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Toula Portokalos (IP)

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on 16 June 2014

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Transcript of Toula Portokalos (IP)

My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Treatment Plan
Initial Treatment Plan

Goal -
Toula will be able to vocalize her cultural identity
-Toula will express which elements of her Greek heritage she identifies with
-Toula will express her bicultural identity in a narrative form

Goal -
Toula will address her depressive symptoms
-Toula will identify at least two growth edges in her life
Treatment Plan
Middle Treatment Plan
Goal -
Toula and her family will openly express their feelings regarding Toula's engagement
-Toula will express her bicultural identity to both her fiance and to her family
-Toula and her parents will discuss each of their perceived roles in the family

Termination Plan
Goal -
Toula will establish what role she will play in her own (nuclear) family
-Toula will discuss with her husband how to best acculturate their children
-Toula and her husband will determine what role her parents will play in their family
Toula Portokalos (IP)
Age: 30
Ethnicity: 1st generation Greek American
Gender: Female

Maria Portokalos
Role/Relationship: Mother
Age: 60’s
Ethnicity: Greek
Gender: Female
SES: Middle Class
Psychological Functioning: High

Maria is a Greek immigrant who has fulfilled her duty to “marry a Greek boy, make Greek babies, and feed everyone until the day she dies.”
Gus Portokalos
Role/Relationship: Father
Age: 60’s
Ethnicity: Greek
SES: Middle Class
Psychological Functioning: High

Gus is a Greek immigrant who is considered the “head” of the Portokalos house.
Greek Culture
Religion: 98% of Greeks are Orthodox Christians

Social Life: Much social life takes place within a close circle of family and friends. Group activities revolve around eating, drinking, playing games, listening to music, dancing, and animated debate and conversation.

Marriage. Families are fundamental units of support and identity, and marriage is considered the normal condition of adulthood. The average age at marriage is the late twenties for women and the mid-thirties for men. The divorce rate is among the lowest in Europe. Until 1982, all marriages occurred in churches, but civil marriages have been legal since that time.

Kin Groups. The family-based household unit is the most important kinship group. Bilateral kindreds (loose networks of kin on the mother's and father's sides) provide a larger but less cohesive source of identity and support.

Gender Roles. The Relative Status of Women and Men. Gender roles were relatively differentiated and male-dominant until recently. Traditionally, men were associated with public spaces and women with private, with the major exception of the role played by women in attending, cleaning, and maintaining churches.

There has been a dramatic decline in gender differentiation in the last few decades. Women received full voting rights in 1956, and the Family Law of 1983 established legal gender equality in family relationships and decision making. A majority (53 percent) of students in universities are women, and the percentage of women in public office has increased. Women are now fully present in public spaces, including restaurants, nightclubs, beaches, stores, and public plazas.

Inheritance. Equal partible inheritance is the norm by both law and custom. Sons and daughters receive roughly equivalent shares of their parents' wealth in the form of fields, housing, money, higher education, and household effects. (Sutton, 2014)
Social Construction Theory
“ We do not 'discover' the world-out-there but, on the contrary, 'invent it.” (Hoffman, 1993)

