Structural vs Strategic Family Therapy and Structural Family Map Essay

Structural vs Strategic Family Therapy and Structural Family Map Essay

Structural vs Strategic Family Therapy and Structural Family Map Essay

Abstract: Substance use disorders are nearly twice as common among sexual minority youth (SMY) as among their heterosexual peers. Most applied literature about this population suggests interventions on either the individual or community level, and the benefits of family therapy for this population are often overlooked. The present literature review (a) outlines clinical knowledge related to sexual minority youth and substance use (e.g., prevalence rates, contributing factors), (b) discusses the importance of clinical self-awareness around these topics, and (c) outlines clinical behaviors and interventions from literature that may be employed when working with substance-using SMY and their families.

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Although structural therapy and strategic therapy are both used in family therapy, these therapeutic approaches have many differences in theory and application. As you assess families and develop treatment plans, you must consider these differences and their potential impact on clients. For this Assignment, as you compare structural and strategic family therapy, consider which therapeutic approach you might use with your own client families.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

Compare structural family therapy to strategic family therapy
Create structural family maps
Justify recommendations for family therapy

To prepare:

Review this week’s Learning Resources and reflect on the insights they provide on structural and strategic family therapies.
Refer to Gerlach (2015) in this week’s Learning Resources for guidance on creating a structural family map.

The Assignment – Structural vs Strategic Family Therapy and Structural Family Map Essay

In a 2- to 3-page paper, address the following:

Summarize the key points of both structural family therapy and strategic family therapy.
Compare structural family therapy to strategic family therapy, noting the strengths and weaknesses of each.
Provide an example of a family in your practicum using a structural family map. Note: Be sure to maintain HIPAA regulations.
Recommend a specific therapy for the family, and justify your choice using the Learning Resources.

Compare structural family therapy to strategic family therapy and create structural family maps essay

Structural and Strategic Family Therapies Sample essay



Structural and Strategic Family Therapies

Family therapy is a significant component of psychotherapy aimed at investigating and instigating appropriate changes for the welfare of a family. Although therapists have a wide array of models to employ in their work, a greater emphasis and theoretical development have focused on structural and strategic therapy models. Consequently, this paper provides an analysis of the two models highlighting their underlying similarities and differences, finally, an example and justification of one model application will be provided.

Structural family therapy

Structural family therapy is premised on refining self-esteem among individuals and family networks. According to Nichols and Tafuri (2013), a structural model emphasizes on intervention techniques aimed primarily at changing the family members perception in diagnosing and treating the dysfunction. Further, Williams, (2016)), argues that in a diagnosis an underlying dysfunction, a therapist can utilize a family structure map to determine the root cause, after which an integrative therapeutic approach is initiated. In this regard, structural family therapy entails analyzing how interactions between family members fuel a specific dysfunction and realign the family perception. The fundamental tenet of this model is that by retaining a balance in the structural interaction, the problem is solved. Compare structural family therapy to strategic family therapy and create structural family maps essay.

Strategic family therapy

On the other hand, strategic family therapy is centered on a planned problem-solving approach to address a dysfunction. According to Lindstrom, Filges, and Jorgensen (2015), in addressing the underlying problem, the model embarks in the provision of directives, which assist in diagnosing the condition. Moreover, the family members are involved in facilitating a behavioral change in the victim by eliminating unfavorable contacts. In the case of a relapse in maladaptive interactions, Lindstrom, Filges, and Jorgensen, 2015 observes that the patients’ relatives are advised to engage in pernicious behaviors thus facilitating improved interactions

Models Compared

In comparison, the two models are centered on facilitating behavioral change, improved communication, and elimination of dysfunctional interactions through the family network. As such, the main objective of both models is the elimination of maladaptive practice affecting an individual and their families. Moreover, Schwartz, Muir and Brown, (2012) observe that both models although employing different techniques, they objectively change the family structure thus maintaining the appropriate family balance. However, Sheehan, and Friedlander (2015), argue that while the models might harbor similarities, it is the role of the family therapist to determine the model of choice while diagnosing and solving the problem. Finally, Schwartz, Muir and Brown, (2012), that both models have been used effectively to address behavioral problems among the youths.

