Structural Family Therapy

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"The road is not the road; the road is how you walk it." – Juan Ramon Jimenez Since not all changes affect all family members, and changes in one individual are not going to affect the rest of his or her family, it seems families can use whatever methods facilitate smooth functioning. Then, what is the definition of family and how family therapists help families when problems do arise? A family is an aggregate of individuals, and family therapists have inevitably been dealing with individuals within families. Thus, it is somewhat challenging for family therapists to deal with the family as it requires seeing people as individuals and as part of a whole. Structural family therapy views a family as an aggregate of individuals that works in a system as a united whole. It presents a framework to help families modify their family structure or the underlying organization of family life. In structural family therapy, each individual becomes a subunit of his or her family as well as a member of different social contexts. This perspective helps families, as it grasps certain family patterns and focus on reciprocal relations within the family. Problems arise because of old habits, thus when those habits are change, the structure of family also can be changed. Structural family therapy is effective for treating various problems of families and members of families especially with anorexia nervosa, addiction, substance abuse problems, a troubled adolescent, or a marriage crisis.

Therapists insist that each family is basically unique no matter what characteristics they may share with other families. Through the lens of the above assumption, the family is seen as fundamentally resourceful and having a core of uniqueness that will determine how the family will change in therapy. Therapists also emphasize that it is possible to change family systems in a relatively short time by understanding families' unique characteristics and problems. One of the main assumptions of the structural family theory is that families are trapped by certain patterns that are inappropriate for their current life circumstances. Families are organized hierarchically with rules for interacting within subsystems. Thus, inadequate hierarchies and boundaries can maintain symptomatic behavior. As the boundaries of subsystems improve, the functioning of the constituent parts will also improve (Minuchin, 1974). Salvador Minuchin, who developed structural family therapy and rules to organize therapeutic techniques, helped families to see the hidden parts of their family. Minuchin suggested that therapists should understand that families are subdivided into subsystem with boundaries. He strongly advised therapists not to explain how families might experience pathological symptoms as they adopt changes in the system. By comparing therapists to anthropologists who have a thorough knowledge of a culture before conducting fieldwork, Minuchin encouraged therapists to join with the family before they take an active and intervening role (Nichols& Schwartz, 1995). As compared to other theories, structural family therapy is unique in that it deals with spirituality and ways that therapists' own spirituality has an impact on therapy itself. Harry Aponte emphasized the importance of spirituality and asserted that spirituality brings the ultimate meaning to psychotherapy. All therapies are somehow connected to spirituality, as it is the basis of emotions families are confronting. Aponte challenged therapists to think of spirituality in a clinical context and to talk and work with spirituality. In order to utilize spirituality in therapy, he established the spiritual framework, which included love and forgiveness. Translating spiritual perspective into therapy, he constructed his own definition of love and forgiveness, but at the same time, he discovered that patients come with their own spirituality no matter what he believed. In therapy, therapists and patients establish a...
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