Structural Family Therapy:
A Case Presentation
Elaine Shpungin, Ph.D.
Director, Psychological Services Center
[email protected]
The Family Systems Perspective
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Individuals understood in context of family
Family seen as living organism; individuals play
roles in overall functioning of organism
Individual symptoms seen as manifestation of
difficulty/dysfunction within family
Individual symptoms may serve “useful” function
within family
Example?
Structural Family Therapy
Salvador Minuchin
Step 1: Structural Assessment
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Boundaries – how close are family members? how flexible
are the rules?
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Subsystems – what are the dynamics between family
“clusters”? who aligns with whom? who gets left out?
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Roles – what repetitive patterns do family members play out
with each other? who has what “job” in family? are roles
appropriate among members and/or clusters?
Step 2: Intervention
Goal: Re-align family boundaries and roles to be
more adaptive for all family members
Step 2: Intervention
Goal: To re-align family boundaries and roles to be
more adaptable for whole family
Sample Techniques:
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Enacting patterns within session (exercises; seating
arrangements; organically)
Creating new communication channels (“Tell her, not me.”)
(“Interpreting” for family members)
Creating disequilibrium; escalating stress
Assigning new roles
Establishing new boundaries
Providing support, education, guidance, hope
Garcia Family: A Case Example
Mr. Garcia Spousal discord
(1st gen
Latino)
Spousal discord
Emotional adjust.
Mrs. Garcia
(European
-American)
Sylvia (12)
Jeremy (16)
(American-born)
(Latina)
Adopted
at birth
Disrespect
“Bad attitude”
(towards mom)
Disobedience
Physical aggression
Alex (6)
Sergei (5)
(Russian)
Adopted 1 yr ago
(Russian)
Adopted 1 yr ago
Emotional adjustment
Language difficulty
Behavior probs
Emotional
adjustment
Katya (15)
Olga (7)
(Russian)
Adopted
1 mo ago
(Russian)
Adopted
1 mo ago
Thank You
Elaine Shpungin
[email protected]
Structural Family Therapy
(Salvador Minuchin)
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Family Structure = invisible set of rules governing family
transactions (family members’ behaviors towards each other)
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Family Subsystems (e.g., parents) have appropriate functions
and tasks
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Family transactions and subsystems are governed by
boundaries (e.g., closeness of members, flexibility of rules)
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Therapist’s role: Re-align structure of family – i.e., change
interaction patterns between family members and family
subsytems to be more functional