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Respond to at least two colleagues who selected a different theory from the one you selected. Explain how another systems theory, that neither you nor your colleague has previously discussed, might be applied to the course-specific case study your colleague selected.


Colleague 1: AnnaVi


Case Background

Matt and Keith are homosexual males that adopted two children, ages 7 and 3. The couple decided to attend counseling due to a conflict in parenting styles. The adopted children have special needs. Jackson, the oldest child shows behavior problems that result in aggression and was later diagnosed with ADHD (Plummer, Makris & Brocksen, 2014). The younger child, Ellery was born with a cleft palate, deformity to the jaw and is blind. She often has trouble with breathing and swallowing her food due to the deformities to her lip and jaw (Plummer, Makris & Brocksen, 2014).

The couple struggles with Jackson’s behavioral problems as well as the Ellery’s medical issues. Due to the demands of parenthood, Matt and Keith struggle to spend quality time with one another. More importantly, both Matt and Keith have opposite parenting styles that often lead to disagreements.

Conflict Theory

According to Robbins, Chatterjee, & Canda (2012), “Conflict also helps to define the nature and structure of relationships between conflicting parties” (p. 73). Coser suggests that realistic conflict occurs from “specific demands” (Robbins, Chatterjee, & Canda, 2012). As both sides struggle to find balance, the need for rearrangement and accommodation is needed between Matt and Keith to resolve their conflicts. Coser’s realistic conflict ends in a less violent confrontation rather than a violent, hostile one. I find Sower’s take on conflict relating to Matt and Keith, as Sower describes conflict as a transaction. Matt and Keith often argue and disagree due to the specific demands of parenting as both find difficulty finding an equal balance.

Social Work Skills

The social skills necessary to manage between conflicting couples include applying Narrative therapy and EFT to allow each couple to illustrate their own perspective of the conflicts present in their home. The use of narrative therapy allows the couple to identify their values and strengths that are necessary to the functions of the household. EFT is often used in couples as an approach to explore feelings, emotions and perspective to what happened in the relationship.

The social worker may also provide resources where education can be provided on ADHD and medical issues that Ellery suffers from. The use of empathy and remaining neutral is also important in managing conflict. The ability to ask open-ended questions that contribute to Matt and Keith’s understanding of the problems are present and ability to manage the visits without escalating into major arguments, fights or one person storming off.


Plummer, S.-B., Makris, S., & Brocksen S. M. (Eds). (2014). Social work case studies: Concentration year. Baltimore, MD: Laureate International Universities Publishing [VitalSource e-reader].

Robbins, S. P., Chatterjee, P., & Canda, E. R. (2012). Contemporary human behavior theory: A critical perspective for social work (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Allyn & Bacon.


Colleague 2: Lea


Case Background:

The Case of Matt and Keith (Plummer, Makris, and Brocksen, 2014), describes the some of the conflicts that can arise when parents are faced with parenting children with disabilities. In this case, Matt and Keith find themselves so consumed with caring for their children’s special needs that they have neglected the care of their relationship. Furthermore, the men have had difficulty locating professionals who can support them in caring for their son, diagnosed with ADHD when he was four years old.

The conflicts these parents and their family face are numerous. Some are at the forefront of their day to day lives. For example, they are working to address their son’s behavior problems, but they are also dealing with their daughter’s medical issues (cleft palate). They also face the conflict that comes with becoming parents, such as, less time doing things alone or as a couple as well as navigating different/opposing parenting styles. Furthermore, they are a gay couple, which comes with its own set of issues. In this case, both men have left their Catholic background (possible faith-based support) to worship in a church is inclusive of non-traditional relationships and families. The men have sought therapy previously, but found that the therapist focused on the ADHD aspect of their family, but not on how to make their family work or their opposing parenting styles.


Applicable Conflict Theory:

Lewis Coser described “conflict” as unifying or “binding” individuals or groups together that, if used realistically, can function as a safety valve to release tension and avoid hostility (Robbins, Chatterjee, and Canda, 2012). The conflict faced by Matt and Keith are not insurmountable, as they are committed to their relationship and their family. This “realistic” conflict is evidenced by their initiative to seek assistance individually and as a family.

Because of the nature of the couple’s non-traditional makeup, a post-structuralist conflict theory may be an appropriate approach to applying social work skills with this family. Post-structuralism challenges universal ideals and grand structures. What is considered “normal” or “the norm” is only deemed so because of social constructs (Wendt and Seymore, 2010). Post-structuralism is not meant to be a “one size fits all” approach. Wendt and Seymore purport that the social workers employing a post-structuralist approach to treatment must understand the difference between “empowering” and “taking power” if she is going to serve her clients successfully. The authors describe “empowering” as the act of being given power while “taking power” suggest the idea that power is a property that one can take control over and own.  The couple in the case needs to take back the control and power in their relationship.  Additionally, their son needs the opportunity to take power over his disability.

Social Work Skills:


As a social worker involved with this family, I would assist this family in finding and using services as an aid to building a stronger family relationship, a team environment between parents, and a professional network to turn to for support. Like the worker in the case study (Plummer, et. al., 2014), I would look at solution-based interventions to apply to each of the couple’s concerns: Finding expert care for their son’s ADHD, finding respite so that the couple can care for their relationship, and seeking/providing individual, as well as family counseling. Assisting the family in taking power over their situation will serve to “bind” them closer together as a couple and a build a stronger family unit.



Plummer, S.-B., Makris, S., & Brocksen S. M. (Eds.). (2014). Social work case studies: Concentration year. Baltimore, MD: Laureate International Universities Publishing .


Robbins, S. P., Chatterjee, P., & Canda, E. R. (2012). Contemporary human behavior theory: A critical perspective for social work (3rd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Allyn & Bacon.


Wendt, S., & Seymour, S. (2010). Applying Post-structuralist Ideas to Empowerment: Implications for Social Work Education. Social Work Education, 29(6), 670-682. doi:10.1080/02615470903342093



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