Key Differences and weakness

The key difference in both models revolves around the approach employed in facilitating a change in the family system. According to Schwartz, Muir and Brown (2012), structural family planning is focused on changing the dysfunctional family structure. However, the model has been criticized as disregarding the basic family structure in nuclear families. On the other hand, strategic family planning centers on a relational strategy in enacting a family change which has been criticized as narrow, and limiting the freedom of the families involved

Example of a family in practicum using a structural family map

A case in example to explore the application of family therapy is provided below. Employing the structural family map, the case can be presented as shown in below.

In this regard, the family hierarchy seemed mixed up with the mother seemingly highly involved albeit a controlling child, however, although the father was available there was little or no cooperation among the parents. However, the underlying problem was that the parents had been unable to control their teenage son who had developed outrageous behavior, including taking drugs skipping school and petty theft habits. Additionally, their older son was highly perturbed by the indiscipline of her sister and was always in conflict with her. Further, the son had elevated his domination and had started criticizing the parents for their inability to foster discipline. Apparently, the father had resigned placing the blame on the mother for the daughter’s actions.

Therapy Recommendation For the family

The best therapeutic approach for this case would be the structural family therapy. According to Sheehan, and Friedlander (2015), The efficacy of structural family therapy emanates from its ability to allow a therapist to incorporate case specific creativity while retaining the core therapy needs. Compare structural family therapy to strategic family therapy and create structural family maps essay. As such, this model capitalizes on the structure of the family interactions while continually enhancing necessary changes until the optimal results are obtained.

Justification of the model

The structural therapy model is most suited for our case, since it is apparent that the overall relationships between the family members are deeply dented. In this regard, the structural therapy model would successfully rebuild an interdependent relationship between the parents since its core strategy is codified in analyzing how the dysfunction of the family coalitions fuels the underlying problem (Schwartz, Muir & Brown, 2012). Further, since the structural approach involves all the family members in its analysis, it is best suited in cases whereby varying factors may be contributing to the visible problem.


Lindstrom, M., Filges, T., & Jorgensen, A. K. (2014). Brief Strategic Family Therapy for Young People in Treatment for Drug Use. Research on Social Work Practice,25(1), 61-80.


Nichols, M., & Tafuri, S. (2013). Techniques of Structural Family Assessment: A Qualitative Analysis of How Experts Promote a Systemic Perspective. Family Process,52(2), 207-215. doi:10.1111/famp.12025.

Schwartz, S. J., Muir, J. A., & Brown, C. H. (2012). Brief strategic family therapy: An intervention to reduce adolescent risk behavior. Couple and Family Psychology: Research and Practice,1(2), 134-145. doi:10.1037/a0029002

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

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. Structural vs Strategic Family Therapy and Structural Family Map Essay

Lesson 5 of 7  – evolve a high-nurturance family
Use Structural Maps to Manage Your Family WellBasic Premises and ExamplesBy Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member, NSRC Experts Council

The Web address of this article is

Updated  09-22-2015

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This is one of a series of lesson-5 articles on how to evolve a high-nurturance family.The article introduces a powerful tool for understanding how your family is “built” – “structural mapping.” It may look complicated, but if you experiment with it, you’ll find that it’s easy to use.

The article defines family structure, summarizes some basic premises, shows you how to map the structure of any family, and proposes baseline ‘maps” of healthy biological families.. A related article shows how to map typical multi-home stepfamily structures.

This mapping tool can help you answer questions like…

Who has the power in our home and family, including dead people and non-relatives?”

Who’s in charge of each of our homes?” Compare structural family therapy to strategic family therapy and create structural family maps essay.

Who is aligned and who is conflicted?”

Is anyone excluded from full family membership? By Whom? Why?”

Do we have major communication blocks in and between our several homes?”

How does our family structure react to crises, major conflicts, and membership changes?

