118 Helping Family Members with Maladaptive Communication in blended families. Permeable boundaries allow both connection to outsiders and separation from them. When boundaries are unclear, rigid, or diffuse, mal- adaptive patterns are likely to develop. 6. Family Culture A family’s structure and internal processes reflect and reinforce its unique culture. Members rarely intentionally establish rules that govern what is accept- able or unacceptable, but over time, norms develop that dictate what members can and cannot do. A family’s culture is reflected in its traditions and rituals, as well as a shared worldview. Families evolve and change over time in response to the changing needs of their members and first- and second-order life issues. Members’ ability to respond to the inevitable changes that will occur in life depends upon the functioning of the subsystems and processes that have previously been discussed. 7. Social Work Methods and Skills We suggest that students adopt a family-centered approach to their practice, which is a specific adaptation of the ecological model: social workers consider the family context within which their clients exist. Depending upon the stressors that clients face, their families of origin and/or current families of creation may be contributing factors and sources of support and strength. From a family-centered (and ecological) perspective, when students help individual clients make changes in their lives, this will have an impact on their families, whether they interact directly with the family or not. A family-centered per- spective also suggests that when clients’ stress is associated with their families of origin, workers may not be able to address past maladaptive dynamics, but they can assist their clients in viewing their past in new, more accurate ways, using skills described in chapter 8, like correcting misinformation. Families rarely seek assistance with their internal functioning. Rather, they are likely to seek assistance with first- and second-order life issues. Therefore, direct work with families typically focuses on current life stressors. The worker helps fam- ily members successfully manage their life stressors and also attempts to address any underlying maladaptive patterns. Family work may involve some or all members. When the worker employs joining skills like affirming positives and strengths, creating a therapeutic context, and exploring and respecting a family’s unique culture, they enter the family’s world. This also requires the worker to monitor members’ reactions to one another to identify (and then interrupt) maladaptive patterns that emerge in their meetings.
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