In an intake session with his mother, Dave, a ten-year-old boy, has reported being in physical fights with his father. His mother has reported that she does not know how to handle the fights at home. Both Dave and his mother report that Dave’s father becomes angry when he drinks and Dave “picks fights” with his father to protect his eight-year-old brother. Dave and his mother report Dave having black eyes on more than one occasion.
Both mother and son corroborate the instances of fights between father and son and report multiple instances of Dave, the son, having black eyes as a result. Based on the information presented in the intake session of physical fights between father and son, a report to the Department of Family Services is necessary due to Wyoming’s laws that state any person who suspects child abuse is a mandatory reporter (Wyoming State Statute, 2020) as well as the code of ethics (American Psychological Association, 2017). The report may be made with mother and Dave in the room in order to maintain the trust of both and help you keep the therapeutic alliance (American Psychological Association, 2013).
Interventions will need to be made at the individual level for each family member as well as in the family unit. As Dave is the client, I will focus on interventions for him specifically and would refer the family and other family members to other treatment providers to avoid potentially harmful multiple relationships (Fisher, 2017). Referrals for family therapy and substance abuse treatment would be indicated, as well as individual therapy for the younger son.
For Dave, individual psychotherapy is indicated. Multiple modalities could be effective to help Dave deal with his anger and trauma. I am competent in Somatic Experiencing and Mindfulness Based psychotherapy, so these are the interventions that I would begin using with Dave (Fisher, 2017). Dave may also benefit from group therapy focused on psychoeducational anger management.
For the prevention of further physical abuse, parental and family interventions may be necessary. As stated above, referral to substance abuse counseling for the father would be the first step in prevention as the report is that the physical abuse occurs when the father has been drinking. An Al-Anon referral for the other family members would also help the mother and sons begin to understand their father’s substance use and how to deal with their own emotions around it.
Parenting classes for both the father and the mother would also help in the prevention of further abuse by empowering the mother to intervene as well as helping the father understand the impact of his behavior on his family. Reporting to Department of Family Services is also a preventative measure as the social workers in the department can help the family connect with services that may not be known to me or that are only available to their clients. Prevention is focused on the parents, but family therapy can also be a useful preventative measure.
Dave’s family appears to be struggling with the father’s substance abuse and subsequent physical abuse. Dave requires individual services to help him cope with and manage the trauma from the physical abuse. Dave’s father would be referred for substance abuse treatment and family therapy with the rest of the family. The other family members being referred to Al-Anon or a similar group is also indicated for prevention and intervention.
American Psychological Association. (2013). Reporting Child Abuse and Neglect. Good Practice, 2-5.
American Psychological Association. (2017). Ethical Principles of Psychologists and Code of Conduct.
Fisher, C. (2017). Decoding the ethics code: A practical guide for psychologists. SAGE.
Wyoming State Statute. (2020). Practice Act.