This article assumes you’re familiar with…

  About Family Structure

Here, a family means a group of people with genetic, legal, and social bonds who depend on each other for inclusion, identity, companionship, support, procreation, security and stability. This can include dead and distant relatives, special friends and professional consultants, a Higher Power, neighbors, teachers, coaches, baby sitters, and perhaps influential mentors and media figures. Structural vs Strategic Family Therapy and Structural Family Map Essay

Structure describes how something is built, like a house, novel, sailboat, or government. Structures range from stable to unstable and effective to flawed, depending on what they’re designed to do. Family structure refers to:

  • Who’s included and excluded from the family;
  • Who’s in chargeof each home or group of related homes, if anyone. Whose needs and behaviors cause the main decisions in calm and troubled times?
  • Relationship bonds and boundaries, or lack of them;
  • The roles and rules that govern how members’ needs get met – or don’t;
  • Family-member alliances and antagonisms; and …
  • Communication blocks in and between people and homes.

Structural mapping is a visual tool. It can help you identify and validate what’s healthyabout your family, and illuminate structural problems that lower your nurturance level. The structural mapping scheme outlined here uses  some basic ideas about family functioning. See if you agree with each of these beliefs, and add your own:


1)  A family’s core purpose is to fill all adults’ and children’s needs. A common key need is for a safe haven, where every member feels consistently accepted, valued, respected, supported, and encouraged to develop and use their unique talents.

Families that don’t fill all their members’ key needs consistently can be called low nurturance or dysfunctional. The more of these factors that exist, the higher the nurturance level. Levels vary over time with structural and environmental changes.

2) The main factors determining a home’s or a family’s nurturance level are…

From my clinical experience since 1979, I believe many or most typical adults have survived early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse (trauma), and have inherited significant psychological wounds. Few people – including family-life professionals – are aware of this, and/or they don’t know what it means or what to do about it. Structural vs Strategic Family Therapy and Structural Family Map Essay

Premise 3) All families experience local or chronic stress over surface issues like these:

  • family membership(inclusion and exclusion)
  • boundaries(missing, weak, or rigid; violations; and conflicts)
  • roles(unclear, unstable, inappropriate, and/or conflicting),
  • relationship rules and consequences(unclear, conflicting, inconsistent, and appropriate or not);
  • adapting toand stabilizing after systemic and environmental changes.

      Premise 4) The key relationship in a family that includes minor kids should be between mates, vs. an adult and a child or other adults (like grandparent-parent) or two ex mates. In resolving family problems, mates should consistently put their integrities and wholistic health first, their relationship second, and all else third – except in emergencies.

5)  Family members (like you) can proactively improve their family’s structure and system by taking and applying this online self-improvement course.

Notice your reaction to these premises. If you don’t agree with them, what do youbelieve?

To use this visual tool, your family adults need some…

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  Structural-mapping Symbols

Family-structural maps use symbols to show how members relate to each other. In this article, I’ll use the generic letters below. You can use these letters, your family-members’ names or initials, cartoon figures, faces, or any other meaningful symbols.

Be creative: doing these maps can be fun, as well as instructive! Consider using colored markers or pens, too – whatever makes the diagrams clearer for everyone. Try to see the big picture and theme, to minimize getting boggled by all these symbols. Once you try them, they’re surprisingly easy…

Map Symbol Stands for current nuclear-family member:
P, M , F, … Living Parent, Mother, and Father
DP, DM, DF Dead Parent, Mother, Father
MA  F    MW  FW Addicted or psychologically-wounded Mother or Father
C, C,    T, T  Dependent (minor) Children and Teens
[P], [M] or [S]; A [dead] or [absent] and still psychologically-important Parent, Mother, or Sibling … (e.g. an aborted, stillborn, or grown child). Compare structural family therapy to strategic family therapy and create structural family maps essay.
P<<>>C Conflicted Parent and Child
[HP], {God}, [Allah] The Higher Power/s that significantly influence one or more family members, if any.
R, GM, … Key Relative “1” or a powerful Grandmother, or …
Fr, or Pr, or … Important Friend “1”, or Professional person (priest, counselor, …)
(P or (C An excluded or rejected Parent or Child.
P|| P Two parents with ineffective verbal communications.
(P+C) or  (C1+C2) Psychologically over-involved (enmeshed or codependent) Parent and Child “1”, or enmeshed Children “1” and “2.”


