Consider family therapy

The recent fallout of Thai rocker Sek Loso's wife Wiphakorn Sookpimay and son Settakorn has turned into a mud-slinging contest on national news and social media.

The issue, which started as a row between mother and son, stemmed from allegations by the feisty Wiphakorn that her son's girlfriend Dream had stolen money, bankbooks, credit cards, cash from the family home. Settakorn took his girlfriend's side in the squabble and called his mother's claims baseless and untrue.

Accusations levelled against Wiphakorn by both her son and girlfriend include harassment, stalking and emotional abuse.

The dispute reached an impasse and thus the case, which should have been left private with family counselling to break the deadlock, is now in the hands of the Central Juvenile and Family Court.

A restraining order against Wiphakorn has been requested in addition to getting her to undergo psychiatric treatment.

To better understand this case, which has multiple layers to it, one has to wrap their mind around the Sookpimay family dynamics, which is best described as dysfunctional since it includes a very volatile relationship between the parents.

It is a well-documented fact that Sek Loso, who in the past was in the news for his drug habit and emotional meltdowns, has physically and verbally abused his wife while having multiple extramarital affairs during the course of his marriage.

On the other hand, Wiphakorn has built a notorious reputation for herself for her online rants against people she has beef with, which includes her husband and now son. Her demeanour could best be described as brash, cocky and arrogant.

While there is little written about her parenting skills, it is certain that is she has the best interest of her children at heart, especially her eldest son Settakorn who has stood up for his mother through her turbulent marriage. As the first-born, he has often been described as the "glue" that keeps the family together despite the numerous fallouts his parents have had.

I do believe getting involved in the personal affairs of his parents have taken a toll on the young man's emotional health, even though he has never openly admitted to it.

Despite her unsavoury reputation and tough exterior, I do believe the public should cut Wiphakorn some slack in times such as this because she is a victim of domestic violence.

Thai culture for the most part condones domestic violence as a private matter, thus offering the man an upper hand to physically and verbally abuse his partner with few to no repercussions.

While law enforcement today encourages victims of domestic violence to come forward, everyone knows that Thailand is a bastion of male chauvinism where women continue to be deemed a man's property.

Sadly, the psychological wounds of domestic violence don't impact just the victim but her children also, whose mental health equally suffers from being subjected to witnessing such dysfunction in the family, which is supposed to be a place where they feel protected and loved.

Experts in the mental health field have told us that seeing abuse carries the same risk of harm to children's mental health and learning as if they had been abused themselves. This makes it pivotal for Thai society to heed the need to safeguard the physical and emotional health of our children and not look in the other direction.

I do empathise with Settakorn who obviously loves his mother and desires to see her happy. Being her rock through thick and thin, he has experienced a lot of emotional upheaval in his young life and has finally made up his mind to put his foot down when the one person whom he cherishes most became unreasonable and erratic.

Experts tell us that a battered woman's emotional baggage can create all sorts of behavioural issues when not addressed and that it is her near and dear ones that are often caught in the crossfire.

It is in situations such as the one Wiphakorn and her son are embroiled in that I believe family therapy should be strongly considered. In this day and age, it is no longer a Western concept, but rather a universal one because it addresses the underlying issues that are in conflict and sets both parties on the road to reconciliation.

I believe family issues can happen to the healthiest of families with challenging, frustrating and often painful encounters among family members.

Why promote family therapy or family counselling in cases such as this? Well for one, it is designed to address specific issues that impact the psychological health of the family and may be used as the primary mode of treatment or as a complementary approach, say experts.

Instead of airing their dirty laundry in public, both mother and son can hash out their differences in the presence of a licensed professional counsellor/psychiatrist who can help make sense of unresolved issues that have driven a wedge in their relationship today.

Yvonne Bohwongprasert is a feature writer with the Life section of the Bangkok Post.

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