Structural and Strategic Family Therapy

Family is an important social unit in the contemporary society. Notably, each family member has a specific role to play in accordance to cultural and religious orientations, in the quest to achieve efficacy. However, it is evident that household units experience various predicaments which arise from an array of factors. For instance, economic instabilities, domestic violence ad bereavement of close members lead to development of psychological issues, which may hamper relationships. Based on these aspects, it is important for Psychiatrist Mental Health Practitioners (PMHNPs) to identify the real issues before applying appropriate family therapies. Characteristically, psychiatrists use structural and strategic family therapy approaches to handle family issues. However, there is need to understand the four primary constructs of the models, to warrant effective alleviation of diverse spectrum of issues amongst clients Week 4: Structural and Strategic Family Therapy.


Structural Family Therapy

Structural family therapy is a treatment intervention employed by PMHNPs in addressing interaction patterns creating problems within families. Notably, structural family therapy works on the basis that families become dysfunctional due to mental issues. According to Weaver, Greeno, Marcus, Fusco, Zimmerman and Anderson (2013), psychological predicaments in a family are most likely to ruin relationships amongst spouses and children, leading to disintegration. Based on this facet, psychologists applying structural family therapy approaches aim to change family structures, rather than the individuals themselves Week 4: Structural and Strategic Family Therapy.

Structural family therapy was developed by Salvador Minuchin in the 1960s. In fact, the psychiatrist discovered that children and adolescents achieved excellent recovery through the cooperation of their parents. For this reason, Munichin deliberated on the importance of altering the family dynamics in the quest to warrant effective transition in child behavior change. According to Mcadams et al (2016), psychiatrists achieve the effectiveness of structural family therapy through a closer scrutiny of family structure, hierarchy and subsystems.

Strategic Family Therapy

Strategic Family Therapy is an approach used by PMHNPs in identifying problems affecting individuals within a family. Contrary to structural family therapy which focuses on the overall family setting, strategic family intervention aims engaging individuals in handling the existing issues. Horigian, Anderson and Szapocznik (2016) assert that strategic family therapy aims at devising an immediate solution to family impediments. Notably, therapists subject their clients to safe environments and prompt interactions which enable the affected individuals to relay the real issue, leading to precise deliberation of applicable solutions.



Structural family therapy aims at addressing dysfunctions within households by changing the overall structure of the affected family. Gurman, Lebow and Snyder (Eds.). (2015) postulate that altering the setting of a dysfunctional family improves positive interactions in the quest to overcome underling issues. In fact, this aspect is advantageous, since psychiatrists engage all the family members in interactive forums. In the process, it is evident that affected clients afford the chance to reveal burning issues, leading to precise identification of relevant solutions. The short-coming of structural family therapy entails altering the family structure, which is tantamount to poor adaptation by some household members, an aspect that exposes clients to further conflict Week 4: Structural and Strategic Family Therapy.

On the contrary, strategic family therapy aims at incorporating individualized communication among affected clients. According to Karam, Blow, Sprenkle and Davis (2015), the fundamental concepts of Strategic family therapists include understanding intricacies within family and individual communication patterns. The model narrows down to precise analysis of family guidelines, functions and repetitive behavior trends. Karam et al (2015) assert that through this intervention, personal interactions are improved amongst affected clients. Strategic family therapy is essential, since it is more individual-based, as the constructs aim at improving inter-personal communication, in the quest to improve behavior. However, its major weakness entails poor incorporation of attributes to improve communication amongst individuals.

Despite the two models having significant distinct differences, it is evident that they share similarities in their manner of providing stability to clients. In fact, one of the unique identifiers within the two approaches is the application of systematic frameworks which focus on an individual in conjunction with family network. According to Gurman, Lebow and Snyder (Eds.). (2015), structural and strategic family therapies strive to identify the effects of the intra-psychic world on individuals and families. Based on this facet, psychiatrists applying the interventions change the perceptions of individuals within families, leading to stability. Notably, the two interventions advocate for a change in maladaptive patterns affecting families and individuals within a household unit. Gurman et al (2015) state that the models aim at changing the structure in the quest to recognize and disrupt any dysfunction within an individual. Resultantly, proper balance in the family is achieved.

Structural Family Map

The Costa Family

Douglas Rice

Father Mother

Ex- Husband Ex-Wife

Has Visitation Has child custody




Figure 1 Displaying the family structure of Mr. Douglas Costa

Therapy for Costa’s Family

From the example presenting Costa’s family, it is evident that the unit was experiencing a disagreement. Evidently, the husband and the wife had individual misunderstandings, a factor that led to their separation, with Costa taking custody of the son. In my opinion, application of strategic family therapy would be the most effective approach. According to Sheehan and Friedlander (2015), strategic family therapy constructs advocate for individual interactions. Application of this methodology would allow the adults in the family unit to air their grievances, leading to deliberation of amicable solutions Week 4: Structural and Strategic Family Therapy.


PMHNPs apply various therapeutic interventions in the quest to achieve stability in families. Notably, structural and strategic family therapies are commonly preferred. The two interventions aim at identifying the underlying predicaments within families. For this reason, PMHNPs ensure improved interactions amongst the affected clients, leading to family stability.


Gurman, A. S., Lebow, J. L., & Snyder, D. K. (Eds.). (2015). Clinical handbook of couple therapy. Guilford Publications.

Horigian, V. E., Anderson, A. R., & Szapocznik, J. (2016). Taking brief strategic family therapy from bench to trench: Evidence generation across translational phases. Family Process,55(3), 529-542. doi:10.1111/famp.12233

Karam, E. A., Blow, A. J., Sprenkle, D. H., & Davis, S. D. (2015). Strengthening the systemic ties that bind: Integrating common factors into marriage and family therapy curricula. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 41(2), 136-149.

Mcadams, C. R., Avadhanam, R., Foster, V. A., Harris, P. N., Javaheri, A., Kim, S., . . . Williams, A. E. (2016). The viability of structural family therapy in the twenty-first century: An analysis of key indicators. Contemporary Family Therapy,38(3), 255-261. doi:10.1007/s10591-016-9383-9

Sheehan, A. H., & Friedlander, M. L. (2015). Therapeutic alliance and retention in brief strategic family therapy: A mixed-methods study. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy,41(4), 415-427. doi:10.1111/jmft.12113

Weaver, A., Greeno, C. G., Marcus, S. C., Fusco, R. A., Zimmerman, T., & Anderson, C. (2013). Effects of structural family therapy on child and maternal mental health symptomatology. Research on Social Work Practice, 23(3), 294–303. doi:10.1177/1049731512470492 Week 4: Structural and Strategic Family Therapy.

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