” _  _  _  _  _”

Family responsibility lines. Put people above the line who have the most consistent impact in directing current household residents’ feelings, actions, and attention. Ideally, all resident parents would be always above the line and minor kids below.Dashed responsibility lines signify generally open adult-child communications. A solid line means communications are blocked (people above and below the line don’t disclose honestly, hear well, or problem-solve effectively). Compare structural family therapy to strategic family therapy and create structural family maps essay.

One-way or mutually-hostile parental relationships, with blocked (ineffective) communications.
CP|| CP2 Two Co-Parents with blocked verbal communications.

Option: use small encircled or colored letters or subscripts to designate important individual or dyad dynamics like these:

A = addictionVC = values conflict

$C = money conflict

M = in the military

PC = parenting conflict

PA = physical abuse

SX = sexual problem

PR = pregnant

T = in therapy

X = no life purpose

D =  depressedG =grieving

UG = unfinished grief

H  = homeless

J = in jail

BC = boundary conflict

EA = emotional abuse

F = fanaticism

I = socially isolated

S = sick or disabled

Adding map symbols like these can reveal patterns of stress in and among family members and homes. This allows quickly identifying where to focus energy to improve your family’s nurturance level (function).

      Now let’s see how to use these (or similar) symbols in…

 Sample Family-Structure Maps

These examples are based on the premises above. Recall: “family structure” refers to home and family membership, leadership, roles (responsibilities), boundaries, and communications. We’ll start with high-nurturance (functional) family map, and then show some of the many kinds of dysfunctional (low nurturance) biofamily structures. Structural vs Strategic Family Therapy and Structural Family Map Essay.

Again: the purpose of these maps is to show simply and concisely whether a given home or multi-home nuclear family is organized in a healthy way or not. Use them to help discuss and improve your family’s nurturance level, not to expose, attack, or ridicule any members.

1) Baseline: A high-nurturance, intact nuclear bio(logical)- family structure

M  F
– – – – – –
C   C
Religious Mother and Father are co-equally in charge of their home (“above the line”), and not enmeshed or addicted. Communication is open between all adults and minor kids. Family roles (responsibilities) are clear to everyone. Kids are encouraged to be kids, vs. little adults. There are no interfering relatives or other people, and no one is demoted below the line, excluded, exalted above the line, absent, enmeshed, or addicted. Household emotional boundaries (the dashed box) are open, so friends, kin, and ideas freely enter and leave, yet there are clear limits. Structural vs Strategic Family Therapy and Structural Family Map Essay.

2) Baseline: A High-nurturance, Intact Extended-biofamily Structure

 GF1[GM1] M  F
– – – – – –
C   C
GF2  GM2 A2  U2
– – – – – –
C   C  C

This is a four-home 13-member multi-generational (“extended”) biological family system. It includes a married couple with two minor kids, three living grandparents, one dead and influential grandmother, and an aunt and uncle in charge of their three minor kids, all living in four separate homes. Grandfather “2” is the most powerful adult in the extended family, and influences most major decisions. No one is enmeshed, excluded, addicted, wounded, or dubbed a “black sheep.”

Each home affects the others and is a subsystem of the whole system. Each home has its own structure. Their are no addicts, wounded adults, or major conflicts in any homes. All four homes have roles and rules that determine how members act toward each other in normal and special times. God does not have a major influence on this extended family, nor do any non-members. In real life, most extended-family maps  like these are more complex (and more dysfunctional).

3) Typical Low-nurturance Two-parent Biofamily Structures

– – – – – – –
C … C
M //
– – – – – (F
– – – – – – – –
C…C  M
F || M
– – – – –
1) DominantMom, blocked parental communications 2) Detached or absent Father, blocked parental communications 3) Blocked parent – child communications; Parents enmeshed 4) Child co- controlling the home, Mom ineffective (“below the line”) 5) Mom’s dead mother controls the home; parents can’t talk; kids anxious

M ) – – – – (F
C … C
F) – – – – – – – –       C … C  M
F || (C+M)
– – – – – – – – – –
C … C
(U + + + + M) [F]
C … C
6) Two unbonded  parents; teen controls the homeNo family boundaries 7) Overwhelmed mom, detached dad, Aunt in charge; Rigid (closed) household boundaries 8) Enmeshed Mom and controlling child; no parental teamwork or problem solving 9) Enmeshed Mom and (non-resident) Uncle; Biofather dead but still key; kids feel unheard


C  F  C
M  C
10) Regressed or overwhelmed Parents. Nobody is consistently in charge of the home (no adult-child responsibility line): All family members are isolated from outsiders (solid border). Structural vs Strategic Family Therapy and Structural Family Map Essay.


