Family Therapies Structural Family Approach Major Contributors Essay

Length: 5 pages Sources: 3 Subject: Psychology Type: Essay Paper: #86892175 Related Topics: Nuclear Family, Family History, Family Communication, Family Counseling
Excerpt from Essay :

Family Therapies

Structural family approach

Major contributors of Structural family approach

Structural family approach mainly operates by considering problems within the family structure, it emphasizes on dealing with the individual symptom through examination of the whole family interaction pattern. Furthermore, this theory does not insist on the relation between family interactions and pathology but, it associates the symptoms with family's interaction. Structural family theory has three operating areas, these include; the family, the problem itself and the change process. First stage entails, the therapist knowing the kind of family he/she is dealing with, the composition and hierarchy of the family. he/she tries to fit in the family's environment so as to capture the real picture. In the second stage, the therapist identifies is specifically stopping the family from living harmoniously. he/she also finds out the function and position of the problem behavior Goldenberg & Goldenberg, 2008()

History of Structural family approach

Salvador Minuchin is credited the person behind the development of the structural school of family therapy in the 1960's. While working as a director of the Family Research Unit at the Wiltwyck School for boys, this was when Minuchin started to develop his theory. Between the years 1962-1965, he was exposed more to cases of delinquent 8 to 12-year-old boys whose family came from the most disadvantaged section of the New York City Goldenberg & Goldenberg, 2008.

The frameworks purport that families develop structures which consist of regulatory codes and patterns used by the family to relate in order to carry out functions or roles. This theory assumes that there is an individual set of rules based on the family culture and societal demand that organize and regulate people's behavior. Muchin used the terms subsystems, boundaries, hierarchies and alliances to describe the family organization and style of interaction

Interventions specific to Structural family approach

Structural approaches have been used on those considered hard to reach families in treatment and for situations where there is an eating disorder. Structural function is used to treat dysfunctional transactions. This is when a family does not operate as it normally does. First the therapist needs to identify the family's interactions, alliances within the family and figuring out the family's hierarchy. With this information, the therapist can then work closely with the family to sort some of the behavioral exhibited. The three types of behavioral pattern dealt with include; Enmeshed, Disengaged and Triangulation Goldenberg & Goldenberg, 2008()

In enmeshed, the structural approach is used to solve a family structure that is often smothering and overly close. On the other hand, Disengaged is sees as a form of dysfunctional transaction where the family structure is extremely distant. While, triangulation is a form of a dysfunctional transaction whereby a family member is torn between two others for instance, parents who normally place a child between them while disagreeing or fighting. All these forms of dysfunctions are treated using the structural family therapy.

While dealing with compromised families, I would use aggressive interaction in order to challenge the families hard enough so as to make them change their habits but also in a sympathetic manner to enable they accept the challenge.

Strategic Family Theory

In the strategic family theory, there are two important models, these are; Haley and Madanes blend of structural and strategic model and the other one is the Mental Research Institute's brief/communication model. The strategic family theories are used under the guidelines that families tend to organize themselves according to a particular sequence of interaction, a pattern that is by definition repetitive. The theories believe that the problems generally arise from a poor or unsuccessful adjustment at a critical point in the family's life cycle because these changes have been under or over emphasized Rosen, 2003.

The theory also states that a family will respond to disruptions...


The M.R.I school believes that normality is a myth, and they maintain that successful families capable of adjusting to change and restrain from creating problems out of everyday activities. They do not consider clinical families to be inherently pathological but rather inflexible or having a limited range of solution Rosen, 2003()

Major contributor of strategic family theory

The major contributor in this approach is Team work and communication. Communication in the sense that all behaviors carries a message and that they can easily be solved if one communicates and through communication, the therapist will have all that it takes to determine the strength of the different bond between relationships.

Interventions specific to strategic family theory

Strategic family therapist normally uses the paradoxical strategies such as pretending and prescribing, where the therapist creates a therapeutic bind by suggesting there good reasons why the occurrence of change is not advisable, but at the same time, hoping to achieve the opposite effect Rosen, 2003()

I agree with this theory that it may assist in counseling the compromised families because it deals with problems which their cause is poor adjustment to change in the critical points, in life. In addition I would major my counseling on interpersonal relationships.

