Application of Attachment Theory to a Case Study

Application of Attachment Theory to a Case Study

Helen Petrakis

Identifying Data: Helen Petrakis is a 52-year-old, Caucasian female of Greek descent living in a four-bedroom house in Tarpon Springs, FL. Her family consists of her husband, John (60), son, Alec (27), daughter, Dmitra (23), and daughter Althima (18). John and Helen have been married for 30 years. They married in the Greek Orthodox Church and attend services weekly.

Presenting Problem: Helen reports feeling overwhelmed and “blue.” She was referred by a close friend who thought Helen would benefit from having a person who would listen. Although she is uncomfortable talking about her life with a stranger, Helen says that she decided to come for therapy because she worries about burdening friends with her troubles. John has been expressing his displeasure with meals at home, as Helen has been cooking less often and brings home takeout. Helen thinks she is inadequate as a wife. She states that she feels defeated; she describes an incident in which her son, Alec, expressed disappointment in her because she could not provide him with clean laundry. Helen reports feeling overwhelmed by her responsibilities and believes she can’t handle being a wife, mother, and caretaker any longer.

Family Dynamics: Helen describes her marriage as typical of a traditional Greek family. John, the breadwinner in the family, is successful in the souvenir shop in town. Helen voices a great deal of pride in her children. Dmitra is described as smart, beautiful, and hardworking. Althima is described as adorable and reliable. Helen shops, cooks, and cleans for the family, and John sees to yard care and maintaining the family’s cars. Helen believes the children are too busy to be expected to help around the house, knowing that is her role as wife and mother. John and Helen choose not to take money from their children for any room or board. The Petrakis family holds strong family bonds within a large and supportive Greek community. Helen is the primary caretaker for Magda (John’s 81-year-old widowed mother), who lives in an apartment 30 minutes away. Until recently, Magda was self-sufficient, coming for weekly family dinners and driving herself shopping and to church. Six months ago, she fell and broke her hip and was also recently diagnosed with early signs of dementia. Helen and John hired a reliable and trusted woman temporarily to check in on Magda a couple of days each week. Helen would go and see Magda on the other days, sometimes twice in one day, depending on Magda’s needs. Helen would go food shopping for Magda, clean her home, pay her bills, and keep track of Magda’s medications. Since Helen thought she was unable to continue caretaking for both Magda and her husband and kids, she wanted the helper to come in more often, but John said they could not afford it. The money they now pay to the helper is coming out of the couple’s vacation savings. Caring for Magda makes Helen think she is failing as a wife and mother because she no longer has time to spend with her husband and children. 14 Helen spoke to her husband, John (the family decision maker), and they agreed to have Alec (their son) move in with Magda (his grandmother) to help relieve Helen’s burden and stress. John decided to pay Alec the money typically given to Magda’s helper. This has not decreased the burden on Helen since she had to be at the apartment at least once daily to intervene with emergencies that Alec is unable to manage independently. Helen’s anxiety has increased since she noted some of Magda’s medications were missing, the cash box was empty, Magda’s checkbook had missing checks, and jewelry from Greece, which had been in the family for generations, was also gone. Helen comes from a close-knit Greek Orthodox family where women are responsible for maint

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