reflects maturity level but an individual’s hopes for the future. Individuals who are not willing to engage in the process of exploration, in my experience often uninspired. The specific individual I’m focusing on for this assignment, has expressed his concerns about going to college and then finding out he can’t get a job. He also doesn’t want to go to school just “to go to school” to waste our money and his time. It is his hope, to find a way to make a living doing what he loves. In this respect, he is focused on narrowing down his interests with a goal of developing some direction before he begins college.

Decision Making

​The third subscale of career maturity assesses an adolescent’s decision-making process. This requires examining how they make use of the information they have available. This individual is very pragmatic in his decision-making. He is very aware of the idea that college doesn’t always produce a marketable skill. He is not wanting to get a college degree that doesn’t yield some meaningful job prospect once he is done. Additionally, he is well aware of the costs, and is very mindful of this. I’m hoping to help that once this individual turns 16 that he can find a job, and learn more about the value of a dollar, so this idea is driven home further.

World-of-Work Information

​The fourth subscale of career maturity assesses how well they realistically understand the specific job duties associated with their career interests and understanding of the process of applying for jobs (Sharf, 2012). Regarding the individual in question for this assignment, I do believe he has a bit of work to do. His levels of understanding regarding the job duties associated with a career are limited. Additionally has never applied for a job before. Jobs for 15-year-olds are very limited. Having said this, it is my belief that this individual needs to focus on narrowing down his interest areas, before beginning to explore a specific career. I’m considering summer time activities that might provide him these opportunities. The goal is simply find opportunities to explore things related to his interests, and see what piques his curiosity. For example, UNO has a career exploration program through its engineering program. CHI / Alegent Health has a career exploration camp for medical professions. These are ideas I’m running by him currently.

Knowledge of Preferred Occupations

The final subscale of career maturity assesses an adolescent’s understanding of how preferred occupational areas correlate with their own abilities and interests (Sharf, 2012). Essentially, this subscale requires a degree of self-understanding alongside a basic knowledge of key occupational areas. Currently, the individual I’m focusing on for this assignment, has a sufficient degree of self-understanding. He knows what he likes and doesn’t likes. Additionally, he is taking time to continue exploring these interest areas. At the same time, he isn’t as knowledgeable of specific career areas. In order to begin correlating interest and abilities with specific career areas, it will be necessary for him to further define his specific interests.


Sharf R.S. (2006). Applying career development theory to counseling. 6th Ed. Belmont CA:

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NCE – “SSI” Method


This brief paper provides a series of self-assessments utilizing the Strong Interest Inventory and SSI Method.


This paper reviews two separate assessments. The first utilizes the results of the Strong Interest Inventory, based on Holland’s six types of personalities as it pertains to career choice (Sharf, 2006). The second assessment focuses on utilizes “The SSI Method of Assessment” (Author, 2015). This methods requires an individual to a self-examination from three perspectives: (1) personal strengths, (2) areas of improvement, and (3) insight and self-understanding (Author, 2015).

Strong Interest Inventory

According to the results of a Strong Interest Inventory, I display interests in two broad occupational areas: the artistic theme and social theme (Prince, 2015). My STD score for the artistic theme is 64 and 54 for the social theme (Prince, 2015). The results of my Strong Interest Inventory describe these levels of interest as high and moderate respectively (Prince, 2015). Additionally, I display little interest in the realistic, enterprising, and conventional occupational themes with STD scores ranging from 34-39. (Prince, 2015). Finally the Investigative Theme sits in the mid-range between these extremes with a STD score of 40.

Overview of Artistic Theme

Sharf, (2006) describes the artistic personality as “creative communicators” (Prince, 2015) who prefer a free and unstructured atmosphere. The artistic environment is ideal for this temperament since it encourages self-expression and creativity (Sharf, 2006). The results of my Strong Interest Inventory add that work activities common in the artist field include music, writing, performance and the visual arts (Prince, 2015). The strongest basic interest areas within this Artistic Theme, according to my results include “Visual Arts and Design” (Prince, 2015) with an STD score of 68. The area of “Writing and Mass Communication” (Prince, 2015) follows this basic interest area with an STD score of 63. As strong as this personal interest area is, I’ve always made time for creative pursuits. However have preferred not to focus on this area as a career, since I prefer it to exist as a free form of self-expression.

Overview of Social Theme

​According to the results of my Strong Interest Inventory, the Social Personality is described as “Empathetic Helpers” (Prince, 2015). They are interest in helping others through teaching and other personal services. The Social Theme Environment encourages the values of kindness, generosity, and friendship and social responsibility (Sharf, 2006). It’s interesting to note that my current profession as a C.N.A. is classified within this profession. Additionally, my future career aspirations as a Mental Health Counselor fall within this category.

