Crisis Intervention & Management Module

Module Sections:

Family Crises & Family Therapy Model

Types of Family Crises

Frank Pittman (1988) delineates the differences between various types of crises and the implications of those differences on crisis management. The following is a list of the four types of family crises:

  • “Bolt-from-the-blue” crisis involves the unexpectable event occurring outside of the individual and family system (e.g., fire, war, illness, accident)
  • Developmental crisis reflects the responses to normal, mostly universal, stages of development. Interventions generally focus on normalization of family members’ thoughts and feelings. (e.g., baby’s birth, first steps, first day at school, puberty, driver’s license, adventures)
  • Structural crisis arises from problems of the family structure involving repeated, patterned responses to relieve symptoms. Efforts result in intermittent exacerbations rather than resolutions to the problem structure. Families experiencing this type of crisis appear resistant to change. (i.e., the events may change but the family’s repeated responses remain the same)
  • Caretaker crisis occurs when a caretaker’s efforts prevent family changes and usurps family efforts to resolve issues. (i.e., the function of the caretaker actually prevents the family from developing the abilities needed to make change)

Family Therapy Model Conceptualizations of Family Crises

Each model of family therapy makes varying assumptions about focus of the family issue and the appropriate place to focus treatment. The following examples describe differing conceptualizations and subsequent treatment priorities:

  • Structural – This model focuses on the family structure reflecting the family functioning within and in response to the crisis. Treatment focuses on making adjustments to the family subsystems, boundaries, hierarchies, and member roles.
  • Cognitive-behavioral – This model examines the distorted thinking and cognitive schemas informing the family members’ views of the crisis and their awareness of their available resources and abilities. Also assesses factors reinforcing the family’s repeated crisis experiences.
  • Solution-focused – This model asks the family to envision and articulate a preferred view of their life when the crisis does not exist. Then treatment focuses on repeating that preferred experience.
  • Bowen – This model equips the family members with specific ways to detriangle, access and utilize emotional and cognitive processes, and establish each member’s greater differentiation of self. These tasks become resources for handling crises in deliberate, responsive ways rather than through heightened reactivity.

Journal- As you examine a family crisis, what model(s) inform your assessment?