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Salvador Minuchin and his structural method of family therapy. We will discuss a brief history of Minuchin's life, his peers and influences. The discussion will include a clear description of this particular type of therapy, including the five basic concepts of the therapy and the different strategies used. We will also discuss the strengths and weaknesses of this modality. Finally examples of a family session will be provided.
Salvador Minuchin was born in Argentina in 1921 to Russian-Jewish immigrant parents. (Doorey) Minuchin was the oldest of three children and the son of a successful businessman. When the Great Depression came into fruition his family's business deteriorated and the family was thrown into a life of poverty. (Doorey)
Salvador's fascination with helping people through psychology began when he was in High School and he sought to help juvenile delinquents. Doorey) He became enthralled with the works of the philosopher Rousseau. When he was 18 he entered medical school and was involved with the political movement that sought to overthrow the dictator Juan Peron. Minuchin's protest landed him in jail for three months. Salvador graduated in 1946 and began his residency in pediatric psychology. (Doorey)
In 1965 Minuchin came to the United States at this time he began providing therapy to children with psychosomatic illnesses. Doorey) The research that Minuchin conducted with these families led him to believe that the children's illnesses were a result of maladaptive family patterns and that they could benefit greatly from family therapy. (Doorey)
In the 60s, Salvador and his colleagues, sought to gain a better understanding of family interaction. (Doorey) Minuchin researched the work of fellow therapists and colleagues. The research of Gregory Bateson and Nathan Hackerman seemed to be the most relevant methods of explaining family interaction. Gregory Bateson's systems theory held that "a system is comprised of interdependent parts that mutually effect each other."(Doorey) While Nathan Ackerman's research explored the "interpersonal aspects of the family unit, and the ways individual behavior relates to that unit."(Doorey)
By the year 1962 Minuchin had began to work with Jay Haley and Salvador was also given a job as the director of the Philadelphia Child guidance clinic in 1965. The main focus of this clinic was to train people from minority communities to become paraprofessional family therapists. Once they were trained they could go back into their communities and provide family therapy to the people living there. (Doorey)
Defining Structural Family Therapy
According to the Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology, structural family therapy uses short-term methods to alter the coalitions and alliances of family members, and by doing so, alter how they experience one another. Faulty family organization is responsible for causing family maladjustment."(Doorey)
Structural family theory allowed therapist to better examine and treat negative family interaction. According to "A Review of Structural Family Therapy" there are five basic concepts that govern the theory of structural family therapy.
1. Structural Family therapy was developed though work in poor communities and was then expended into other level on the socioeconomic scale which is uncharacteristic of most therapy that is formed in the middle class. ("A Review of Structural Family Therapy"
2. The primary purposes of the therapy are to unravel problems within the family structure and modify the fundamental systemic structure of the family. ("A Review of Structural Family Therapy")
3. Structural family therapy relies on the notion the whole is simply the sum of its part. In other words, the behavior of a family can be explained by examining the interaction of all the family members to one another. ("A Review of Structural Family Therapy")
4. The fourth concept of the theory is that "the structure of the social system in relation to its functions provides the pa meters by which the therapist will measure the family's adjustment." ("A Review of Structural Family Therapy")
The theory suggests that any conclusion made about the dysfunction of a family should be based on the societal circumstances of that family. Additionally, social and ethnic realities of a family necessitate contrary mandates of survival. ("A Review of Structural Family Therapy")
5. The therapy also relies on the idea of two Structural Dimensions of Transactions. The first of these dimensions is boundaries which are defined as a system of regulations which dictate participants and non-participants and the roles those who participate are allowed to play. The second dimension is alignment which is defined as the cooperation or conflict of one member of a family against another in the process of accomplishing a task ("A Review of Structural Family Therapy")
Structural Family Therapy utilizes several different techniques. For the purpose of this discussion we will review five of them. These four will include joining, enactment, working with spontaneous interactions, restructuring and adding cognitive and constructions.
Joining involves the pairing of a therapist with a family and the creation of a therapeutic system that will best meet the needs of the family. This technique is characterized by four events including, tracking, mimesis, confirmation and accommodation. Tracking involves the use of open ended questions to explain information to the family. Mimesis is the process by which the therapist adapts the language of the family. Confirmation involves the validation of the feelings of a family member. Finally accommodation is used to creative a cohesive therapeutic environment.
Several Therapeutic techniques of structural family therapy")
The second method that structural family therapy uses is Enactment. Enactment is characterized by a family exposing the behavior of a family member through demonstration. The purpose of this is to allow the family control over a situation that they would not have control over if they were in their natural environment. Enactment usually results in the modification of behavior that is problematic because the family member that is performing the behavior has a heightened awareness of their actions.
Several Therapeutic techniques of structural family therapy")
Working with spontaneous interaction is used in conjunction with enactment and focuses on the spontaneous actions of family members during therapy. These spontaneous interactions are taken into account when they are dysfunctional. The therapist can point the behavior out to the family and discuss ways that the behavior can be modified. ("Several Therapeutic techniques of structural family therapy")
Restructuring is the whole purpose of structural family therapy. Restructuring is characterized by the altering of the family structure so that the unit is less dysfunctional and more functional. Restructuring comes about by the use of unbalancing, enactment and the creation of boundaries. ("Several Therapeutic techniques of structural family therapy")
The final strategy that we will review is adding cognitive constructions. This strategy includes proving families with information, advice, pragmatic fictions, and paradox.
The advice and information the therapist provides come from what was learned from conducting therapy with the family. The advice and information are used to calm down anxious members of families or reassure these individuals and families about certain actions. Pragmatic fictions involve aiding families in altering their actions and behaviors. The paradox involves persuading family members to choose alternative behaviors.
Several Therapeutic techniques of structural family therapy")
Strengths and Weaknesses
There are many strengths that this type of therapy exudes. Firstly it was a breakthrough for resolving psychosomatic issues with families and the therapy is widely used and accepted. One of the major strengths of this therapy is that it correlates the structure of the family to the behaviors of the family members. In addition it takes into account the social and ethnic circumstances that cause families to behave in certain ways.
The weakness of this therapy is that in many cases proper follow-up is not done and families do not resolve their issues. Family Therapy can also be a long process and may get frustrating for those involved. In addition some of the issues that are raised in therapy may cause people to act…[continue]
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(PREP Inc. 2012) Bibliography Allen, W. (1997). Replication of five types of married couples based on ENRICH. Unpublished dissertation. University of Minnesota. St. Paul, Minnesota. Browning, DS (2003) Marriage and Modernization: How Globalization Threatens Marriage and What to do About it. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2003 Duvall, E.M. (1971). Family development, 4th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Co. Fournier, D.G., & Olson, DH (1986). Programs for premarital and newlywed couples. In R.F.Levant (Ed.), Psychoeducational approaches to
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