1. Identify precipitating event(s). (10 pts.)
The movie I chose to watch is Courageous. The precipitating event in this movie is the car accident that takes the life of Emily Mitchell. Her father, Adam Mitchell, and the rest of her family are traumatized by the sudden death of their 9 year old daughter/sister. In thinking about information that would be gained in the first contact with Adam Mitchell, one thing that stands out about his previous state of mind/functioning is that he was somewhat uninvolved with his children, taking them for granted. This fact can also be a trigger for how he processes this event, causing a crisis for him as he realized his young daughter is now gone. In another scene, Emily’s brother, Dylan Mitchell, shares that he feels guilty that he wasn’t a better brother. Both of these relational states prior to Emily’s death can be a precipitating factor in how they process this trauma – influencing whether they get stuck in crisis of guilt, depression over lost time, etc. or whether they see this as an opportunity for change in the way they handle relationships from now on.
2. Identify the type of crisis (Situational, Developmental, Existential). (10 pts.) This crisis is a situational crisis, in that it is brought about by the sudden death of Emily. However, it can also produce developmental and existential crises in the lives of this family, as they process their loss. A traumatic event is known to potentially create problems in the future development of the individual or family, and it is certainly known to create existential crises, as the individual’s core beliefs about self, others, and the world are extremely challenged during crisis. Beliefs about meaning, purpose, and the existence of God are often questioned after major tragedy. 3. Identify the material, personal, and social resources available to the individual. (10 pts.) The material resources available to this family were that they were a middle class family, with a stable home, and no financial worries that were evident to complicate their loss.
The personal resources of the family were that they seemed to be a fairly strong, intact family prior to the crisis. They were clearly a family of great faith in God, and this personal resource literally becomes what carries them through the crisis. As a result of their involvement in church and community, they had the social support of their friends/church members in the early days following the loss. Adam Mitchell also has the ongoing counsel of his pastor, who walks through the process with him, comforting him yet challenging him to grow and not get stuck. 4. What were the differing perceptions of the crisis? (the client, family, community, friends, legal perspectives) (10 pts.) The perspectives within the family are the most obvious. Adam led his family to accept the tragedy as God’s will for their lives and to trust Him with their pain and healing. He seemed to grieve for a while and then dive right in to trying to be a better dad. The mother is shown grieving, and then later supporting him as he sought to change his parenting; therefore, her perception seemed to be a fairly healthy one.
The brother, Dylan, did not seem to do as well at first. He isolated for a while, but the reason came out one night at the dinner table when he cried, saying he should have been a better brother. The guilt had obviously been causing him to withdraw, but when he finally talked about his real feelings, he is seen making improvements. 5. Briefly, how was the crisis handled by the protagonist? (10 pts.) The protagonist in this movie was Adam Mitchell, the father of Emily who died in the car crash. Adam handled this crisis very well, as it became a catalyst for growth for him. In one session, he is talking with his pastor after a few scenes that have shown him grieving, his wife grieving, and his son beginning to isolate from the family. It is at this time that Adam has a choice in how he handles his opportunity to move forward or stay stuck. He tells his pastor that he does not want to get stuck and bitter, that he wants to heal and he wants his family to heal.
It is at this point in the movie that Adam begins to pour himself into studying what God’s word has to say about being a father. After discovering that he was only doing a small portion of what God required of him as a dad, he makes a resolution to change that. Indeed, he does so and brings several other men along with him as well. By choosing to grieve in a healthy way, Adam allowed his crisis to make him a better father and to develop his relationship with his wife and son to a stronger place than it had been even before his daughter’s death.
6. Suggest several steps for your client that could be used to handle the crisis. (10 pts.) Since this crisis did not put Adam, or anyone else in his family, in direct danger, I would take on the role of a facilitator. As a facilitator, I would collaborate with Adam to set some goals for himself. An important thing to remember would be to help him survive and rebuild. This ultimate goal can be accomplished through smaller goals that center on bridging the past, accepting and living with the present, and finding a new path for the future. Practical steps for Adam in processing his loss would be to suggest that he remain connected to his support system, gently guide him to face his pain versus repress it, and have him identify secondary losses and unfinished business due to his daughter’s death.
One poignant example of resolving unfinished business in the movie is when Adam goes and pretends to dance with his daughter in the place where he had rejected her invitation a few days before she died. While we can’t always recover secondary losses, we can allow the secondary losses to teach us about how to handle relationships differently in the future. This information can be used in finding a new path. Lastly, if my client was a Christian and I could talk openly about God, I would help to reframe their understanding based on a biblical perception of how God promises to use crises for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Lastly, considering that this was a sudden and traumatic death, I would likely suggest a grief support group for the family.
7. Suggest steps for teaching coping skills and developing resiliency (preventing the crisis from reoccurring). (10 pts.) It’s hard to keep a death from reoccurring, but a client can be strengthened so that they do not move into active crisis each time they fear a new loss. In the case of sudden death of a loved one, a sense of fear over a new loss can almost cripple a client. I have had personal experience with this myself after losing my son in a drowning accident.
Therefore, I would immediately want to help the client frame healthy perceptions about the event so that fear patterns do not get locked into the brain. Therefore, when it comes to re-traumatization after an initial trauma, early intervention is critical. Crisis debriefing can help to prevent trauma loops from being formed in the brain, which would contribute to possible crisis reoccurrence. As far as resiliency is concerned, I would suggest that the client remain connected to social support and remain connected to God. Trusting Him in crisis can help tremendously toward a healthy outcome.
8. What referral sources would be available to the client if he/she lived in your area? (specific names of organizations in your area to which you might refer your client. You might have to research your area for this.) (10 pts.) Grief Share groups at several churches in the area (i.e. Hebron Baptist), Cornerstone Counseling (provides trauma recovery services), Paraclete Counseling Center, Robbie Sherrill, LCC
9. Discuss a Biblical worldview or principal related to the crisis. (10 pts.) Anytime there is a tragedy or loss, one might be tempted to question the goodness of God, or even the reality of God. However, God is in control and never surprised by tragedy. A good principle to remember when God does allow suffering is to trust that God works all things for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). Also, Scripture makes it clear that God uses suffering to refine us. Therefore, processing tragedy by asking “what can I learn from this” is healthier and more biblical than seeking to know why. God knows the end from the beginning, and even though we may not know why while on earth, we can know the peace that comes from trusting Him to bring good from our suffering.
Courtney from Study Moose
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