Top Occupations

​Interestingly, I find little personal interest for those occupational areas listed at the top of the Strong Interest Inventory. Surprisingly, this inventory provided the following suggestions: Librarian, Photographer, Technical Writer, Art Teacher, Musician, Translator, Mental Health Counselor, Speech Pathologist, Artist, and Reporter (Prince, 2015). On the one hand, I have no interest in being a technical writer, translator, speech pathologist, photographer, or librarian. At the same time, I do consider myself an amateur artist who is working towards a career as a mental health counselor.

Personal Style Scales

While my work style involves a balance combination of both independent and collaborative work (Prince, 2015). I enjoy research and reading as an effort that involves learning for its own sake (Prince, 2015). My leadership style involves developing personal expertise in the context of my work rather than direction (Prince, 2015). Finally, my risk taking and team orientation are skewed towards caution and independence respectively (Prince, 2015).

SSI Method of Assessment

​This section of the paper utilizes the SSI Method of Assessment, which focuses on three key areas: Personal Strengths, Areas of Improvement, and Insights (Author, 2015). I utilize these three key areas to provide a personal career counseling assessment that can help me as I progress toward a career in Mental Health Counseling.

Personal Strengths

Career Counseling requires several key strengths, including empathy, self –care, and the ability to apply theories in the form of clinical judgment. This clinical judgment, in my opinion, involves applying insights from these theories in a way that merges objective standards with subjective understanding. I feel my strengths in this area involve an orientation toward empathic engagement with others and a priority towards self-care. As a C.N.A. and Psychiatric tech, the marriage of these two strengths is essential if I desire to give the best to others. Finally, as I progress towards LMHP licensure, I work to apply the insights gained through coursework.

Areas of Improvement

I can continue to improve my skills and knowledge by working to apply what I learn throughout my personal and professional life. As a mother and healthcare worker, I spend the majority of my time caring for others. This provides many opportunities to apply the insights learned from others. Foremost amongst these is the need of self-care in order to prevent compassion fatigue.

Insights Gained

I’ve learned that I give to others on the basis of who I am as a person. For this reason, the insights gained from the assessments utilized in this paper are useful from the standpoint of personal development. As a person who aspires to a career as a mental health counselor, it is my hope to engage in this learning process as one of personal development. This involves improving my level of self-care and understanding.


Author. (2015). SII Method of Assessment. Retrieved from:

Prince, J.P. (2015, December, 16). Strong interest inventory profile with college profile. Retrieved from:

Sharf R.S. (2006). Applying career development theory to counseling. 6th Ed. Belmont CA:

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NCE – Parson’s Steps…


This brief paper will utilize Parson’s Steps of Career Guidance as founding concepts for Trait and Factor Theory. Firstly, I will list my values, interests, and achievements. Next, I describe how this information fits with the occupational goals discussed last week. Research is included on key aspects of my future occupation as


Chapter Two of our textbook describes the work of Frank Parson’s, whose work underlies Trait and Factor Theory (Sharf, 2006). Parsons believed that vocational guidance involved a series of steps that begins with self-understanding and obtaining information on potential career options (Sharf, 2006). By correlating individual traits with factors related to success in a potential occupation, an individual is able to make an informed career decision. This paper provides an overview of these initial steps of Parson’s vocational guidance process. It then concludes with an application to one’s work environment in order to satisfy the job’s requirements as well as one’s personal needs.

Step One: Gaining Self-Understanding

​My decision to enter the counseling field is the result of a long research process. I decided on this field after entering completing several years of counseling as a client. In the initial phases, I engaged in a thorough self-assessment of personal interests, aptitudes, achievements, values, and personality traits. What follows an overview of what I learned about myself as a result of this process.

Aptitudes & Achievements

Sharf, (2006) states that while academic achievement pertains to how much an individual has learned, aptitude tests reveal a person’s future probability of success. While I was an academic underachiever growing up, I am currently maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Regarding academic aptitude, the results of a WISC-R assessment at the age of 9, indicates my overall IQ is 111, in the high normal range. Finally, a review of my academic history indicates my strengths are English and the social science.

When applying the concepts of aptitude and achievement to my career background, I feel that my current job doesn’t allow me to apply utilize the full range of my abilities. In other words, my level of achievement doesn’t adequately measure up to my overall raw aptitude. While this does frustrate me, I’ve learned to accept this sacrifice as the result of a concerted effort to put my family first.

Personal Interests

​While I am less interested in careers that pertain to the subject of math and science, I’ve always had a strong interest in the visual arts field, and social services. In college, I majored in Sociology and Psychology and enjoyed learning all aspects of human nature. My current career choice, is the result of a balanced consideration of both pragmatism and passion. While I will always enjoy art as a hobby, the social services field has always been my career focus.