(M+C+R+F+C) 11) Similar, including a resident Relative; Everyone is enmeshed and chaotic: no effective personal boundaries, and no clear family roles. Mates have no private time or space. Adults are kids’ buddies, not parents.

With some imagination, you can see that these are only a few of the many biofamily structures possible! How would you map the family that you grew up in? Over time, it probably had several key structures. Family structures change each time someone is born, dies (including abortions and stillbirths), leaves home, reaches puberty, moves back home, becomes seriously ill or injured, gets married, and so on.

4) Typical Low-Nurturance Two-home

Separated or Divorcing Family Structure

Separation and legal (vs. psychological) divorce restructure a biological family. The family system now includes the people, roles, rules, coalitions, communication, and boundaries in each of two related household systems. Early in a divorce process, key relatives, friends, supporters, and professionals (like counselors, mediators, and attorneys) affect the family’s functioning, and should be included in a structural map. Divorce always indicates wounded,unaware adults and a low-nurturance family system.

– – – – – –
C … C
>>>||<<< FA
Mom has legal and physical custody, and controls her home (is above the line). Arrows show regular child visitation with their addicted Father, who is in charge of his home when the kids come to stay; but communications with his kids are blocked (solid line). Ongoing two-way hostility, poor communications, and conflicts between bioparents, with the kids caught in the middle. No significantly intrusive or dependent relatives

There are many variations of this two-home divorcing biofamily, considering who’s in charge in each home; the numbers, ages, and “parentification” of older kids (i.e. being above the parental responsibility line); the availability and involvement of nurturing kin; and how the “sending” home restructures if some of the kids go visit, but some stay. The custodial bioparent is often overwhelmed, and may “promote” an older child above the line to co-control the home. Or s/he may hire day-care or live-in help (who should be included in the structural map). Compare structural family therapy to strategic family therapy and create structural family maps essay.

If you divorced, what did (or does) your two-home biofamily structure look like? Did (does) it have several structures? Who was in charge of each home when the kids were there?


This Lesson-5 article defines “family” and “family structure,” and offers several basic premises about families. It shows typical family-mapping symbols, and illustrates how to diagram (map) the structure of high-nurturance  (functional) and low-nurturance biofamilies.

Coupled with family-systems knowledge, structural mapping is a tool that can help healthy, informed adult members visualize and discuss how their nuclear or extended family is “built” – and identify and solve structural problems. Compare structural family therapy to strategic family therapy and create structural family maps essay.

If you want to map a multi-home nuclear stepfamily, see this article.

      Pause, breathe, and reflect – why did you read this article? Did you get what you needed? If not, what do you need? Who’s answering these questions – your true Self, or ”someone else”?

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Summarize of the key points

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Structural family therapy

Applying unbalancing techniques, aiding individual family members to reframe perceptions, family mapping, joining with the family during sessions, and presenting the dysfunction as a metaphor are core intervention methods employed in structural family therapy (Nichols & Tafuri, 2013). Applying these techniques, a therapist can diagnose the dysfunction and aid the family in restructuring, which allows the process to develop structure and improved esteem within both the individuals and family network (Nichols & Tafuri, 2013). Structural vs Strategic Family Therapy and Structural Family Map Essay. For example, if a therapist is working with a family that has an addiction problem, he or she may choose to use a family structure map to analyze various coalitions to interpret the underlying cause of the addiction (McAdams et al., 2016; Nichols & Tafuri, 2013). The therapist, in this case, objectifies the addiction to detach it from the affected family member and realigns the spousal coalition to strengthen the family’s center of power to combat the influence of the dependency (Nichols & Tafuri, 2013).

