6 May 2022


The Structural Family Therapy

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The Structural family therapy Intervention

The structural family therapy was specifically founded on a paradigm that was established by Talbot Parsons in the year 1954. This model is believed to hold a very high structural and functional family view, a characteristic that has been considered to entail a functional family engaged in the establishment of clear and specific roles for men and women within nuclear families, ascribing standards that it deems most preferable for these two genders (Broderick & Weston, 2009). Family therapy tends to give significance to the structure and organization of families as social units, with the aim of addressing any of the emotional and psychological needs of these same families. The structural family therapy as developed by Salvador Minuchin has been shown to be the most efficient and reliable intervention strategy. Within a healthy family, the parent-children boundary seems to be clear and semi-diffuse and in the process, permits the parents to efficiently and closely interrelate together with a significant level of power in consult among themselves the approaches and the parenting objectives. 

Despite the fact that structural family therapy is not as famous as the rest of the commonly used therapies including the psychoanalysis and psychotherapy, research has established that it is quite useful. Problems within a family system have the potential to make the system stop developing, for example, the psychological issues that members of the family experiences have the ability to interrupt the entire family procedure of evolution. According to Szapocznik & Williams, (2000), structural family therapy tends to place significance importance on the aspect of the family structure rather than on the problems of an individual. Therefore, it implies that a person’s problem often gets amplified as a result of the family’s communication and structure. Therefore, structural family therapy is highly suitable when it comes to solving various flaws founded within the communication and structure of the family with the aim of restoring the normal functioning of the family system. As one of the open systems, the family is simply exposed to the adjacent environmental settings (Santisteban, Coatsworth, Perez-Vidal, Kurtines, Schwartz, LaPerriere & Szapocznik, 2003). This point towards the direction that the members of the family might entirely be considered as the creators of the shape of their families since particular regulation might be established by the closest reference groups or even the broader cultural aspects. The major concept of the structural therapy that plays a significant role in understanding this concept includes the structures of the family, the boundaries and the family subsystems.

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Family Structure- different family’s interaction often varies significantly depending on their overall inherent family rules. In such an instance, the family members try as much to adjust their behaviours in line with the rules to ensure that the system of the family operates efficiently without challenges (Santisteban et al., 2003). The family structure is founded on the premise of the repeated interactions of the family members that can further improve the expectations and create a lasting pattern. The general idea concerning the family structure can be obtained by observing the action of the members of the family such as who said what, to whom in addition to the communication’s means.

Family Subsystems- based on this model, the family, is comprised of numerous subsystems that undertake diverse tasks according to the requirement of the family. The subsystem of the family further is founded on the common interests, the role functions, gender and even the age group (Santisteban et al., 2003). Some of the common subsystem within the family is as follows: Spouse which includes the husband and the wife, Parent including the father and mother, children comprising of both the sister and the brother and lastly the members of the extended family. In most instances, the problems tend to emerge if of the many subsystems begins to take the role and the place of another subsystem.

Boundaries- these comprise of the barricades where the subgroups and the members in a family system could effectively converse with one another. In most instances, these boundaries can either be rigid or even dispersed (Bowen, 1993). The rigid boundary would imply the existence of numerous limitations on the communication among the members of the family. Studies have shown that such boundaries often results in some feelings of isolation among various subsystems and at the same time disrupt the unit of the family. The scattered boundary, on the other hand, might cause various subsystem and the family affiliates to influence the lives of the rest of the members exceedingly. Within a perfect family system, the boundary ought to be comprised of a combination of the diffuse and rigid creating room for an uncomplicated contact for the support in addition to autonomy.

Structural family therapy aims at ensuring that there is an efficient functioning of the families to create a pleasant family environment. Making an alliance with every member of the family is critical for the therapists to ensure that he or she clearly understand the interaction of the family members. As an observer, the therapist observes how the members of the family interact through observing their overall behaviour (Szapocznik et al., 2013). The next step is to map the structure through understanding the level of interactions and the boundaries existing between the members of the family. Once he has identified the structure, he can proceed to identify possible modification necessary within the family structure. For the therapist to gain a deeper insight into the structure of the family together with its transaction there is the need to ask the members of the families to demonstrate a conflict instance throughout the therapy session. Further, the therapist will alter the boundaries within the subsystem and the family members once he or she has identified the necessary modification within a family structure. In an event the boundary is too diffuse then efforts ought to be made to improve the boundaries and then allow the family members to enjoy their space (Santisteban et al., 2003). The therapist will then apply his or her influence to transform the interactions between various parties of the family and the subsystem. For instance, for them to resolve a particular conflict situation, a therapist might be forced to support a single family member in an argument.