Personal & Work-Related Values

Sharf, (2006) suggests that a values assessment should consider both work-related and personal values. My job history indicates that I seek a deeper purpose in my work and am not motivated primarily by my paycheck. Additionally, while my job provides financial security, autonomy, it lacks opportunities for personal development, creativity, and ability utilization (Sharf, 2006 p36).

Myers-Briggs Personality Type

The results of an old Myers-Briggs type indicate I am an INFP personality type. According to Sharf (2006), my primary cognitive functions include introverted feeling and extraverted intuition. A review of literature on Myers-Briggs typology provides a good overview on my basic temperament and nature (Briggs Myers, 1982; Kiersey, 1998; Robards, 1986). In fact it is also interesting to note that, every MBTI resource I’ve read lists counseling and writing as top career choices for my type. For example, Robards, (1986) states: “the combination of intuition with feeling forms the very cornerstone of your personality: a temperament we call the Empathist” (p. 13). This insight is confirmed by Kiersey’s description of the INFP as “Healers” (Kiersey, 1998).

Step Two: Occupational Information & Requirements

​As I mentioned in last week’s paper, my decision to become a therapist is the result of a carefully decision-making process in which I fully explored all options. In fact, I decided to enter the counseling field after completing my own therapy. A review of my values, interests, aptitudes, and temperament, all indicate this career field is an ideal fit. According to the Occupational Outlook Handbook, the counselor’s involves working with a highly diversified population in a range of settings (U.S. Department of Labor, 2010, p206). Additionally, there are many types of counselors including school counselors, vocational counselors, mental health, substance abuse, and family counseling (U.S. Department of Labor, 2010). While specific requirements vary from state to state, a Masters degree is required. Finally, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics indicates the projected job growth rate between 2012 and 2012 is at 29% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015). This is promising news, in light of the fact that the average job growth rate for all professions is at 11% (Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2015). Finally, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (2015) states that therapists make an average of $25,000 – $60,000 yearly.

Application of Work Adjustment Theory

The work adjustment theory focuses on how individuals adjust to their work environment in order to satisfy work requirements while addressing personal needs (Sharf, 2006). This matter is an ongoing issue in my current job as a Psych. Tech / C.N.A. As someone who is exposed to individuals in acute stages of physical and mental illness many of Sharf’s (2006) adaptive performance skills pertain to my situation (p116). For example, I’m engaging in proactive behaviors in order to make adjustments in my schedule and work environment where possible (Sharf, 2006). Additionally, I’m constantly adjusting my personal responsibilities and self-care needs so I have time to work through the stress and physical exhaustion associated with my work. Finally, the tolerant behaviors described in our textbook include finding a deeper meaning in the experiences (Sharf, 2006, p116). This essentially involves utilizing the introverted feeling function as I commit to the idea of providing good care to patients (Sharf, 2006, p116). This deeper meaning provides me strength to face my workday. I’m grateful for this background of adapting coping skills since it will prepare to address a new range of stressors associated with my future career as a therapist.


Briggs Myers, I. (1982). Introduction to type, (3rd Ed.). Palo Alto, CA: Consulting Psychologist Press, Inc.

Keirsey, D. (1998). Please understand me II: Temperament, character, intelligence. Del Mar,
​CA: Prometheus Nemesis.

RoBards, M.J. (1986). Insight: A perspective on personality. Laguna Beach, CA: Leadership

Sharf R.S. (2006). Applying career development theory to counseling. 6th Ed. Belmont CA:

Us Dept of Labor. (2010).Occupational outlook handbook 2010-2011. US: O’Reilly.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, (2015, November, 07). Occupational
​Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and
​Family Therapists, Retrieved from:​service/mental-health-counselors-and-marriage-and-family-therapists.htm

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What would they say?

 How am I supposed to respond????

To my immediate family:

Please know my intention is not to hurt anybody.  I just cannot abide by the rules of this happy family game anymore.  The price this comes at is just too high.  I simply wish to heal and move forward…  This demand for an apology at a time of healing & growth has been both painful and perplexing.  I just hope you can appreciate that I’m not trying to hold onto the past.

To my high school classmates:

I struggle to find a valid reason for your extreme dislike of me.  I was that quiet girl in school who never talked to anybody. You don’t really know me at all but treated me like the bubonic plague. You’ve been blinded by a pluralistic ignorance that defines high school social politics.  You main goal is to come out on top, or at the very least survive unscathed.  I was just an unimportant casualty.

To my cousin:

I suspect you have no idea how much I have been hurt by your treatment of me.  My differentness truly offended you and made you ashamed.  It left me feeling like a scarlet letter was tattooed indelibly in my forehead 24:7.  Thank’s so much for that.

Last but not least, to “IT”:

I was a means to an end & nothing more.  Your actions were driven by purely narcissistic motives.  I was your ego boost you were my band-aid.  It was all part of your grand plan to break me down & build me up to your own specifications. Your abusive behavior left its mark on me.

