Pursuit of Happyness is a movie where a man, Chris Gardner is a salesman that goes from one medical facility to another trying to sell portable medical x-ray machines. When his sales do not go as planned, Chris and his family end up losing their home, his wife leaves, and he is left to provide for his 5 year old son. As the movie progresses, Chris and his son must go from living in a motel, to a homeless shelter, to living wherever he could find to sleep. In my paper, I will present the issues of the family, challenges that they faced, and the use of Solution Focused Therapy and Narrative Family Therapy to aid the family in addressing their presenting issues and finding ways to communicate their feelings of abandonment and sadness.
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Pursuit of Happyness: Using Solution-Focused and Narrative Therapy Approaches In the movie, The Pursuit of Happyness, Will Smith plays Chris Gardner, a salesman who is trying to sell portable x-ray machines to various physicians. In the movie, Gardner was a struggling salesman that was having a difficult time selling the machines. In the movie the biopsychosocial issues that were affecting the family was that the wife, Linda was on the verge of leaving her husband Chris and their 5 year old son Christopher. The family was faced with financial issues and these issues eventually ended up with the family being evicted from their home. The mother left her family, which eventually became homeless and living in poverty.
Chris and his son Christopher were homeless throughout the movie and were forced to move from one location to another. In the movie, Chris and his son moved from a motel room to a homeless shelter before being forced to move from one location to another after having to leave the homeless shelter. According to Macdonald (2006), Chris, determined to make a better life for his son, travelled to several locations to try to sell the machines and when he could not, he went into stock market office and asks to be a part of their intern program at Dean Witter. The family faced the challenge of being homeless and living in poverty. The family is also faced with the issue of being responsible for the machines, even when one is stolen. They also faced the challenge of Chris not having stock broker experience, but needed to become a part of Dean Witter’s internship program. The major strengths of the family were that they were not willing to give up. According to Macdonald (2006), after Chris saw the incorrect quote from the Declaration of Independence that spoke of the inalienable rights of all men, which is life, liberty and the PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS
pursuit of happiness. The happiness was spelled happyness. Convinced that he wanted his son to learn what was correct in society, Chris went on a journey to find what he thought was the “pursuit of happyness” for his son and himself. Throughout the movie, the family goes through several developmental stages. The family goes from doing very well and being happy, to enter into a “world of poverty and homelessness.” According to Corey (2009), the developmental stages in which children develop can affect that child’s sense of self, not only through interactions with others, but a development of a personality. As Christopher travels from one location to another, he goes through several developmental stages. He not only develops a sense of self and personality, but a sense of competence that motivates his behaviors and actions.
Throughout each stage, Christopher breaks through several of the psychosocial development stages. He moves from feelings of Trust and Mistrust, Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt, Initiative vs. Guilt, Industry vs. Inferiority, Identity vs. Confusion, and Intimacy vs. Isolation. According to Corey (2009), during the Trust and Mistrust stage, Christopher goes from trusting that his father can provide for him, to not thinking that he can provide for him when they are evicted. He then moves into the stage of Shame and Doubt when the family must go from a motel room to a homeless shelter. He faces issues of guilt when he cannot help his father sell the machines to one of inferiority when they are forced to sleep in a restroom. The intimacy between his father and him as evident throughout the movie yet isolated because it is just the two of them.
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According to Macdonald (2006), the family goes from being a full family unit, to being composed of a single-parent father and his son. They go from living comfortably in their home, to being evicted and forced to go to a shelter. They then as faced with trying to sell machines that often do not work, in order to get money and find shelter. The family goes from being happy and together to being sad and separated. The presenting problem of the family is directly associated with the developmental stages in which the family has to go through. According to Corey (2009), the treatment goals that could be established to assist the family would be focused on developing the most rapid results because it allows clients to place trust in their counselors and develop plans that could be appropriate for the client’s needs and particular issues.