Dallos discussed a means of combining Social Construction Theory with Systematic Theory utilizing three orders of cybernetics:
First Order: map fundamental patterns or processes evident to us in the family.
Second Order: attempt to explore beliefs that family appear to hold, views of each other and ideas of their roles. As counselor, attempt to reflect on our own perceptions and prejudices about the family and emerging relationship.
Third order: Attempt to consider the family processes, patterns of beliefs and emerging therapeutic relationship to wider cultural questions (Dallos, 1999).
Working Concepts of Family Therapy
Complementarity - referring to the reciprocity that is the defining feature of every relationship. Under this we understand that if someone changes, the relationship changes
-Gus is used to having his daughter around for the past 30 years; she has been obedient and non defiant the entire time, but now she bucks the system and disrupts his normal way of life
- Maria and Gus and Toula
Family Structure
-Subsystems: Maria and Gus, Maria and Toula, Maria and Aunt Voula
-Enmeshment: Toula feels a loss of autonomy and complains about how everyone is in each other's business
-Resistance: Gus shows the most resistance to his daughter getting married, protests because Ian is not "nice, Greek, boy". He feels uncomfortable because he assumed that Toula would marry someone he knew or someone that someone else knew within their community. This makes him feel uneasy.
Culture - it is not uncommon for parents in immigrant families to retain strong sense of ethnic identity while their children become eager to assimilate into the ways of the host country; very strong theme in the movie
-1st generation parents may get mad at their children for abandoning the old ways while children feel like their parents are stuck in the past
Identifying Chief Concerns
Inter-religion/cultural marriage: Toula Portokalos (IP) is dating then engaged to a non-Greek Protestant schoolteacher, Ian Miller. This is causing a rift in the family. Her father, Gus, disapproves very much. He mother tells her to end the relationship after first hearing of it. (clip 1)

Navigating a Patriarchal Family System: Gus Portokalos takes issue with his daughter going back to school, however her mother, Maria, is supportive and helps Toula go around the patriarchal hierarchy in order to achieve her goal of working at the Travel agency
“The man is the head of the house, (everything must be run/approved by the men), but the woman is the neck and she can move the head any way she wants.” –Maria (clip 2)

Different Opinions/Values
Toula describes the situation by stating “There are three things that nice Greek girls must do in life: marry Greek boys, make Greek babies, and feed everyone until the day we die.”
Social Constructivism Application

Nothing is perceived directly, everything is filtered through the mind of the observer
Personal construct theory - Individuals make sense of the world by creating our own constructs of the environment
Toula describes Christmas being brought up in Greek household

Individuals interpretations are shaped by the social context we live
School: Toula’s perception of normal was looking at classmates; young girls who were blonde and delicate, popular and eating Wonder Bread sandwiches; self disclosed as a swarthy 6 year old with sideburns; pretty girls got to go to brownies, I had to go to Greek school
Places emphasis on the intersubjective influence of language and culture
Therapist Roles of Social Construction
Therapist as learner or ‘non-expert’
Therapist entertain all ideas
Therapeutic stance is in a position of curiosity
Therapeutic relationship is collaborative and co-constructive
Understandings the therapist may have are only hypotheses
All of the above allows client(s) ideas to come forward

Ian Miller
Role/Relationship: Love interest
Age: 30’s
Ethnicity: Caucasian
Gender: Male
SES: Upper Middle Class
Psychological Functioning: High

Ian Miller is a Caucasian male professor who embodies the “White Anglo-Saxon Protestant” stereotype.
Toula Portokalos (IP)
Age: 30
Ethnicity: 1st generation Greek American
Gender: Female
SES: Middle Class
Psychological Functioning: High

Toula is a 30 year old Greek-American woman who is struggling with her identity as a Greek American woman.

Greek Families
Family Structure:
The family is very patriarchal in nature. This is evidenced by the way in which the women in the Portokalos family goes about breaking the news that Toula wants to work at her aunt’s travel agency. As Maria Portokalos says, “the man is the head of the house, but the woman is the neck.” The women allow Gus to think that the idea is his own, in order to get him on board.

The man is expected to be the “head of the house”, conversely the women are expected to “marry a Greek boy, make Greek babies, and feed everyone until the day she dies.” Toula struggles with this culturally bound expectation as a Greek American woman in the 21st century. Her struggle with this and her eventual decision to go against the grain of the cultural and familial role causes upset in the family structure.

