What is Structural family therapy?
Structural family therapy (SFT) is a therapeutic approach developed by Salvador Minuchin in the 1960s. It is based on the premise that a person’s difficulties are not solely an individual issue but are also influenced by the interactions and patterns within their family system. SFT focuses on identifying and modifying unhealthy family dynamics to bring about positive change.
The central concept of structural family therapy is the notion of family structure, which refers to the organization of relationships, roles, and boundaries within a family. The therapist assesses the family’s structure by observing interactions during therapy sessions and gathering information about family history and dynamics. They pay attention to various elements, such as hierarchies, alliances, coalitions, and boundaries.
The therapist aims to help the family members develop healthier and more functional ways of relating to one another. This is achieved through a collaborative and active therapeutic process, where the therapist takes an active role in orchestrating interventions to restructure the family system. The therapist may use techniques such as joining (establishing rapport with family members), enactment (having family members reenact problematic interactions), and boundary making (clarifying and adjusting boundaries within the family).
SFT also emphasizes the importance of subsystems within the family, such as spousal, parent-child, and sibling relationships. The therapist works with these subsystems to improve communication, strengthen relationships, and foster healthier patterns of interaction. Additionally, SFT often addresses external factors that impact the family system, such as school or work stressors.
Overall, structural family therapy aims to promote adaptive and functional family dynamics, enhance communication, and increase the family’s ability to resolve conflicts. By modifying the family’s structure, SFT seeks to create lasting changes that improve the overall well-being and functioning of all family members.
Shervan K Shahhian