Structural versus Strategic Family Therapies

Structural Family Therapy

Salvador Minuchin developed the structural family therapy in the 1960s and ’70s upon expansion on the social context. The structural family therapy focuses on the five specific principles upon which the structural therapist uses in treatment. Among the specific principles include the interactions between people, the matrix identity, which is based on the personal family interactions, and the social interactions which create family structure (Hadfield, 2015). Other specific principles that define structural family therapy include the family responds and develop which are based on the needs of the family creating a well-functioning family and the family outgrow that constrains the growth patterns developing a stronger entity.

According to the structural family therapy, it is assumed that problems do arise in situations where the boundaries of the family are not clear. Similarly, it is assumed that problems come in times of difficulties that are present within the hierarchal structure of the family. Additional challenges in the family come up following the cross-generational influences, which include alliances and the coalitions (Hadfield, 2015). Based on the structural family therapy, it emerges that those families that have the diffused boundaries are more likely to be enmeshed. However, those families who have rigid boundaries have more chances of being disengaged than households with a healthy set of boundaries and the hierarchal structures.

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Strengths and Weakness

Structural family therapy exhibits both the strengths and some weaknesses. Among the strengths include the fact that the approach is a favorable model since it is relatively simple. Similarly, it possesses relative concreteness and directness. Thus, it is seen as a model that forms a good basis upon which the practitioner of the family therapy can work. Researchers also found out that structural family therapy model is very teachable since it is able to take in something as abstract as the family and uses concepts such as hierarchy and boundaries to organize it (Fish & Piercy, 2017). It focuses on the strengths of the family. Some of the weaknesses associated with structural family therapy include the lack of analysis based on feminist as there is no assessment for women. The structure of the family in many cases does not take into account the gender and the differentials power in it. Thus, it does not recognize the demands of women in homes.

Strategic Family Therapy

The evolution of strategic family therapy was based on the combination of various psychotherapy practices. This therapy, as was developed, examines the processes and functions of the family such as problem-solving and communication patterns through evaluation of the behaviors of the family beyond the therapy session. The strategic family therapy is divided into five different parts which include the interactional stage, the task-setting stage, the goal-setting stage, a brief social stage, and the problem stage (Szapocznik, Muir, Duff, Schwartz, & Brown, 2015). There are various therapeutic techniques used in this family therapy including using the paradoxical interventions or redefining or reframing a problem scenario so that the desired change is created. For the strategic family therapists, they believe that change can occur rapidly even without analysis that is considered intensive for the source of the problem.

In the strategic family therapy, the therapists who work with the families lead in the role of defining the process when it comes to the design and the treatment. There must be specific strategies for the intervention to help change the problem currently affecting the family. The strategy is developed after a complete assessment of the interactions within the family to aid in disrupting the cycle of the problem through the interventions (Killam & Weber, 2015). The focus in strategic family therapy is the changes and the successful outcome of the process.

Strengths and Weakness

Strategic family therapy exhibits both the strengths and weaknesses. One of the strengths attached to this family therapy is the fact that it is considered flexible. The sessions attached to strategic family therapy can be done in any place, including the family’s home or the office, and the entire family may be involved or not (Killam & Weber, 2015). This defines its flexibility nature and makes it more adaptable to many families and various situations and problems involving youths. This model is effective when treating adolescents who use drugs, associated with antisocial peers, and families considered functionally impaired. Part of the weaknesses of this family therapy is that it is not a simple-to-follow recipe. Due to its advanced technical feature, strategic family therapy requires that only counsellors use it to acquire the considerable skill.


Fish, L. S., & Piercy, F. P. (2017). The theory and practice of structural and strategic family therapies: A Delphi study. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 13(2), 113-125.

Hadfield, K. (2015). A structural family therapy approach to counselling families.

Killam, W. K., & Weber, B. (2015). The Effectiveness of Brief Strategic Family Therapy With At-Risk African American Adolescents.

Szapocznik, J., Muir, J. A., Duff, J. H., Schwartz, S. J., & Brown, C. H. (2015). Brief strategic family therapy: Implementing evidence-based models in community settings. Psychotherapy Research, 25(1), 121-133.

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