Systemic theory

The systemic theory was developed in 1978 by the Milan Group (Palazzoli, Cecchin, Boscolo and Prata), as well as other partners, such as; Tomm and Hoffman. Milan and the other partners listed three major principles for conducting family interviews, namely circularity, hypothesizing and neutrality. In circularity, the systemic therapist examines the meaning families' give to the symptom and relate the symptom to all parts of the system D'Angelo, 1995.

Circularity also involves the therapist being part of the system he/she is observing. The theory also assumes a constructivist notion in that reality does not exist but it is relative, and phenomena only take any meaning through context and relationships.

The major contributors of Milan Systemic theory

Some of the major contributors of this approach are the use of hypothesis, neutrality and strategizing. In hypothesis, the therapist uses the time before he/she meets the family to hypothesize about the symptomatic behavior. On the other hand, neutrality entails the ability of the therapist not to take sides. While, strategizing implies the way the therapist and the team working with him/her think about the family; this entails the decision about which hypothesis to explore, questions to ask, whom, how, when, and how to follow up leads given by the family members.

Interventions specific to Systemic theory

The interventions used in systemic therapy include; the prescription of a ritual and raising the dilemma. In the prescription, of a ritual, the therapist design tasks with details of whom in the family to do what, where, when and in what sequence. This intervention introduces clarity where there are confusions. In raising the dilemma, the family is given a choice to make a decision for change or no change. Here, the positive and the negative implication of each option are presented to them and their beliefs and fears are detailed and made explicit.

I agree systemic theory would be of importance while counseling the compromised families because, I would ensure I give the compromised families the freedom to make their own choices, since they have all the resources they need to do so.

Similarities of the three family theories

One of the similarities is that, family life cannot go without problems and that the symptom may arise as a result of the natural life cycle or in response to external influences for change. The symptom is generally viewed as a result of difficulty adjusting to a transition, and thus dysfunction is a product of rigidity or inflexibility. The problem is maintained by the family's old structure, patterns of interacting or beliefs Rosen, 2003()

Another similarity is that, from the idea that family interactions give information about such factors such as family structures, sequence or patterns of interaction and family beliefs or rules. Then, it is important to disrupt the pattern of interaction in which the symptom is embedded in order to effect the change and the therapy are targeted at changing patterns of interactions or rules/beliefs which underlie such patterns Bobrow & Ray, 2004()

All theories have been found to use contradiction and paradox as part of understanding of human interactions and repertoire for change. The three theories also recognize the importance of language and meaning hence, use reframing or relabeling to change patterns of interaction and beliefs D'Angelo, 1995()

The three models have a universal goal which is to resolve the presenting problem, clarify communication, promote problem resolution and promote individual autonomy and belonging within the family. In order to achieve this, the therapist's role is to join, trigger, and facilitate the initial change and regard the family as capable of making decisions and maintaining change.

Structural family theory is more of similar to the other two family approaches, in that it is also categorized under the psychological framework of the family system therapy. Similar to the other therapies, structural family therapy categorizes the family unit as a system that…

Sources Used in Documents:


Bobrow, E., & Ray, W.A. (2004). Strategic Family Therapy in the Trenches. Journal of Systemic Therapies, 23(4), 28-38. doi: 10.1521/jsyt.

D'Angelo, S.L. (1995). The Milan approach to therapy revisited. PsycCRITIQUES, 40(4), 352-352. doi: 10.1037/003578

Goldenberg, H., & Goldenberg, I. (2008). Family Therapy: An Overview: Thomson Brooks/Cole.

Rosen, K.H. (2003). Strategic family therapy. In L.L. Hecker & J.L. Wetchler (Eds.), An introduction to marriage and family therapy. (pp. 95-121). Binghamton, NY U.S.: Haworth Clinical Practice Press.

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