It is important to mention the cultural aspect within the dynamics of this family. As multiculturally competent counselors, it is important to take this into account when assessing Toula’s struggles; especially issues with acculturation.
Types of Therapy Used with Social Constructionism
Reframing: relabeling behavior to shift how family members respond to it
Deconstruction: freeing clients from the tyranny of entrenched beliefs
Solution focused therapy: style of therapy that emphasizes the solutions that families have already developed for their problems
Tends to focus on what individual’s are doing when they don’t have a problem (i.e finding exceptions)
Narrative therapy: type of therapy that emphasizes the role of stories people construct about their experience
Externalization: personifying problems as external to persons
Toula could easily remind the therapist of their child.

ineffective therapeutic relationship
projection of feelings by therapist
more acceptance, tolerance, and sensitivity to the problem(s) presented by the IP, and negatively direct the therapeutic encounter
easily accept the challenges of the IP (not married) and expect a positive outcome (marriage) based on their own experience with their child or other significant family member or friend.
The therapist could employ the same strategies with the IP used in their own personal experience.


could be perceived by the IP as intrusive and disrespectful, mainly since the IP is not their child, family member, or friend
inadequate assessment of IP’s life and worldview
cause harm to the IP by introducing impractical interventions.

The potential for counter-transference is a challenge every therapist will encounter at some point in their career. Counter-transference is subjective and personal. The therapeutic relationship is objective and impersonal, with the presenting problem of the IP being the primary focus.


Anthony, R. M. (2012). A challenge to critical understandings of race. Journal For The Theory Of Social Behaviour, 42(3), 260-282

Dallos, R., & Urry, A. (1999). Abandoning our parents and grandparents: does social construction mean the end of systemic family therapy?. Journal Of Family Therapy, 21(2), 161.

Dallos, R., & Vetere, A. (2012). Systems theory, family attachments and processes of triangulation: Does the concept of triangulation offer a useful bridge?. Journal Of Family Therapy, 34(2), 117-137.

Domic, D. I., & Philaretou, A. G. (2007). The social construction of inter-ethnic marriages in the Greek Cypriot (GC) republic of Cyprus: An ethnographic investigation of GC male marriages to Eastern European (EE) females. Sexuality & Culture: An Interdisciplinary Quarterly, 11(3), 11-31.

Hoffman, L. (1993)
Exchanging Voices
. London: Karnac Press.

Lerner, R. M., Agans, J. P., DeSouza, L. M., & Gasca, S. (2013). Describing, explaining, and optimizing within-individual change across the life span: A relational developmental systems perspective. Review Of General Psychology, 17(2), 179-183.

Logan, J. (2013). Contemporary adoptive kinship: A contribution to new kinship studies. Child & Family Social Work, 18(1), 35-45.

Menz, M. (2013). 'By tenderness and flattery': Construction and reconstruction of 'cultural difference' in research on intermarriage. Journal Of Comparative Family Studies, 44(1), 99-116.

Patterson, T., & Sexton, T. (2013). Bridging conceptual frameworks: A systemic heuristic for understanding family diversity. Couple And Family Psychology: Research And Practice, 2(4), 237-245.
William Byrd
Nicole Moore
Meghann Ostrom
Michael Talley
Ning-Qi Ann Yu

Binational marriages have challenges that are faced by the couple that same nation/cultural background couples don't have. Differences are most prevalent in the beginning of marriage/relationship however may resurface at couple-specific points throughout the relationship (Menz, 2013).

To work with family unit we must be able to recognize that each is unique and individual. When working with this family we must note that “it is not our theoretical orientation that matters most, but how we view families of various types in light of common processes rather than in narrow typologies.”(Patterson, T., & Sexton, T., 2013)

Development is heavily due to relational interactions. This also states that relations, much like our development is plastic and that it is ever changing (Patterson, T., & Sexton, T., 2013).

The systems theory is more than just a bilateral relationship but rather a triangulation. Thus, it looks at the relationship between the child and its parents, but also at how the parent's relationship with each other affects the child. This can be applied to the movie because much of how the family interacts is based on their relationships with various other members and the interactions there (Dallos, 2013) .
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