Group and Family Dynamics

Group and Family Dynamics

MCGOLDRICK: Hi. I’m Monica McGoldrick. When I work with families, I try to place their problems,

whether individual, couple, or child-focused, into a broader context that includes extended family,

community, gender, class, race, and cultural background. I do this because I believe that we are all

connected to all that came before and to all that will come after. It is when these connections are

severed, whether through death, divorce, or estrangement, that a part of us also dies, and that

deadness can seep into all of our relationships, affecting people long after the loss has occurred.

Problems often evolve in a family because of their inability to adapt to or mourn their losses.

MCGOLDRICK COMMENTARY: This program presents a family in which the intergenerational ghosts of

loss are hiding behind the symptoms of the present. Kathleen Rogers, the second wife of David Rogers

(not their real names) made the initial appointment for her family. The guidance counselor of her

stepdaughter, Michelle, had referred them to me because Michelle had been cutting school and

generally acting remote and upset.

MCGOLDRICK: Hi. You must be Michelle.

MICHELLE: Um-hmm. MCGOLDRICK: Hi. So, we spoke on the phone. Uh, what I’d like to do is hear a little

from each of you what you see as the problem, and then I’m going to ask you some questions. We’ll try

to put it in some context, if that’s okay. So whoever wants to go first?

DAVID: I guess I’ll begin. Well, I think you know that you were recommended to us by Michelle’s

guidance counselor. She’s been having some difficulty at school. There have been several incidents this

year. The last one was her getting caught cutting classes. Additionally, we’re very concerned about the

group of kids that she’s been hanging out with. They’re sort of a fast crowd. We’re never quite sure

where she is, and so forth. Also, she seems to have this big chip on her shoulder. A lot of anger and

hostility, and we’re really not sure how to deal with it. And that’s principally it.

MCGOLDRICK: Okay. So Kathleen, what’s your view?

KATHLEEN: Well, I agree. I mean, there’s just a lot of tension in the household and it’s not very pleasant

to live like that, and. I mean, I’ve tried to help her deal with her anger.

MCGOLDRICK COMMENTARY: Something about this family’s presentation seems very flat. I’ll take the

guidance counselor’s referral as an indication there’s something wrong, but so far, all I’ve heard is a

description of a typical teenager.

MCGOLDRICK: What’s your sense of what she’s maybe angry about?

KATHLEEN: Well, I don’t know.

MCGOLDRICK: Okay. So, what’s your view, Michelle? Would you agree that there’s a lot of tension in the


MICHELLE: I guess so.

MCGOLDRICK: Yeah. Are there some things about what’s happening at home that are upsetting you?

Want to talk about it?


MCGOLDRICK: How about school? You’re okay with school? The way things are going?

MICHELLE: School’s fine. School’s great.

MCGOLDRICK: Yeah, yeah. So is there anything that you think would be good for us to change about the

way things are going, from your point of view?

MICHELLE: I wouldn’t be so angry if they weren’t so–


MICHELLE: So wrapped up in their own, like, little world. Everything has to be just so. Everything is, “The

baby this,” or “The baby that,” “The baby needs this.”

MCGOLDRICK: Uh-hmm. And how old is the baby?

KATHLEEN: She just turned two last month.

MCGOLDRICK: She just turned two. I see. You’re saying, what, that the family revolves around the baby?

MICHELLE: Seems so.

MCGOLDRICK: I see. So have things changed since the baby came, since the baby’s been born?

MICHELLE: Yeah. It’s like that’s the only child in the house.

MCGOLDRICK: Well, you know what, maybe what would be good, if it’s okay with you, is, let me get a

little background, and ask a little bit, so I kind of know who’s who.

MCGOLDRICK COMMENTARY: I like to do a genogram very early in the first session so that as I listen to

details of the presenting problem, I have a context in which to put them.

MCGOLDRICK: Now, you were married before?

DAVID: That’s right.

MCGOLDRICK: And you have an older brother. Is that right?

DAVID: Julian.

MCGOLDRICK: And how old is he?

DAVID: 21. MCGOLDRICK: He’s 21. And, Michelle, you’re 15? What’s your birth date, exactly?

MICHELLE: November 5, 1979. MCGOLDRICK: Okay. And your first wife’s name?

DAVID: Diane.

MCGOLDRICK: Diane. She died when? How long was it?

DAVID: She died August 15, 1991. MCGOLDRICK: I’ll come back to her. But let me understand, now. The

two of you were married when?

KATHLEEN: June 10, 1992. MCGOLDRICK: Okay. And you, together, have a daughter?


MCGOLDRICK: Okay. And she was born when?

DAVID: Excuse me, just a second. Is this really necessary for us to go into all these dates? Uh, I mean, it

seems like we’re here because of Michelle’s problem, and I’m just wondering whether we’re, you know,

whether we can use time a little better.

MCGOLDRICK: Right. Well, I’ll tell you. From my perspective, you never know what part of the history

may turn out to be relevant to the presenting problem. But very specifically, what your daughter said

was that she’s been upset since Jade was born. Now that may, you know, I don’t know exactly what that

means. But surely, the specific time when she was born would make some difference in that you must

have had to a lot of family rearranging around her birth, no? Okay. And Julian, by the way, where is he?

DAVID: He’s at Colorado College.

MCGOLDRICK: And he’s what year? He’s been away for how long?

DAVID: He’s 21. MCGOLDRICK: He’s 21. But how many years has he been away from–

MICHELLE: He’s a junior.

MCGOLDRICK: He’s a junior. Now, let me get a little bit about your background. How many were in your

family that you grew up in?

DAVID: Just me, my mother and father.

MCGOLDRICK: I see. You had no brothers or sisters?