Family therapy is a form of psychological counseling that aims at improving the way family members communicate and solve their conflicts (Minuchin, 2018). It primarily involves members of a nuclear family though at times it might include members of the extended family. When family therapy is administered well, it significantly improves the health and functioning of the family. Different models can be used to provide family therapy, these models have their differences, but they all have the same target (Hogue et al., 2017). The models of family therapy that have been given a lot of emphases and thus are well developed theoretically are structural and strategic family therapy. This paper will summarize and compare the main aspects of strategic and structural family therapy. It will also give an example of a family using the structural family map. It will then recommend and justify a therapy specific to that family.
Structural Family Therapy
This form of therapy primarily looks at the interaction patterns within the family that cause problems in the family. One of the main signs of a dysfunctional family in this model is mental health issues. Thus, a lot of emphasis is given to modifying the structure of the family rather than the family members. Changing the family members’ insight in detecting and handling the dysfunction is the main emphasis of interventional techniques in the structural family therapy. Minuchin (2018) says that a therapist can utilize a family structure map to determine the root cause of the dysfunction when trying to diagnose it. After the root cause of the dysfunction has been identified, an integrative therapeutic approach is initiated to help solve the problem. Thus, a structural family therapy necessitates exploring how specific dysfunction and readjustment of the family perception result from interactions between family members. The primary rule of this model is that a dysfunction in the family can be solved by restoring a balance in the structural interactions within the family. This is achieved by improving communications and interactions within the family and putting emphasis on appropriate boundaries that will contribute to the creation of a healthy family structure.
Strategic Family Therapy
Strategic family therapy aims at solving a specific dysfunction in the family, and this mostly targets issues that can be sorted out within a shorter duration (Lebensohn-Chialvo, Rohrbaugh, & Hasler, 2019). In this model, the therapist is significantly involved in solving the family’s problems. It targets behavioral change rather than a change in understanding. This model assumes that the flexibility of the family set up allows it to modify solutions that do not work and thus easily adjust to change. This therapy aims to address symptoms and attempted solutions that are embedded in a positive feedback loop where solutions cause more problems. Therefore, this positive feedback loop can only be stopped by trying a new solution that is not bound by restrictive rules in the family.
The initial session of this therapy is made up of five stages. In the brief therapy stage, family interactions are observed as a calm and welcoming environment is created by the therapist so that every family member can freely participate. In the problem stage, the therapist requests the family to expound on their problem. In the interaction stage, family members are requested to discuss the issue. At the same time, the therapist observes family dynamics like the hierarchy, coalitions, and communication patterns. In the goal-setting stage, issues to be addressed are identified, and the therapist and the family establish strategies that can sort out the problem. The final step is the task setting stage, where the therapist comes up with directives to help sort out the issues. Szapocznik & Hervis (2020) say that more follow up sessions are organized where the therapist aims to create a second-order change that is permanent as it shifts the family dynamics to a new level of dynamics.
Comparison between Strategic Family Therapy and Structural Family Therapy
These two models’ main aim is to facilitate behavioral change that can help improve communication and eliminate dysfunctional interactions in the family. Thus, the primary objective of the models is to eliminate maladaptive practices affecting individuals and their families. Furthermore, they objectively change the family structure by employing different targeted techniques. These processes effect change while maintaining the balance in the family. Although these models harbor similarities, the family therapist plays a crucial role in determining which model to use when diagnosing and solving a family problem. Research has also shown that the models can effectively address behavioral issues in young family members through understanding and treatment of impaired relationships and communications in the family (Jiménez et al., 2019). Both models put a lot of emphasis on understanding how the health of an individual and his/her integration into the family structure is affected by the intrapsychic world.
The strategy the models use to diagnose and effect change in the family is the primary difference in the models. Structural family therapy puts a lot of emphasis on modifying the dysfunctional family structure. In contrast, strategic family therapy emphasizes on identifying the problem in the family and sorting it out in the shortest time possible (Minuchin, 2018).
The Strengths and Weaknesses of Strategic Family Therapy and Structural Family Therapy
The main strength of strategic family therapy is that it is highly flexible, and it can be applied to a wide array of issues and families. The primary weakness of structural family therapy is that it can modify family dynamics into something sustainable in the long run. Strategic family therapy’s main weakness is that it is an advanced clinical model that requires highly skilled counselors (Jiménez et al., 2019). The structural family model’s primary drawback is that it emphasizes nuclear family members and leaves other people who affect the family like the extended family, friends, and neighbors.
An Example of a Family in Practicum Using a Structural Family Map
This case involved the N.M family, which was made up of the father, mother, an older son, and a daughter. There was no clear family hierarchy as the mother looked more involved in controlling the child while the father was available and a little bit more active at times. There seemed to be a deep-rooted conflict between the parents as they did not cooperate well. However, the main reason why the family came to therapy was that their teenage daughter had developed peculiar behaviors and was behaving despicably. These behaviors included taking hard drugs, petty theft, and she occasionally skipped school. Furthermore, their older son was in constant conflict with the daughter due to indiscipline she had developed. The older son was so pissed off with the whole situation to the extent he criticized the parents for failing to nurture discipline in the daughter.
N.M’s Family Map
Therapy Model Recommendation and Justification for N.M’s Family
Structural family therapy would be the most appropriate for this case. This is because the structural family therapy can allow a therapist to retain the critical therapy needs while incorporating case-specific creativity (Colapinto, 2019). This model will capitalize on the N.M’s family interactions’ structure to effect necessary changes until the targeted results are achieved. In this case, the general interactions within the family members are profoundly impaired. The structural family therapy will rebuild a working relationship between the parents and the children as it will analyze how the underlying problem potentiates or is potentiated by family dysfunction.
In conclusion, even though the strategic and structural family therapy have their strengths and weaknesses, they all facilitate behavioral change that can improve communication and eliminate dysfunctional interactions in the family.