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NCE – Satir Human Validation Process Model

Who is Virginia Satir?

“The family is the microcosm of the world. By knowing how to heal the family, I know how to heal the world….Peace within, peace between, peace among.” (Metcalf, 2011, p. 175).

Virginia Satir, (1916-1988) is the founder of the Satir system of family therapy. Her humanistic perspective intermingled with a respect for empirical research is what makes her approach interesting (Haber, 2002).   It incorporates a few central insights that appear in opposition to one another at first glance. On one hand, her approach is centered toward increasing self-esteem of individuals (McClendon, 1999, p31). This occurs through attempts to achieve greater congruence between the mind, body and spirit as well as from a greater level of self awareness overall (McClendon, 1999, p31).  On the other hand, against this self-honoring perspective, is one that attempts to understand people in relation to others (Metcalf, 2011). Her utilizes the concept that the whole is greater than its parts (McClendon, 1999).   It’s when you take into consideration her own difficult family background that the underlying reasoning for this dichotomous perspective is seen.  Virginnia Satir hopes to help others understand that we are more than our past histories (Mishlove, 2010a). Her work her work is geared toward helping clients achieve this underlying end goal.

 Satir’s Human Validation Process 

Satir’s Human Validation Process utilizes the concept of emotional validation, a notion closely associated with Linehan’s DBT approach.   It is important, therefore to differentiate this concept from the laymen’s definition of “valid” which pertains to the factual nature of a “thing”.  As Satir uses the term, validation can be thought of as similar to the compassion & empathy – except that goes much deeper.  To understand what I’m talking about, it might help to first discuss the concept of invalidation:

What is Invalidation?

Marsha Linehan (1997), defines invalidation as “trivializing, punishing, judging, or ignoring a persons thoughts and feelings”. In a book I own titled “Compassion” the following example shows what might happen if a child never receives any validation:

“Let us imaging the following: A child grows up and never experienced any validation of thoughts or feelings. He is an emotionally feral child, but lives within a community of other people who ignore validation. His parents have a radical behaviorist approach…adhering to the strictly behavioral position that emotions…are meaningless constructs.” (Gilbert, 2005, 199).

What is Validation?

While invalidation means denying an individual’s experience, validation means finding the grain of truth in the reality of their experiences, even if slightly distorted (Gilbert, 2005).   SHVP, developed by Virginia Satir, reflects this concept of validation. It focuses on how family patterns influence the growth and well being of its members (Metcalf, 2011). For example, this SHVP describes a variety dysfunctional communication styles and open vs. closed family systems (Metcalf, 2011).  This present and experientially -oriented perspecrtive sees individuals as having innate self-actualizing tendencies (Metcalf, 2011). Change, according to Satir, occurs in six stages that are similar to dialectical behavioral therapy (McKay, 2007).   Changes to the status quo of a family can only happen when foreign concepts are introduced into the family dynamic (Linehan, 1997; McKay, et al, 2007; Metcalf 2011).   It is only after a period of chaos and integration, a new status quo emerges (Linehan, 1997; McKay, et al, 2007); Metcalf, 2011).

Theoretical Assumptions

  1. “All humans have the ability to change
  2. humans have internal resources to allow growth throughout life.
  3. Humans are innately good.
  4. Coping is related to a person’s level of self-worth…
  5. Change occurs from experiences and leads to insight….
  6. Healthy relationships are based on equality” (Metcalf, 2011, p. 175-176).

A View of the Family

Metcalf (2011) states that Satir’s approach encourages the therapist to find new ways to view the family by encouraging us to confront our views of it.  For example, multicultural sensitivity is important in this approach. Additionally, this approach recognizes family structures considered by some as “unconventional”.  Human validation is essential with Satir since this allows us to function as a whole person in our relationhips.  Family systems are described here as either closed or open systems.

  1. “Closed Systems represent a troubled family dynamic” (Metcalf, 2011, p. 177). 
  2. “Open Systemsrepresent a nurturing family dynamic” (Metcalf, 2011, p. 177).  

Intriguing Concepts

Eight Universal Internal Resources

Satir, describes eight internal resources within an individual that can be thought of as lays of experience, much like an onion.  Each layer is built from the previous one and are listed as follows: (1) physical, (2) intellectual, (3) emotional, (4) sensual, (5) interactional, (6) nutritional, (7) contextual, & (8) spiritual.

Dual Dialogues.