The goals would be designed so that the family can express feelings associated with the adjustment within their home and provide the family with a development of coping strategies that would be assist them with dealing with the feelings of abandonment of the mother in the movie. Using the solution focused approach and the narrative therapy approach; a counselor would be able to assist the family with their therapeutic needs. According to Greenberg, Gashorn, and Danikwich (2002),Solution-Focused Therapy allows families and couples to focus on problems being developed. The approach also allows the families to maintain proper review when interacting with others. Using this therapy approach, Chris and his son would be able to change their interactions with others and aid in their interpretation of behaviors and situations. They would also be able to PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS
be heavily involved in the counseling process. Both Chris and his son would play an important role in determining solutions that could be effective in counseling. According to Greenberg et al (2002), using Solution Focused Therapy will allow the family to see how their interactions could be used to create more positive feelings about the changes that have occurred in their lives. The approach could also allow the family to develop the coping skills needed to help them in their “pursuit of happiness.” Playing a role in the counseling process would be beneficial for both Chris and his son, especially considering that they both are adjusting to the abandonment of Chris’ wife and Christopher’s mother.
This abandonment could create issues with how the family communicates and how go through the various developmental stages. According to Etchison and Kleist (2002) using the narrative therapy approach would have allowed both Chris and his son to create meaning with each other in a language system. The counselor working with them would be able to address 3 sets of factors: the meaning people give to their experiences, the language that is used, and the situation that occupies their social structures. Throughout the counseling process, both Chris and his son would be able to communicate their feelings about Linda leaving them and them being forced to live from place to place. Using this therapy approach, the counselor would allow each client, problem, and session to be viewed as unique. Also, using the narrative therapy approach would be able to learn about and understand each other, hearing each other’s stories, and being open about the possibilities of their own “pursuit of happyness.”
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The narrative therapy approach also will allow the family to work on their people who have impacted and influenced their current situation. According to Etchison and Kleist (2002), using narrative therapy will provide opportunities for both Chris and his son to express their emotions about the mother leaving and going form part of the middle class to people living in poverty. They could also provide insight on how it felt when Chris got the position with Dean Witter and how that position would change their lives. As a child, Christopher could use narrative therapy to present a narration of her feelings travelling with his father to motels, homeless shelters, and living in poverty. He could also create a narration of his feelings of only having one parent in his life and present his feelings through the narration.
These models work best for the family because they need to understand how to communicate their feelings of adjustment and abandonment. They also need to understand each other’s side of the feelings associated with the changes that have been made in the family unit. These models would allow the counselor to be able to assist the family with developing the coping skills needed to go from sad to having feelings of happiness. Chris’ ability to remain resilient allowed him to move beyond his biopsychosocial issues and move toward more feelings of making a better life for his son and him. They travel together, going from one development stage to another as they seek to be in a position where they can live in a safe location. Chris Gardner finally meets his view of the “pursuit of happyness” for his son and him when he is accepted to Dean Witter’s internship program and can being on his trip, with his PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS
son toward a new life, even through their various adversities. His journey throughout the movie shows how resilience pays off. His son and him go through various changes in their economic status, living status, and mental status. They go from being a part of the traditional middle class family to part of the people who live in poverty. They have to be able to properly express themselves in a manner in which they can use Solution Focused Therapy and Narrative Therapy approaches to properly express their feelings and proper gain that “happiness” that all men are entitled to.
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Corey, G. (2009). Case approach to counseling and psychotherapy (7th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thomson Brooks/Cole. Etchison, M. & Kliest, D. (2002). Review of Narrative Therapy: Research and Utility. Counseling and Therapy for Couples and Families, 8(1):61-66. Greenberg, G., Gashorn, K., & Danikwich, A. (2002). Solution-focused therapy: Counseling model for busy family physicians. Can Fam Physician,47:2289-2295. Macdonald, M. (2006). “The Pursuit of Happyness.” Will Smith’s on the money as a poverty-stricken dad.” Retrieved from https://seattletimes,com/html/movies/2003477755_pursuit15.html