Strategic family therapy

Strategic family therapy focuses on a set of planned, practical, and problem-focused strategies to address dysfunctional behaviors and familial structures that are associated with or contribute to the underlying problems (Lindstrom, Filges, & Jorgensen, 2015; Szapocznik, Schwartz, Muir, & Brown, 2012). The unique or core fundamental approaches of strategic family therapy include providing directives, assessing ordeals, and therapeutic paradoxes during interventions. A Therapeutic paradox is a tactic used to engage family members to evaluate unfavorable interactions and to redirect efforts into different interactions or behaviors (Lindstrom, Filges, & Jorgensen, 2015). Directives serve as precise instructions for the family members to enact to facilitate change, whereas ordeals are behavioral prescriptions that direct the family to engage in pernicious behaviors when maladaptive interactions return (Lindstrom, Filges, & Jorgensen, 2015; Szapocznik, Schwartz, Muir, & Brown, 2012).

Models Contrasted and Compared

In comparison, the goals of structural and strategic family therapy share similarities of altering the family network via methods of behavior modification, communication enhancement, and disruption and restructuring dysfunctional interactions. Compare structural family therapy to strategic family therapy and create structural family maps essay.

In both models, the desired outcome is a change in maladaptive patterns that affect both the individuals and family unit. Assuming that changing the structure to recognize and disrupt dysfunction within the person and the family structure, a proper balance will be achieved and family homeostasis returned. Therapists are usually not dedicated to a particular model. Hybrid therapies like Brief Strategic Family Therapy, which incorporates both structural and strategic theories along with intervention are sound methods to engage families coping with adolescent substance abuse and behavioral dysfunction (Robbins et al., 2012; Szapocznik, Schwartz, Muir, & Brown, 2012).

Key Similarities

A fair comparison of the theoretical approaches of both models is the intervention strategies both employ. In both models, key therapeutic techniques include joining with the family system and assisting the family in restructuring the family dynamic. It is important to state that although these models were developed to combat families with dysfunctional youth, therapists have successfully applied both models to clients outside this demographic.

Key Differences and weakness

In contrast to the similarities both models share, there are also fundamental differences. A primary difference between structural family therapy and strategic family therapy is the method in which each model applies changes to the family system. Structural vs Strategic Family Therapy and Structural Family Map Essay.

Structural family therapy models assert that relational interactions become altered by focusing on changing the dysfunctional family structure, whereas strategic family therapy models state that family structure will change organically once the relational strategies become modified.

Criticisms Of The structural Theory  De-emphasizes emotional lives • Biases on appropriate family structure that is “western” nuclear family model • Cross Cultural considerations are needed

Among the criticisms leveled at strategic therapy are that it involves the taking of too many risks, that it is deceptive, that it is controlling and manipulative, that it is disrespectful, and that it is superficial and narrow.

Family Therapy


The family as the primary socialization agent has the capability to influence the behavior of individual members of the unit. Compare structural family therapy to strategic family therapy and create structural family maps essay. As such, therapists in recognition of this fact have developed various therapies embedded in the family member’s interactions as a means to address individual problems. Consequently, this paper divulges on family therapies centering on the comparison between the structural and strategic family therapies.

Structural Family Therapy

The structural family therapy is premised on the assertion that psychological problem within the family lineage contributes to the transfer of the eminent problem primarily because of confused hierarchies. Moreover, Gurman (2014) attribute symptom formation to family members interactions patterns. As such, to find a solution, the family members are expected to explore the symptoms with regard to their interactions. According to Todd (2015), structural family therapist attributes the existence of individual problems to family instability. Moreover, in diagnosing the problem, Gurman (2014) observes that the therapist examine the family structure as a complete dyad, comprised of several subsystems. Compare structural family therapy to strategic family therapy and create structural family maps essay.

Further, Kocet and Herlihy (2014), assert that the existing boundaries within the family structure ought to be clear, rigid and diffuse. In the diagnosing the problem, the model advocates for clear boundaries within the family. Gurman (2014) observes that, clear family boundaries promote communication among the members thus discouraging autonomy and also encourages a defined hierarchy. Further, according to Todd (2015), the model provides a framework to rebuild boundaries and interactions within the family structure.

