Discussion 1: Group Dynamics—Intragroup, Dominant Group, and Marginalization
Members of dominant ethnic and racial groups may assume that other groups’ struggles are not their own or assume that those of a given race speak with one voice and react in the same way to their oppression. In reality, people can cope with racial inequalities in a variety of ways, creating complex relationships both between the dominant and oppressed group and among members of the dominant and oppressed groups.
As a social worker, you must understand the many ways in which racial privilege can impact your clients. You must also understand the ways in which racial privilege has impacted your life and the ways you react to the realities of racism. You will likely need to help clients address racial divides and combat racial inequality to empower them.
To prepare: Review “Working With Immigrants and Refugees: The Case of Aaron.”
References (use at least 2)
Adams, M., Blumenfeld, W. J., Castaneda, C., Hackman, H. W., Peters, M. L., & Zuniga, X. (Eds.). (2013). Readings for diversity and social justice. (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge Press.
Chapter 8, (pp. 65–68)
Chapter 21, (pp. 125–126)
Chapter 22, (pp. 127–133)
Chapter 24, (pp. 135–139)
Plummer, S. B., Makris, S., & Brocksen S. M. (Eds.). (2014). Social work case studies: Foundation year. Baltimore, MD: Walden International Universities Publishing. [Vital Source e-Reader].
“Working With Immigrants and Refugees: The Case of Aaron”
Working With Immigrants and Refugees: The Case of Aaron
Aaron is a 24-year-old, unmarried, heterosexual, Caribbean immigrant male who is experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression. Aaron reports no history of mental health treatment nor any medical or legal problems. He admits to social drinking but denies use of illegal substances. He lives alone in a room he rents above the restaurant where he works. He works 24 hours a week as a waiter, has few friends, and is a part-time student at a local university where he is working on an undergraduate degree in biology. Aaron came to speak with me, a university counselor, because he is having difficulty concentrating and finding the motivation to study. Aaron denied any thoughts or plans of suicide or homicide and stated he felt hopeless and nervous.
In the first session, Aaron struggled with sustaining eye contact, presented as preoccupied, and was indifferent to the attempts to engage him in the intake process. When asked what he thought precipitated counseling, Aaron said that he had a difficult relationship with his parents who, he stated, “are not supportive and could care less” about him. He also reported that his younger brother was killed not long ago. When asked what he wanted to work on in counseling, he said that he wanted to address why his family was so “messed up.” Subsequent sessions explored Aaron’s perspective on his family, the strained relationship between Aaron and his parents, and the loss of his sibling.
During one session, Aaron said his parents had always favored his younger brother and overlooked his criminal involvement, which had been a source of conflict between Aaron and his parents for years. While it had not been confirmed, Aaron suspected his brother’s death was related to gang involvement. Aaron shared that his academic interests and achievement had been ignored by his parents and had never been a source of interest for them.
In a subsequent session, Aaron stated that he had always felt disconnected and different from his parents and brother. Aaron’s family immigrated to the United States from Guyana when Aaron was 8 years old and his brother was 2 years old. His parents brought only his brother and left Aaron with his grandmother, informing him they would bring him over when they were settled. Seven years later, at the age of 15, he joined his family. Aaron reported that reuniting with his family after all that time was difficult. Aaron had always felt rejected by his parents because they did not bring him to the United States with his brother. He experienced a void in his relationship with his parents and his brother, and he felt there was an unspoken alliance between his parents and his younger brother that he did not share. Aaron said that he was often made fun of by them for not losing his accent and for his use of their culture’s traditions and customs. They also ridiculed him for being homesick and missing his grandmother. He said that his parents rarely attended the West Indian activities he participated in, and when they did, they spent more time critiquing his performance than enjoying it.
In the following sessions, Aaron was encouraged to tell the story of his family and how the immigration process disrupted their connections with one another and how this may have affected their ability to grieve together as they faced the death of his brother. Using genograms and having Aaron educate me about his country, I was better able to understand his family’s immigration history and the roles played by extended family members. This approach allowed Aaron to talk more about how and when his anxiety and depression manifested. Later I learned that these symptoms had always been mildly present but became more acute after the death of his brother. Aaron grieved the loss of a brother and examined his feelings of loss around his relationship with parents who were both limited in their ability to include him in their own grieving processes.
After several sessions, Aaron was able to talk more openly about his frustration and disappointment with his family and identify the losses they had all incurred. He allowed himself the opportunity to grieve his brother and the lack of relationship with his parents and began to consider the possibility of a new relationship with them. Aaron reported a reduction in his feelings of anxiety and depression and resumed interest in his academic work. Aaron and I discussed termination at the end of the semester with a recommendation that he continue with individual therapy in the summer months.
Discussion 2: Dalia’s Behavior
Argumentative behavior, engagement in physical altercations, and evidence of mood swings can all indicate that an adolescent is experiencing anger and depression. Self-harming can surface in adolescents, too, as they experience difficult emotions.
For this Discussion, read the case study of Dalia and consider what you, as her social worker, would do if you observed self-harm indicators.
References (use at least 2)
Moorey, S. (2010). Managing the unmanageable: Cognitive behaviour therapy for deliberate self-harm. Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, 24(2), 135–149.
