Case Study Questions


Richard, age 35, and Michelle, age 32, have been married for 10 years. They have two children, Michael, age 7, and Chris, age 4. Richard is well known in the community and runs a successful furniture store business. He actively volunteers in Rotary Club and coaches Little League baseball. He reports no major conflicts with coworkers or friends. Michelle works shifts at a local diner, and in the evenings she attends community college. A few months ago, Michelle admitted to Richard that she had opened a credit card account that Richard did not know about and was having trouble paying the monthly bill. She admitted that she was $6,000 in debt. Richard and Michelle argued about the credit card. The couple report that Richard shoved her into the wall, shook her, and slapped her in the face. During the therapy session, Richard expressed remorse over the incident. He also admitted that he continued to be angry about Michelle’s secrecy and debt.


  1. During the therapy session, Richard and Michelle reveal physical abuse that occurred a few months ago. In learning about this instance and the specific type of violence revealed in session, what additional abuse would you want to explore between the couple? What about among family members?
  2. What concomitant mental health concerns would you have for each member of this family? Assume you hold individual sessions in which you work separately with each member of the family. What concerns would you address? How would you explore these concerns?
  3. The chapter states, “Healthy couples clearly convey their desires and expectations. Verbal and nonverbal communications are consistent.” How would you explore issues of communication between the two people in this couple? Is communication an issue you would explore among all members of the family? If so, how would you approach this?
  4. The chapter explores ideas about relational power, stating, “Currently, healthy couples are described as equalitarian, with role expectations based on personal choice.” Discuss the social, educational, and financial balance of power that exists in this couple’s relationship. How would you approach this in counseling given the recent violence?
  5. Primary, secondary, and tertiary prevention programs target varying levels of violence. What types of preventive measures would you recommend for each family member?