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Structural family therapy is a system that discourses the difficulty within the family arrangement. It is an ideal used in solving problems in a dysfunctional family. The goal of this model is to reframe the existing family arrangement introducing flexibility and more advanced ways of functioning. Consequently, it aims at changing the dynamics and providing other ways of solving problems and dysfunctions of the family. Essentially, this therapeutic model focuses on the structures and substructures of the family, such as marital, parental and sibling ones (Madanes, 1981).
A structural family therapist joins the family in order to understand its functioning and relationship patterns embraced by its constituent members. The therapist acts as a catalyst in generating positive change from within the unit. In this light, a therapist first identifies the family interaction, arrangement and the chain of command. Therefore, a therapist discovers the elements causing the dysfunction, and implements new methods to solve it. To implement the change, the therapist develops a therapy session with the members of the family. The session involves helping the members to discover the root of the problem, analyze it and then help the members develop a new technique to solve that problem (Umbarger, 1983).
When it is difficult to solve problems in the family, it mandates the therapist to change the approach and implement new methods of arrangement. At this point the participation of all subsystems of the family is essential. It emerges from the necessity for the therapist to identify the imbalances affecting the family structure, so that other members can realize the dysfunction. Equally, it allows the members to become receptive to the restructuring and implementation of positive change. However, this change occurs gradually within the subsystems but eventually transpires to the whole functioning of the systems. Finally, termination of the sessions occurs when alterations allow the members to resolve their challenges independently.
Similarities between strategic and structural family therapy
Strategic and structural family therapists both consider the fact that dysfunction of the family is best solved through understanding the interaction of the family. They both consider how interaction of subsystems affects functioning of the family. In order to solve problems in the family the therapists first identify the family system interactions (Umbarger, 1983).
Structural and strategic family therapists both believe that the change of the family contexts will change the interaction and behavioral contexts of the family. The change of contexts and the structure of the family eventually lead to the change of behavior of the family members. The strategic and structural family therapists are also similar in the sense that they both use from ten to twenty therapy sessions in order to have positive feedback. The therapists both take a directive role to relieve the presenting problem (Minuchin, 1974).
Strategic and structural family therapists both use a similar practice in the therapy session. It involves reframing the existing structure of the identified family into a new structure with the aim of solving the dysfunction in the family. In addition, both therapies look at the assessment in the form of observing the results of a therapeutic intervention in order to plan the future involvements. After solving the dysfunction of the family, the therapist withdraws the therapy session believing that the therapy done will be used in the future (Madanes, 1981).
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Differences between strategic and structural family therapy
Structural family therapy is more confronting compared to the systematic family therapy. Structural model focuses more on the in-session behavior and employs in-session performances to solve problems in the family in contrast to the strategic family therapy, which uses more of out-of-session interactive sequence and implements directions to be completed outside the session in order to disrupt the sequence (Madanes, 1981).
Structural family therapy assumes that symptoms are part of function of the family in contrast to the strategic family therapy, which does not mention the need of symptoms as part of function of the family. In structural family therapy to bring out the change in the family, the organization of the family must have an alteration. The alteration includes modification of the family structure to the ways, in which the members interact in a calm and healthy manner. In the strategic family therapy, there is no need of alteration of the family organization needed in solving the dysfunction in the family (Umbarger, 1983).
Strategic family therapy aims at solving the current problem by implementing clear and immediate behavioral goals and advising the targets to stick to them in contrast to the structural family therapy, which aims at solving the current problem and also the future problems by changing the organization of the family in order to implement effective symptoms leading to a positive consequence (Minuchin, 1974).