Structural Family Couselling Approach Family Counseling Approach Research Paper

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Structural Family Couselling Approach

Family Counseling Approach


Structural Approach to Family Counselling

Families vary across the cultures, just as individuals vary within the family structure but the overall concept of family therapy or counseling is universal. The aim of family counseling is to assist families work through family challenges and create solutions that respect all the members in the family unit (Winek, 2010). An individual objective becomes the total goal of the family. It is not about playing one family individual against the other or putting the blame against each other, family therapy is about healing of the family.

Accepting that one's family would gain from an outsider assisting to increase family members harmony is a first step in family counseling. Identifying an appropriate family counseling service is crucial to ensure effectiveness of the counseling. Similarly the most significant element of choosing a family therapy service is determining the capability of the counselor or therapist to reach all members of the family (Rasheed, Rasheed & Marley, 2011). Therefore, when choosing a family counseling service is careful to choose the best service. There are various approaches to family counseling. This paper will discuss the basic premises of structural family counseling approach and its effects in resolving family challenges.


Structural family counseling addresses the challenges in a family by examining the relationship among the members of the family, or between the family subsets. Family charts reflect the power dynamic and boundaries between various subsystems. The counselor attempts to disrupt dysfunctional relationships in a family and transform these relationships to healthier patterns (Hecker & Wetchler, 2003).

Structural family counseling utilizes both a unique system of technology and a means of depicting primary family parameters diagrammatically. The approach focuses on family structure including its numerous substructures. Structural family approach therapist subscribes the systems notions of equifinality and wholeness, both of which are crucial to this principle of change. A fundaments trait of structural family therapy is that the counselor actually joints or enters the family system as a positive change catalyst. Joining with a family is an objective to of structural family counselor in her therapeutic connection with the family (Gehart, 2010).

According to the structural family therapist, a family is dysfunctional or functional base upon its capability to adapt to numerous stressors (developmental, idiosyncratic and extra-familial) which, as a result rests upon the appropriateness and clarity of the boundaries of its subsystem (Hecker & Wetchler, 2003).

Boundaries are marked along a spectrum from involvement through semi-diffuse permeability to inflexibility. Additionally, family subsystems are characterized by a power hierarchy, with the parental subsystems on top and the offspring subsystem at the bottom.

In health families, children-parent boundaries are semi-diffuse and clear, permitting parents to interact with some level of authority in negotiating among themselves, the goals and methods of parenting (Nichols, 2008). From the side of children the parents are adequately unmeshed from the children to enable the degree of autonomous peer and sibling interactions that produce socialization, although not as aloof and rigid as to ignore the childhood requirement for nurturance, guidance and support of childhood.

Dysfunctional families show mixed subsystems (such as coalitions) and improper hierarchies of power, as for instance when an older kid is brought in to subsystem of parents to substitute an emotional and physical absent spouse (Winek, 2010).

The aim of the structural family counseling is to enhance a restructuring of the system of the family along intensive healthy lines, which the therapist does by entering the numerous family subsystems, regularly causing conflicts by interfering in ways that will create unstable conditions which needs restructuring and change of the family organization, (Nichols & Schwartz, 2005).

Structural family therapists suggest that it is through examining interaction patterns repeated across situations and time that an understanding of subsystems, hierarchy, roles, rules and coalitions can be attained. Structural family counseling outlines three main subsystems, for instance, the spouse subsystem whereby relationship between a couple, couple roles and functions are contained (Sexton, Weeks & Robbins, 2003). The parental subsystem maintains the parental relationship such as its function and roles of parents, and the sibling subsystem which contains the roles, function and relationships between children.

A family unit may involve these subsystems and function either according to generic (expected, hierarchical, typical) or idiosyncratic (unexpected, irregular) rules of the family. A family functioning under a generic expected or hierarchical structure holds the parents at the top in a productive communication overseeing the family structure together with mutually accepted roles and rules (Goldenberg & Goldenberg, 2008). Similarly, a family functioning under idiosyncratic structure may have adolescent children as a group running the family operations, making the rules. This structure is considered challenging if it is an adjustment or adaptation to incapacity of parents.

Therapeutic change cannot happen unless some pre-existing reference frames are flexibly introduced, modified and new ways of functions devised (Nichols, 2008). Therefore, to enhance such change, therapists manipulate the format of the counseling sessions, structuring required subsystems by separating them from the rest of the family, either through seating (positioning) and by the use of space within the room, or ordering non-members of the targeted substructure leave the room (and stay involved by observing from behind).

The objective of these interventions is to attain the unbalancing of the system of the family, so as to help them realize the dysfunctional patterns of the structure and be open to family restructuring. Structural therapists believe that change should be gradual and conducted in digestible manner for it to be lasting and useful. Further, because structures are likely to self-perpetuate in case of positive outcome, therapists suggest that therapeutic change tends to be maintained beyond therapy session limits (Rasheed, Rasheed & Marley, 2011).

One extension of variant of this approach can be said to shift from experience manipulation towards fostering understanding. When working with non-introspective families that are oriented toward concrete thinking, therapists would use the subsystem separation -- one way mirror approach to teach members of the family on the observing side of the mirror to shift from being an enmeshed participant to evaluative observer (Nochols & Schwartz, 2005). This is done by joining them in observation room and explaining the transaction patterns occurring on the second side of the mirror.

Change, thus, happens in the level of subsystem and is caused by manipulation by the counselor of the existing subsystem; also, it is maintained by its intensive functionality and subsequent change reference frames and positive response. Structural family therapy is a way of examining families in different ways (Gehart, 2010). There are various procedures and techniques associated with structural family counseling approach, which include;

Diagnosing which is conducted during the initial stages of the therapeutic process. Similarly, the main objective is to explain the systematic interrelationships of the members of the family to realize the needs to be modified or changed for the improvement of the family. By diagnosing interrelationships in the family, therapists become proactive rather than reactive.

Joining is a coupling process that takes place between the family and the therapist, leading to therapeutic development. In coupling process, the therapist allies with the members of the family by expressing interest in comprehending family members as individuals and working for and with them. Joining is one of the most fundamental prerequisites to restructuring. In other words, joining is a continuous contextual process. There are four unique ways of joining in structural family counseling. For instance, tracking technique whereby the therapist follows the family contest that is the facts, through acquiring information through the use of open-ended questions. Secondly, mimesis techniques whereby structural therapists become like the member of the family in the content and manner of their communications. Thirdly, family member confirmations using an effective word or phrase to reflect an unexpressed or expressed feeling of that member of the family. Finally, accommodation stage whereby the therapists make some personal adjustments so as to attain a therapeutic alliance (Goldenberg & Goldenberg, 2008).

Disequilibrium technique is vital in creating a different view of reality. While the reframing technique is a process in which perception is altered by explaining a condition in a different context terms. For instance, the counselor can reframe a disruptive attitude or behavior as being naught rather than incorrigible enabling the members of the family to change their attitude towards a person and assist him to make changes (Winek, 2010).

Punctuation is a selective explanation of a transaction based on the goals of the therapist. Thus, it is verbalizing appropriate attitude or behavior when it occurs.

Unbalancing is a procedure whereby the counselor supports a subsystem of an individual against the remaining part of the family. When unbalancing procedure is employed to support an underdog in the system of the family, a possibility for change with the entire hierarchical relationship is fostered. Similarly, unbalancing technique can be used to generate a series of events.

Restructuring process is at the centre of the structural family counseling approach. The aim is to change a…

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