Beneficiaries of the intervention

The structural family therapy has been established to be underpinned by a well articulated functioning family model and has further been developed and applied in services for the children and the entire families. According to Kaufman & Kaufmann (1979), the primary goal of the intervention, in this case, would entail the restructuring of transactional regulation, a family system. This was aimed at ensuring that the family’s interactional realism turns out to be highly supple, with increased accessibility of the optional strategies that ensure relation with one another. The patient in this intervention is the family member who is currently presenting issues and is the typically young individual (Germain, 1975). The method, however, does not focus on the individual but on factors within the system that resulted in the problems. Structural family therapy as an intervention is aimed at addressing the problem facing dysfunctional families. A dysfunction family tends to exhibit a mixed system or even coalitions in addition to an improper power hierarchy that affects the normal functioning of the family (Santisteban et al., 2003). 

Through releasing the members of the families from various stereotyped situations and purposes, the re-structuralization allows that structure to bring together the less utilised fund and assets and to progress its capability to deal with anxiety and disagreement. The moment the astringent established regulations are outgrown, then it will follow that personal dysfunctional actions will in the process lose their overall support within the structure and further would turn out to be superfluous as outlined within the concept of homoeostasis (Santisteban, Coatsworth, Perez-Vidal, Mitrani, Jean-Gilles & Szapocnik, 1997).

Cultural competency

Evidently, the family therapy is highly cognizant of the impact of various diversity factors. The therapeutic alliances that are developed between therapist and the clients of diverse ethnic backgrounds often tend to create a comparison with culture-matched alliances (Santisteban et al., 2003). Often, the cross-cultural therapy tends to lay more emphasis that the therapist has to overcome the experiences of the cultural dissonance through creating an established cultural competency. It is required that the therapist using this intervention strategy must be aware of diverse cultural belief, values that seem to differ significantly from their own (Bowen, 1993). 

Further, the social injustices, emotional challenges and the aspects of discrimination are often taken into consideration when applying this intervention to ensure that the desired outcome is achieved in the long run and, in the most efficient way. Both the skills and knowledge of the therapist using this intervention has to be translated into behaviours to ensure that they attain a cultural competence and, in order for the therapist to be able to be contextually practical, depending on the therapy. The best practice evidence further cautions against service providers from developing a potential false understanding that the group members are homogeneous because such an assumption might result into culturally stereotyping (Bowen, 1993).

Critical Thinking

Despite the massive potential benefits that have been associated with this intervention, research has established that it is also has an association with various adverse effects that might affect its effectiveness. There are other instances where the family system tends to resist change to the organizations established with the aim of maintaining the homoeostasis. A potential weakness of the family system therapy within a cultural context focuses on the fact that most families might be deeply rooted in the family’s cultural values and such a case; a change might mean a contradiction to their overall cultural ethos. It might also be the case that the intervention to give more significance to the family system and this is often at the expense of understanding various systems that an individual interacts with.


Bowen, M. (1993). Family therapy in clinical practice . Jason Aronson.


Broderick, P., & Weston, C. (2009). Family therapy with a depressed adolescent. Psychiatry (Edgmont) , 6 (1), 32.


Germain, C. B. (1975). Families and Family Therapy. By Salvador Minuchin. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1974. 268 pp. $10.00 and Uncommon Therapy: The Psychiatric Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, MD By Jay Haley. New York: WW Norton & Co., 1973. 313 pp. $8.95. Social Work , 20 (1), 72-72.

https://books.google.co.ke/books?hl=en&lr=&id=3lRdLKNTEYcC&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=Family+T herapy+and+family+issues&ots=iHaGLMIByE&sig=rKObhnFEkbxTk0uViRoN6CZzMV8&redir_esc=y#v=onepage&q=Family%20Therapy%20and%20family%20issues&f=false

Kaufman, E., & Kaufmann, P. (Eds.). (1979). Family therapy of drug and alcohol abuse . Halsted Press.


Santisteban, D. A., Coatsworth, J. D., Perez-Vidal, A., Kurtines, W. M., Schwartz, S. J., LaPerriere, A., & Szapocznik, J. (2003). Efficacy of brief strategic family therapy in modifying Hispanic adolescent behavior problems and substance use. Journal of Family Psychology , 17 (1), 121.


Santisteban, D. A., Coatsworth, J. D., Perez-Vidal, A., Mitrani, V., Jean-Gilles, M., & Szapocnik, J. (1997). Brief Structural/Strategic Family Therapy with African American and Hispanic High Risk Youth.

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjaloavs57TAhVGkRQKHREeC5wQFggrMAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Ffiles.eric.ed.gov%2Ffulltext%2FED412299.pdf&usg=AFQjCNFiw4dowE59g2IYWki1NM_ia7qFxw&sig2=LTzsVUoyumIgRqlBvCCXmA&bvm=bv.152180690,d.d24 (pdf 1)

Szapocznik, J., Zarate, M., Duff, J., & Muir, J. (2013). Brief strategic family therapy: engaging drug using/problem behavior adolescents and their families in treatment. Social work in public health , 28 (3-4), 206-223.


Szapocznik, J., & Williams, R. A. (2000). Brief strategic family therapy: Twenty-five years of interplay among theory, research and practice in adolescent behavior problems and drug abuse. Clinical child and family psychology review , 3 (2), 117-134.


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