Plummer, S.-B., Makris, S., & Brocksen S. M. (Eds.). (2014). Social work case studies: Foundation year. Baltimore, MD: Laureate International Universities Publishing. [Vital Source e-reader].
Working With Children and Adolescents: The Case of Dalia
Working With Children and Adolescents: The Case of Dalia
Dalia is a 14-year-old, biracial female of African and Irish American descent who resides with her parents in a middle-class suburb. She is the youngest of three children and is currently the only child remaining in the home. Dalia’s parents have been married for 25 years. Dalia’s father works in the creative arts field with a nontraditional work schedule that has him gone overnight and sleeping late into the morning. Dalia’s mother is an executive who works long hours. Dalia was diagnosed with sickle cell anemia in early childhood and was hospitalized multiple times. At present, Dalia’s health is stable with the last serious episode occurring 2 years ago.
Dalia’s parents reported that until middle school, Dalia was an easygoing, good-natured youngster who enjoyed singing and participating in activities with her peers and family. Dalia denied any problems with drugs or alcohol but admitted to drinking with friends. Dalia described her family relationships as tense, stating, “My dad lets me do what I want” and “My mother is always trying to control me.” Dalia described her relationship with her older brother, who lives in another state, as “cool,” and her relationship with her older sister, a college sophomore, as “not cool.”
Dalia’s parents sought out counseling services for behavioral issues on the recommendation of her school. The issues included argumentative behavior with authority figures, physical altercations with peers, poor concentration in class, irritable mood, verbal combativeness when confronted, truancy, and highly sexualized behavior with male peers. At home, Dalia had become more argumentative and physically threatening. Her parents had discovered that she and her friends drank alcohol in their home. Dalia’s parents also reported that she was up most of the night and slept most of the day. They also reported that her mood was highly irritable and that she was extremely impulsive. She had no interest in getting involved with any extracurricular activities, stating that those things are “corny and boring.”
In the first meeting, Dalia and her mother both appeared agitated with each other and became argumentative when going through the intake information. Dalia quickly told me that she was not planning to talk about anything because this meeting was her parents’ idea. She stated, “I don’t have any problems, my parents do.” Soon into this first visit, Dalia blurted out that her mother was upset with her because she had just shown her a tattoo she had had done recently, purchased by using a fake ID. I acknowledged her news and asked if this was the way that she usually shared important information with her mother. Dalia shrugged and stated, “I don’t know. I figure I better her tell her now before she gets too busy.”
I asked both Dalia and her mother what their expectations were for counseling and what each would like to get from these visits. Dalia’s mother seemed surprised and stated, “This is for her. She better change her attitude and start to focus on school.” I explained that often it is helpful to have sessions both individually and with family members. I pointed out that because family issues were identified it might be productive to address them together. Dalia’s mother agreed to attend some meetings but also stated that her time was limited. I was told that Dalia’s father would not be able to join us because he was never available at that time.
Dalia and I began sessions alone, and her mother joined us for the second half. During the family sessions, we addressed the communication breakdown between Dalia and her mother and Dalia’s at-risk behaviors. Individual sessions were used to address her impulsive behavior and self-esteem issues.
In individual sessions, Dalia talked about how the family had changed since her sister left for college. She said her parents stopped being present and available once her sister went away to school. She said she spent more time on her own and her behavior was under more scrutiny. Dalia also talked about her sister, describing her as an excellent student and very popular. She said her teachers in middle school would often compare Dalia to her sister, making her feel unsuccessful in comparison. During a family portion of a session, Dalia’s mother initially disagreed with Dalia’s point of view regarding how the family had changed, stating, “She’s just trying to trick you.” I encouraged them to discuss what was different about the family dynamics now compared to when the older sister was at home. We discussed how the family had changed through the years, validating both perspectives.
In time, I was able to have Dalia’s father join us in some of the family meetings. He said he felt Dalia’s behaviors were just a stage and part of being a teenager. Dalia’s parents disagreed openly in our sessions, with each blaming the other for her behavioral issues. During these sessions, we addressed how they each may have changed as their children matured and left home and how this affected their availability to their youngest child. I helped them identify what made Dalia’s experience distinct from her siblings’ and examine what her high-risk behaviors might be in reaction to or symptomatic of in the family.
In the course of the family work, the realities of being a biracial family and raising mixed-race children were also addressed. We discussed how the parents navigated race issues during their own courtship and looked at the role of acculturation and assimilation with their children in their social environments as well as respective families of origin. Educating both parents around race and social class privilege seemed fruitful in understanding distinctions between what they and their children may have faced.
After 12 weeks it was agreed that therapy would end because Dalia would be starting high school and the family felt better equipped to address conflict. The family had made some changes with the household schedule that increased parent–child contact, and Dalia agreed to more structure in her schedule and accepted a position as a camp counselor in a local day camp for the summer. Termination addressed what was accomplished in this portion of therapy and what might be addressed in future counseling. The termination process included reviewing the strategies of conflict resolution and creating opportunities for family contact and discussion in order to reinforce those behavioral and structural changes that had led to improved communication and conflict reduction.
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