A recent study examined the link between relationship satisfaction and smoking behaviors in couples.  It had 25 couples discuss a health related issue before and during smoking.  After they were done having their discussions, they watched a video of themselves interacting and used joysticks to track how they were feeling from very negative to very positive.  For couples who both smoked, they rated themselves as feeling more positive when they were both smoking, in spite of the fact that in all of the couples, at least one member was dealing with a serious smoking related health issue.  For couples in which only one member smoked, more negative feelings were reported during the time when one partner was smoking.  For dual smoking couples, the relationship satisfaction was increased when both partners were smoking, even though health was suffering.

Systemic reinforcement is one of the topics that really interests me as a mental health and family worker.  Consistently, I notice that if a family is unable or unwilling to change along with the child who gets placed in residential treatment, whatever changes we make as a treatment team with the child will quickly fall by the wayside when the child returns to their home environment.  As a practitioner, I think that it is vital to include family work in the overall treatment plan in order to create sustainable, systemic change.  Never is a mental health issue just an individual deficiency; it is the intersection of biology, family and cultural systems and behavioral conditioning.

Because of this philosophical orientation, I believe that looking at relationships as only being ways to perpetuate health issues is incomplete.  Relationships have the power, and in some cases, the only power, to create positive change in client welfare.  As practioners, we have the honor of presenting a new set of tools to a system.  We have the honor of helping the family create new options and new ways to perpetuate health and wellness.  Humility is our number one requirement, because if the solutions we present are ones that the family is unwilling to use, we present useless solutions.  We work in systems; we effect change in systems.

Wiley-Blackwell (2009, March 12). Close Relationships Can Perpetuate Individual Health Problems. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 15, 2009, from http://www.sciencedaily.com­ /releases/2009/03/090311111004.htm

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