The Assignment: In a 2- to 3-page paper, address the following: Summarize the key points of both structural family therapy and strategic family therapy. Compare structural family therapy to strategic family therapy, noting the strengths and weaknesses of each. Provide an example of a family in your practicum using a structural family map. Note: Be sure to maintain HIPAA regulations. Recommend a specific therapy for the family, and justify your choice using the Learning Resources.

Structural family therapy (SFT) and strategic family therapy (SFT) are two prominent therapeutic approaches within the field of family therapy. Both models focus on understanding and facilitating change within the family system, albeit with distinct theoretical frameworks and intervention techniques. In this paper, I will summarize the key points of both SFT and SFT, compare their strengths and weaknesses, provide an example of a family using a structural family map, and finally recommend a specific therapy for the family based on its unique needs.

Structural family therapy, developed by Salvador Minuchin in the 1960s, is grounded in systems theory. It assumes that dysfunctional family patterns arise from faulty family structures, which can be visualized through the use of a structural family map. The therapist aims to actively restructure the family system by challenging and modifying its boundaries, hierarchies, and alignments. This process involves techniques such as joining, enactment, boundary setting, and reframing, with the goal of promoting healthier patterns of interaction and enhancing family cohesion. SFT also emphasizes the importance of subsystems within the family and their interplay in sustaining or perpetuating maladaptive behaviors.

On the other hand, strategic family therapy, developed by Jay Haley and others in the 1960s, offers a contrasting approach. Instead of focusing on the structure of the family, SFT emphasizes communication patterns and the strategic use of interventions to effect change. The therapist identifies maladaptive family interactions and strategically disrupts these patterns to stimulate new, more adaptive behaviors. SFT often employs techniques such as paradoxical interventions, reframing, or prescribing the symptom, which aim to create therapeutic double binds that challenge the family’s dysfunctional equilibrium. Additionally, SFT commonly utilizes homework assignments to reinforce therapeutic gains and promote new ways of relating within the family system.

Comparing SFT to SFT, it becomes apparent that both models have their unique strengths and weaknesses. SFT’s emphasis on structural changes can be powerful in addressing deeply entrenched patterns of dysfunction within families. By focusing on the family’s structure, SFT allows for a comprehensive understanding of how different family members relate to each other and how their roles and boundaries may contribute to the presenting problems. Furthermore, SFT’s use of techniques such as joining and boundary setting helps the therapist gain the clients’ trust and facilitate change effectively. However, SFT’s focus on structural changes may overlook the intricate complexities of individual and systemic dynamics that contribute to family functioning.

On the other hand, SFT’s strategic approach offers a flexible and intervention-focused framework that is often effective at creating positive change in a relatively shorter time frame. By targeting specific communication patterns or problematic interactions, SFT aims to disrupt the family’s dysfunction and induce new, more adaptive responses. The use of strategic interventions, such as paradoxical interventions or prescribing the symptom, can be particularly effective in challenging and transforming deeply ingrained patterns of behavior. However, SFT’s limited emphasis on structural factors may result in superficial changes if underlying family dynamics and structural issues are not adequately addressed.

To apply the theoretical concepts of structural family therapy, I will consider an example of a family in my practicum. In this case, let us imagine a family consisting of a mother, father, and two adolescent children. The presenting problem is intense conflict and power struggles between the parents and the children, leading to frequent arguments and emotional distress within the family. Upon constructing a structural family map, it becomes apparent that the family’s hierarchical structure is imbalanced, with the children exhibiting strong coalitions against the parents.