Colleague 2: Amanda

The circumplex model of families and relationships are built on three different dimensions. These dimensions include cohesion, flexibility, and communication (Olson, 2000). Each of these dimensions are broken down to show us how a family functions. Cohesion is described as the amount of time the family spends together as a whole. There are four types of cohesions that could be possible within a family unit, disengaged, separated, connected, and enmeshed (Olson, 2000). Disengaged is the lowest form of togetherness while enmeshed is overly together. Flexibility is like cohesion, but this shows amount of change in its leadership, role relationships, and relationship rules (Olson, 2000). The levels of flexibility include rigid, which is the lowest, structured, flexible, and chaotic, which is the highest level (Olson, 2000). If there is no conformity or leadership within a family unit, there will indeed be chaos. Communication is different and has many different aspects to it. This is when the family unit can communicate with regards to their listening skills, speaking skills, self-disclosure, clarity, continuity tracking, respect, and regard (Olson, 2000). The circumplex model serves as a framework to assess family systems, because each dimension helps you to identify to what degree the family is suffering.

The Cortez family case is slightly complicated. This family unit includes Paula (mother), Miguel (son), and David (father). This family no longer live together as a family due to Paula’s illnesses, however they are still close to one another (Plummer, Makris, & Brocksen, 2013). In the first dimension of the circumplex cohesion, Paula’s family tends to be disengaged. I say disengaged, because David and Miguel are doing their own thing with limited attachment or commitment to Paula (Olson, 2000). The second dimension is flexibility. Paula’s relationship with her son Miguel is chaotic. I chose chaotic because there is no leadership between them, nor is there proper decision making. Paula is constantly going off her medications making her impulsive (Plummer, Makris, & Brocksen, 2000). The last dimension is communication. Paula has poor communication within her family unit. She doesn’t ask for help when needed, and she rarely speaks with Miguel or David unless she must.

Assessing these dimensions helps the social worker in treatment planning, because to set goals and help family units, we must know how the family is functioning daily. This can also help with the breakdown of what maybe causing some family problems. Treatment plans are vital to clients who are struggling to keep their family together such as a separation or divorce. Its helpful to the social worker to set goals, and if these goals are followed than there is a chance the family unit can change, if the goals are not followed than the chance of a change is slim.


Olson, D. H. (2000). Circumplex Model of Marital and Family Systems. Journal of Family Therapy, 22(2), 144–167.

Plummer, S.-B., Makris, S., & Brocksen, S. (Eds.). (2013). Sessions case histories. Baltimore, MD: Laureate International Universities Publishing.

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