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Structural Family Therapy

*Thanks to the authors of the original version

Valerie Leyva

on 28 October 2013

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Transcript of Structural Family Therapy

Role of the Therapist
Key Concepts and Definitions
Structural Family Therapy
"Join" the family
Map the family's structure (roles, alliances, boundaries, subsystems)
Intervene to transform structure by helping the family to recognize its own strengths and redefine roles
Families organize themselves into subsystems to carry out basic functions•
Subsystems can be based upon gender, generation, common interests, or function•
Each family member can be part of multiple subsystems•
Spousal Subsystem
- key in maintaining family stability•
Parental Subsystem
– function of raising children•
Sibling Subsystem
– first experience of peer group
• Psychiatric background and psychoanalytic training
(like Bowen and Whitaker) - William Alanson White Institute
• Wiltwyck school – work with “delinquent adolescents”
• Developed brief, direct, concrete, action-oriented problem
solving interventions to bring about change through
restructuring the family; can see link to solution focused
• 1965, wanting to test his theories on a broader class sample
of families
• Philadelphia Child Guidance Centre; Braulio Montalvo and
Jay Haley; strong collaborative relationship
• From 1981 focus moved to teaching and training
•1981 -1986 Family Studies Inc. (now Minuchin Centre) consultation esp. for work with poor families
Salvador Minuchin
Psychiatrist Jorge Colapinto,
Foster Care Project, Ackerman Institute
•Social worker, Marianne Walters, Women’s Project
Key Published Texts:
Psychologist Marion Lindblad-Goldberg
Social Worker Harry Aponte
Charles Fishman
Other Leading Figures
Other Criticisms
Social context accounted for, but not gender difference (McGoldrick, 1989)
Power and hierarchy-
Position of women and children
Aggressive, confrontational,
non-collaborative with families
(Hammond & Nichols, 2008)
Directive and manipulative
Cultural bias
Potentially disempowering for families
-Determining some family relationships as ‘pathological’
-Privileging one model of family functioning
-Emphasises the relational aspects of family dysfunction
-Ability to address violence and abuse

•“A family’s structure is the covert set of functional demands or codes that organizes the way family members interact with one another.” (Minuchin, 1974)
•Provides a
for understanding how a family organizes itself
to maintain stability

Transactional patterns
•Once established, structures are resistant to change
Family Structure
Family subsystems
Family Dysfunction
“When a family runs into difficulty, one can assume that it is operating within a dysfunctional structure” (Rosenberg, 1983)•

*The rules for transactions have become inoperative or inappropriate and require renegotiation•
*Family stress can come from a range of sources
Unbalancing and disruption
Therapist intentionally dismantles the current structure and dynamics of a family system
Purpose is to encourage family to build more functional system
Family is encouraged to engage in a difficult communication in the therapy session.
Allows therapist to identify the current problematic patterns and dynamics.
Help the family to place a problem into a different context.
Purpose is to make the problem more workable.
Therapist focusing on positive changes.
This is done to help the family integrate the change.
Boundary Formation
Openly identifying where boundaries are currently rigid or diffuse
Purpose is to create clear boundaries in the family system.
Each subsystem has specific needs that are often best met when there is clear differentiation between the subsystems.
Often problems arise when a need is being met by another subsystem.

Clear boundaries
around generic subsystems are ideal because they are firm yet flexible, permitting maximum adaptation to change.

Rigid boundaries imply disengagement
between family members or subsystems. The prevailing non-communicative hinders support and limits effective adaptation.

Diffuse boundaries imply enmeshment
where everyone is into everyone else’s business. In this case, no one and everyone is taking charge and effective guidance during times of change is impossible.
Full transcript