In her conversation with Jeffrey Mishlove on “Communication and Congruence”, Satir brings up the issue of dual dialogues (Mishlove, 2010a). Essentially, she states that we are continually engaging in two simultaneous dialogues (Mishlove, 2010a). While one dialogue is comprised of our words, the other is regarding our suppressed beliefs and feelings. As a result, what you have is a left-brained narration against a subconscious right-schema, that can be seen throughout our nonverbal communication. What makes this notion particularly intriguing, is how it can be taken into context with her idea of promoting congruence throughout our lives. This happens by coming to owning all elements of our experiences into the present, and relating them to a greater familial dynamic. (Bahmen, 1986).

Four Dysfunctional Communication Styles

Satir states that our experiences and self-perception create motivational forces within us that have a huge impact on our relationships and the sort of communication patterns we utilize.  Satir states that by examiniing the communication patterns within a family we can learn much about the dynamics amongst its’ members.  For example, Satir described the following dysfunctional roles that a therapist can uncover within familal communication styles.

  1. Placatar – avoid and cover up uncomfortable truths
  2. Blamer Feels isolated and then attributes others for feeling this way.
  3. Super-Reasonable – Uses logic to deny or discount stressful emotions
  4. Irrelevant distracter – attempts to deflect stress and may flounder between the first three types

Coping As Cause.

Virginia Satir conceives our preferred coping methods, as developing within a larger familial dynamic that are passed along in a transgenerational manner (Bahmen, 1986). As she has famously noted, “The problem is not the problem; it is the coping that is the problem.” (MCclendon, 1999, p31). What is meant by this exactly?

As Satir explains, our understanding of the problem is based on our coping style. This coping style is a reflection of our self-esteem. In Satir’s conception, self esteem is a matter of congruence between our mental, physical and emotional components (McClendon, 1999, p31). Acceptance and appreciation of our individuality at all these levels is essential for self-esteem (Haber, 2002). So how does this lack of self-esteem result in altered coping?

To explain this, it helps to understand Satir’s reference to systems theory to understand family dynamics. In particular, it is often deficient homeostatic mechanisms within a family that can result in the perpetuation of unhealthy coping styles (McClendon, 1999). In a manner similar to the development of attachment styles, coping styles can also form over time. The underlying goal is to maintain an interactional familiar equilibrium style (McClendon, 1999). Examples of common coping styles in Satir’s coping styles, include placation, blaming, and irreverence, and super-reasonableness (Bageman, 1986).

Disowned Emotions

In the video “Becoming More Fully Human”, (Mishlove, 2010b), Satir mentions the notion of unowned emotions   It appears to be a critical component in her assertion that a congruent self-esteem is essential. Without this, you have an experiential reality that excludes subconsciously certain components. For example, for those who are super-reasonable in their coping style, you see a wealth of emotions, which they prefer to disown (Bageman, 1986). So what are disowned emotions?

As per Satir, disowned emotions are those parts of ourselves that we fail to acknowledge. They are the result of an unhealthy relationship with feelings, in which we think with them rather than through them. Seeing through the eyes of disowned feelings, means our energy between different components of ourselves (McClendon, 1999).   It is for this reason, that bringing our emotional, psychic, and spiritual selves into convergence is so critical to Satir’s theory (Bageman, 1986). They allow for a fuller attendant understanding of present issues.

How Change Counts

Satir describes a six-stage process that begins with an awareness of the nature of the status quo.  In stage two foreign elements are introduced into the family so that change is required if they are to adapt successfully.  As might be expected, stage three begins when the status quo is disrupted and chaos reigns.  People make new choices and forego routine.  Integration involves adapting to new experiences this leads to stage five in which everyone practices new skills.  Finally you have a new status quo…


People as Icebergs

Virginia Satir believes that people are like icebergs, in that a great majority of their inner experience lies beneath a surface (Metcalf, 2011). For this reason, therapists must uncover the inner aspects of our experience and explore them further. As I understand it, this iceberg concept, is an effective way of describing our emotional baggage. This emotional baggage is a byproduct of our interpretations of various emotional experiences in life. Satir describes these reactions to life experiences as “feelings about feelings” (Metcalf, 2011). Interestingly, Satir’s description reflects another concept from Dialectical Behavioral Therapy involving primary and secondary emotions (McKay, 2007). Essentially these concepts indicate that it is our interpretations of various life experiences that cause us problems. These interpretations are byproducts of family expectations. For example, if you were raised in a culture that encourages stoicism, displays of emotion are often met with discomfort and shame. This might be difficult for an individual with clinical depression. “We also show only those parts we want others to know” (Metcalf, 2011, p. 179)

Strengths & Weaknesses

One key strength of this theory is that it works very well in a diverse set of family situations (Metcalf, 2011). Additionally, Satir’s assertion that the family is a microcosm of the world, provides an interesting perspective. It also reflects my belief, that while the field of psychology can help us understand society, the field of sociology can help us understand us as individuals. The biggest weakness of this theory, is that it is based on the idea that all individuals are innately self-actualizing. The reality, in my experience, is that this is not the case for all individuals living in our diverse world

A Point of Disagreement

In the video on “Communication and Congruence”, Satir makes the following statement “I can see and hear better inside you than you can see and hear in yourself because I’m outside you.” (Mishlove, 2010a). When I heard this statement I was troubled. On the one hand, I do seem to understand what she means by it.   In making this statement, she appears to be referencing to the idea that our realities aren’t as we perceive them. We have to make an allowance for the fact that we might not ever entirely see things as they are.