Strategic Family Therapy

The approach employed by this model involves giving directives and indirect suggestions in treating the problem. According to Todd (2015), the family therapist designs a strategy to solve a specific problem. Compare structural family therapy to strategic family therapy and create structural family maps essay. As such, in implementing change, Gladding (2012), observes that the therapist needs to pinpoint the maladaptive behaviors (symptoms) in the family and focus on emphasizing the family’s strengths. Additionally, Todd (2015), asserts that the model assumes that adoption of a change in the routine behavior facilitates a natural change in the maladaptive behavior thus promoting normalcy. Lastly, Sexton and Lebow (2015) observe that the model is effective in treating problems relating to substance abuse and adolescent psychological disorders.

Notable Similarities

The models are codified in the systemic theories and emphasize circular causality in treating the problem. According to Gurman (2014), in circular causality, one person actions influences behavioral change in the other. Additionally, both models use similar mechanisms in facilitating change including the restructuring of the family structure. Finally, strategic and structural therapies attribute progression of symptoms to a defective family structure. In solving the problem, both models utilize family mapping within the family structure. Compare structural family therapy to strategic family therapy and create structural family maps essay.

Notable Differences

Despite their shared similarities, the models have conspicuous differences. For instance, Sexton and Lebow (2015), observe that in the strategic model, the therapist has a dominant role in facilitating the treatment process. As such, the therapist’s role is considered essential since it involves, provision of directives. On the other hand, a structural family therapist has a flexible and detached role (Gurman, 2014). As a result the strategic model is seen as dictatorial while the strategic model is considered to be less manipulative (Wilcoxon, Remley, & Gladding, 2013).

Additionally, strategic family therapy has a primary focus on the nuclear family and is criticized for dismissing multiculturalism. On the other hand, structural family therapy not only focuses on restructuring the nuclear family but also recognizes the extended family in facilitating family functioning. This attribute has been argued as enhancing the efficacy of the model. Compare structural family therapy to strategic family therapy and create structural family maps essay.

Case study

For our case study we have a family which will be referred as the K’s family comprised of a two parents, a step father and mother of two children. The eldest child is a teenage male aged 16 years while the lastborn child is a girl aged 10. Notably, derived from the structural family map, K’s family interactions can be represented as shown below.

In this regard, as depicted in our structure the conspicuous attributes include the involved mother and the father albeit blocked interactions between them and the children. However, a closer review of the family illustrates that K’s biological father although he had good relation with the children he was abusive to the mother which contributed to their divorce three years ago. Since the divorce, the children rarely saw their biological father and the mother had gotten overly indulged in her work including working the night shift for several days a week. Moreover, the mother got married to a police officer who has seemingly little communication and limited connection with the children. However, the underlying problem springs from recent detachment of the son and increasing hostility to the stepfather and mother. Further, the daughter has also exhibited growing indiscipline both in school and at home, characterized by bulling and stealing from other students. Nonetheless, the children have retained a bond amongst themselves.

Suggested intervention

For this case, the most appropriate intervention would be the strategic family therapy owing to its emphasis on emergent symptoms and solutions. According to Gurman (2014), strategic family therapy derives its strength from its skeptical approach of all the previously enacted solutions and dependence on a development of a new approach. Further, the approach is suited for our case since it segments the visible symptoms to individual cases before attempting solutions (Sexton & Lebow, 2015). As such, the strategy would be able to intervene in the case of the son, the daughter and the depressed mother while also reestablishing the family interaction hierarchies. Compare structural family therapy to strategic family therapy and create structural family maps essay.


Gurman, A. S. (2014). Handbook of family therapy. Routledge.

Kocet, M. M., & Herlihy, B. J. (2014). Addressing value‐based conflicts within the counseling relationship: A decision‐making model. Journal of Counseling & Development, 92(2), 180-186.

Todd, T. C. (2015). Behavioral and systemic family therapy: A comparison. Handbook of Behavioural Family Therapy, 449.

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