Still, even if this is what Satir intended by this statement, the author does still have concerns. Specifically, one can’t help but wonder if there is ever a time that a counselor can be entirely 100% confident they understand their clients inner reality. Is it ever possible that we could possibly know their experiences better than they experience them?

Issues Related To Family Therapy

Ethical Issues

The first issue that immediately comes to mind upon discussion of any family counseling are the related ethical concerns. For instance, as a new counselor, how is one to conceive of the notion of family as the client. When you consider the ethical ramifications underlying this idea, it is clear supervision and proper education are vital.   Issues to iron out ethically, when entering into therapy, are any “ground rules” which may govern the underlying process. For example, if information is shared with one family member, how is the counselor to know when to break that confidence? Mandatory reporting laws aside, what about the issue of veracity versus nonmaleficience? How is one to know which ethical principle takes precedence? Knowing the rules of law, with an understanding of the relevant guiding principles underlying these situations is crucial (Corey, et al, 2011).

Family Needs vs. Individual Needs

The other issue, which does appear as vital as well, is how one balances needs of the family against the needs of individuals. An array of specific scenarios in mind could come to mind, in which the well-being of an individual may contradict that of the family (Corey, et al, 2011) How do you weigh the desire to improve family dynamics, against the need to address individual self-esteem?   The answers to this question aren’t obviously clear cut, and therefore require proper supervision, and experience to traverse adeptly.

Satir Human Validation Process

  1. PHASE ONE – JOINING/BUILDING RAPPORT …reaching out…attending…mirroring…observing.  
  2. PHASE TWO – UNDERSTANDING THE PRESENTING ISSUE:  The problems result from how we choose to cope with them. 
  3. PHASE THREE – ASSESSMENT OF FAMILY DYNAMICS: the therapist focuses  perceptions, feelings, expectations, & yearnings.
  4. PHASE FOUR – Therapist is educator teaches client’s new ways of responding and perceiving, responding and communicating in relationships. 
  5. PHASE FIVE – AMPLIFYING CHANGE: as clients experience higher self-esteem, homework assigned to reinforce.  
  6. TERMINATION – In this model, change is ongoing and the work is never completed or finished.


Linehan, M. (1997). Validation and psychotherapy. (pp. 353-392). American Psychological Association. doi:  10.1037/10226-016
Gilbert, P. (Ed.). (2005). Compassion: Conceptualizations, research and use in psychotherapy. Routledge
McKay, M., Wood, J. C., & Brantley, J. (2007). The dialectical behavior therapy skills workbook. Oakland: New Harbinger
Metcalf, L, (2011). Marriage and family therapy: A practice oriented approach. New York: Springer Publishing Company
Bahmen, J. (1986). Virginia Satir’s family therapy model. Individual Psychology: The Journal of Alderian Theory, Research, & Practice, 42(4), 480-
Corsini, R. J. & Wedding, W. (2011). Current Psychotherapies. Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole
Haber, R. (2002). Virginia Satir: An integrated, humanistic approach. Contemporary Family Therapy: An International Journal, 24(1), 23-
Corey, C., Corey, M.S., & Callanan, P. (2011). Issues and Ethics in the Helping Professions (8th Ed.) Belmont, CA: Brooks/Cole.
McClendon, J.A. (1999). The Satir system in action. In Daniel, J. Weiner, (Ed.). Beyond Talk Therapy: Using Movement and Expressive Techniques in Clinical Practice. (pp.29-54). Washington, D.C., U.S.: American Psychological Association.
Mishlove, J. (2010a). Virginia Satir: Communication and Congruence (excerpt). Retrieved From:
Mishlove, J. (2010b). Virginia Satir: Becoming More Fully Human (excerpt). Retrieved From:



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NCE – Family Secrets


In an old assignment for my family therapy class we discussed Evan Imber=Black’s discussion of secrets.  Imber-Black defines secrets as information which is withheld from someone that produces distress and shame as well as create symptoms of dysfunction in a family. Keeping secrets requires a degree of heightened tension and anxiety. Communication is less open and individuals are less emotionally present. For the secret-keeper a feeling of shame perpetuates the secret and an anxious worry that “if you knew you wouldn’t love me anymore” pervades their thinking (Family Secrets, 2006). In contrast the person unaware of this secret, exists in the family as an outsider within the system. At some level they are aware of this fact and that there is a problem, but they feel they are not supposed to notice. (Family Secrets, 2006). In addition to worry and confusion, individuals left in the dark begin to doubt their own intuitions. Over time, family secrets develop into a systemic problems that affect many generations. Imber-Black (Family Secrets, 2006), describes relationships as booby-trapped, waiting to explode symptomatically as a result of the ongoing secrecy. Triangles, betrayal, and hidden-alliances as just a few symptoms of secrecy in families that can develop over time (Family Secrets, 2006). In the end, nobody is able to live as a whole individual in full acknowledgment of the truth (Family Secrets, 2006). In time boundaries are laid down in which those who know and don’t know become divided (Family Secrets, 2006). Symptoms of these secrets are maintained and supported by efforts as by family members to maintain secrecy for the sake of a systemic homeostasis.

Secrets Supporting Symptoms

Imber-Black states that “knowing, but acting like you don’t know and pretending you are what you are not” are key components of secret keeping (Family Secrets, 2006). With this in mind, what exactly is meant by Imber-Black’s assertion that “secrets support symptoms” (Family Secrets, 2006)? The maintenance of family secrets requires a concerted and coordinated effort by everyone in the family. These efforts can involve the closed communication systems, rigid boundaries and emotional distance. By keeping a secret, the family is able to maintain homeostasis, although change is unable to happen for the better. For this reason, I am in agreement with Imber-Black’s therapeutic stance regarding the Reiger family secrets. While Imber-Black is supportive of whatever decision the family makes, and allows them to move at their own pace, she makes her position clear (Family Secrets, 2006). Secrets restrict the free flow of information, harming everyone involved. The secret keeper, is left with distress and shame and unable to live life outside this reality (Family Secrets, 2006). At the same time, this secret violates a person’s right to know, and “affects their ability to freely [process all information] about their lives” (Family Secrets, 2006)

Understanding The Positive Outcome

​What factors attributed to a positive outcome in this particular case? Not all instances of revealing family secrets, are likely to go as well as they did within the Reiger family. Fortunately several important factors were working in their favor. Firstly, I feel it helps that Dr. Imber-Black was the therapist. As an individual who has studied, written, and researched extensively on this issue, she was able to delineate several symptoms of family secrecy in the video. Additionally, I do feel it helps that some time has pasted since the tragic circumstances of Jerry’s death. The emotions surrounding these events are a bit “less raw”. I also think the strength of Ray and Liz’s marriage helped them work through this issue together. They appeared willing to listen and support each other throughout this process. Finally, while Liz’s parents and Jerry’s family had strong opinions about their marriage at the time, fortunately they were able to move past these issues. It seems they were open-minded enough to see things from Galen’s viewpoint, and how this secrecy was a dis-service to him.
​In cases where things do not go very well, I would expect to see a family divided, as a result of this new information. The mourning of a lost relationship is strangely similar to a death “of sorts” as family members stopped communicating. The end result is a long process of “radical acceptance” and “forgiveness” in order to begin moving forward. The toughest thing in such cases is the realization that you can only have control over your own actions and behavior.


Family Secrets: Implications for Theory and Therapy [Video file]. (2006). ​ Retrieved October 15, 2015, from The Collection.
Imber-Black, E. (1999). The Secret Life of Families: Making Decisions about Secrets: ​when Keeping Secrets Can Harm You, when Keeping Secrets Can Heal You–and ​how to Know the Difference. Bantam Dell Publishing Group.

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NCE – Narrative Family Therapy

What are stories?

A favorite self-help guru of mine is a narrative therapist.  Narrative therapy focuses on how we live our lives through a storied perspective.  events in our life are linked together into a plot that is imbued with a meaning and/or purpose.  The story reflects the meaning we give our life and the socially relevant manner in which we interpret.  How we tell the story and create it is the subject of therapy.  what have we edited out?  How is our live story constricted by a narrowed perspective.  what can be done to re-author it?  “Changing the language you use to describe experience can bring about new meanings that lead to meaningful action toward transformation” (Metcalf, 2011, p. 332).

What is Narrative Therapy?

Also referred to as “reauthoring therapy”, (Metcalf, 2011, p. 332), narrative therapy asserts that change happens by altering the meanings we give life experiences.  Our perceptions influence our interactions and behaviors.  The Narrative therapist assists clients to resolve their problems by helping them to separate themselves from the problems that keep them from a fulfilling life….They can reauthor their life with the narrative metaphor as a guide throughout the process.

Theoretical Assumption

  1. “Our lives are socially constructed” (Metcalf, 2011, p. 333)
  2. We organize our lives through stories – this leads to a narrated plotline” (Metcalf, 2011, p. 333)
  3.  The dominant discourse in our society powerfully influences what gets storied and how it gets storied” (Metcalf, 2011, p. 333)
  4. “Locating problems in discourses help us see people as separate from their problems” (Metcalf, 2011, p. 333)


  1. Externalizing Conversations – see the problem as separate from the self by not identifying with it.
  2. Deconstruction – Examining your perceptions as something that defines experiences.
  3. Internalizing Questions – each  asks questions while the other listens without responding” (Metcalf, 2011, p. 334).
  4. Unique Outcomes – divergent outlier experiences that do not coincide with the story we tell.
  5. Reauthoring – giving a lie experience new meaning. 
  6. Letter writing, definitional ceremonies

working Template

  1. Change – What does the voice of (your problem) tell you and how does this influence daily life?” (Metcalf, 2011, p. 338)
  2. “Rapport – You’re deciding if you’d like to open up your life to me. Are there things about me that its important for you to know?” (Metcalf, 2011, p. 338)
  3. “Presenting Issue – What are your expectations for yourself when the (problem intrudes your life?” (Metcalf, 2011, p. 339).
  4. Assessment of Dynamics: “So your view of yourself as a victim has harnessed you into isolating yourself from people…”(Metcalf, 2011, p. 339).
  5. Goals – “what would you call this thing that you’re struggling against?” (Metcalf, 2011, p. 339).
  6. Amplifying change – “As we work together to change the course of the problem, who can help to sustain the preferred story or identity?” (Metcalf, 2011, p. 340).
    g. Termination? – “What was most helpful?” (Metcalf, 2011, p. 340).


Metcalf, L, (2011). Marriage and family therapy: A practice oriented approach. New York: Springer Publishing Company

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NCE – Emotionally Focused Family Therapy

​Emotionally Focused Therapy (EFT) is an approach based on insights from attachment theory and focuses on how personal inter-relational patterns regulate our emotions and interactions with others (Metcalf, 2011). Understanding the preconceived notions one holds in relation to others can illuminate why repetitive relationship patterns keep occurring. The EFT therapist acts as a consultant whose creates a collaborate alliance with couples in order to create a secure relationships (Metcalf, 2011). According to EFT, problems occur when interactional patterns are based on unresolved negative experiences from our past. Metcalf, (2011), notes that these patterns can often develop into an endless feedback loop in relationship. For change to happen, families and couples need to restructure their interactional patterns. This requires a safe and trusting environment in which one everyone can begin understanding the nature of current interactional patterns.

Goals of Theory…

This theory is based on the work of Bowlby who examined childhood attachments and emotional issues with loss of a primary caregiver’s nurturing presence.  As a result of our early attachment experiences, we develop patterns of interaction throughout our lives.  It’s goals are to help client explore their feelings of hurt/longing etc to see how they play out in relationships. The ultimate goal is to help clients develop secure attachments.  The real focus is the inner psychological world of each partners through their interactions.

  1. Therapist is a consultant collaborating with couples.
  2. Emotions are the key element in relationships
  3. Problems occur when interaction patterns based on negative emotions from past.
  4. Change occurs when new emotional experiences are present in relationships.

Three Main tasks…

Metcalf, 2011, p. 344

How Change Happens –

Change happens when the family is able to restructure their interactions so that affiliation and autonomy are both accepted & nurtured in the relationship,,,Focusing on the interaction processes instead of the content of discussion, allows the therapist to work on the patterns that support problems and change them…Change is promoted by altering everyone’s the awareness of what is being communicated and what is needed…..(Metcalf, 2011, p. 345)

One Concept: De-Escalation

Metcalf (2011) briefly mentions the concept of de-escalation as an essential task for EFT therapists. It involves the creation of a safe environment in which everyone is able to openly explore his or her thoughts and feelings. This de-escalation process involves four steps. In the first several steps, conflicts and negative interaction cycles are discussed and identified (Metcalf, 2011). The third step involves addressing the unacknowledged emotions, which underlie these interactional patterns (Metcalf, 2011). With this information in mind, each individual attachment-related needs can be discussed. In the final step, the therapist can assist families and couples in developing a more holistic understanding of the ongoing cycle of conflict (Metcalf, 2011).

Strengths & Weaknesses

Strengths of EFT include its interventional techniques, which appear to be based on empathy and respect. I also appreciated that the EFT therapist holds a collaborative role, which respects the client’s experiences. This would naturally result in a goals that are based on the client’s needs and desires, not just the therapist’s clinical impression. As for the weaknesses, I can’t really see anything about EFT that I disliked. At the same time, I remember vaguely reading somewhere in this class that all empirically sound theoretical perspectives utilize pragmatic solutions-based interventions. In other words, insight-based interventions are inadequate when utilized alone. Having said this, I’m not too familiar with this theory so I could be wrong.


Metcalf, L, (2011). Marriage and family therapy: A practice oriented approach. New York: Springer Publishing Company

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