The structural model is a method that utilizes psychological means to correct behavior by considering how children interact with adults. Salvador Minuchin developed the structural model and it addresses issues by considering how a family works. A therapist using this model strives to unite the family structure in therapy to comprehend the invisible laws. These invisible rules control the functioning of the family, describe the connection between family, and in the end, seek to reestablish acceptable behavior within the family (Reiter, 2016). The structural model proposes that pathology is found within the family structure and not within a person. Additionally, the structural model uses both methods of representing vital family elements diagrammatically and special structure terminology. To correct behavior, it concentrates on the family system as well as its numerous substructures.
The model follows communication and systems theory because the definition of its structures is through transactions that exist within the family. Additionally, the theory uses the equifinality and the wholeness of the systems to instill change. One primary element of the structural model is that therapist who uses it combine with the family system to ensure that they get positive change. In this case, they join with the family structure and stimulate positive change (Carter & McGoldrick, 1999). However, the model assumes that interactions among family members depend on boundaries and the level of authority that exists within that particular family. In other words, a therapist must identify the family organization and how they interact to initiate change. The framework further defines a dysfunctional or functional family based on its capacity to adapt to numerous stressors. The assumption depends on the different levels of authority which, in this case, puts the parents at the top followed by the children.
A structural model is systemic in numerous ways, including how it studies the family as a whole. In this case, the model manages to obtain positive results that help both parents and their children. A systemic structural model comprehends the whole family and does not study behavior resulting from a single member of the family (Jiménez et al., 2019). The model is systemic because it primarily focuses on strengthening and empowering the family as a structure. To ensure that there are positive results, the model persists in favoring the changes in the family dynamics. Studies show that different therapy sessions that concentrate on the family as a whole generally produce positive results, especially when it comes to family cohesion (McAdams et al., 2016). These results are particularly advantageous to families facing challenges when it comes to correcting issues related to norms and roles. The results of a systemic structural family therapy further help improve vulnerable families with issues changing difficulties related to family members’ needs and how they respond to new demands.
Bob’s family is one that has different characteristics in terms of behavior. For instance, the relationship between Chris and the mother was different from the mother’s relationship with Jeff. In the video, Jeff is being portrayed as the most rebellious character that would frequently fight with the mother. On the other hand, when it came to Chris, they would get along well and most of the time, they would not fight. Bob’s wife is less strict and in most cases, would let Jeff have what he wanted if he insisted. However, if she could not manage the situation, then Bob would intervene and decide on what is supposed to occur. Andrea is mostly quiet and does not seem to be affected by most of the occurrences that happen within her family. The reason for this could be that she has barely stayed with the family. Additionally, when Bob and his wife decided to bring their whole families together, there was no consultation with the children. This lack of consultation may have been one of the factors that contributed to the dysfunctional relationship within the family.
As a therapist, Minuchin’s role was to help the family reach its objective of solving the tension that existed among its members, especially that of Jeff. Therefore, through the process, Minuchin played the role of accommodating and joining. In this case, he worked to develop a relationship with every member of the family. To ensure this occurs, Minuchin gained trust between him and the family members. The other role he played in the therapy session was that of an observer. Throughout the session, Minuchin was observing how the family behaved. In the session, he watched for which individual led the family, which was likely to attack, and the more defensive one. After establishing these facts, his role was to map the underlying family systems. The other role was to ensure that the family role-played so that he could observe and see where he could intervene and teach them what behavior was appropriate. After determining the family behavior, his role was to restructure new boundaries that were necessary to strengthen the family.
There are numerous concepts that Minuchin utilizes to describe the structural model. One of them is that he suggests that what determines family is boundaries. In this case, what he meant by boundaries is that they are rules that support the transactional patterns of a family (Reiter, 2016). In other words, what underpins the transactional patterns of a family is how the nuclear or larger family functions, including the subsystems that exist in that family. For instance, Minuchin engages the whole family by asking specific questions that each member has to answer. By doing so, he is trying to establish what could be the cause of the dysfunctional relationship that the family has. Boundaries further mean that there exist distinctions between authority and responsibility. These have to be strictly followed to ensure that order exists within a family.
Minuchin further defines the term hierarchies and according to him, this plays a role in instilling a positive change in a dysfunctional family. According to the structural model, hierarchies are the roles the different people play within the family system. For instance, from the therapy session, if there was a conflict that Bob’s wife could not solve, Bob would solve the situation immediately. Therefore, he was the figure of the highest authority in the family. Despite Jeff being the youngest son, he manipulated her mother into doing what he wanted. The other important element in the structural model is subsystems. According to Minuchin, subsystems are composed of siblings, parents, and parent-child relationships. From the video, subsystems include Jeff, Chris, Andrea, and Bob. Their interaction with one another is what composes a subsystem.
The other essential term is coalitions, which Minuchin uses to define different types of relationships within a family. According to Minuchin, family members form different relationships depending on how they benefit from it (Seminary, 2015). For example, the relationship between Chris and the mother is different from that between the mother and Jeff. In most cases, Chris would be involved when he finds the brother fighting with the mother. When this happens, he has to defend one person thereby forming a coalition against the other member of the family. The other important term the structural therapy session utilizes is strength. According to Minuchin, strengths are those factors that make a family functional (Seminary, 2015). These are elements that exist within a normal family, which ensures the availability of a positive relationship among family members.
The stages of development include four different steps of family interventions. The first stage involves joining and assessment step and involves a therapist going to the family and engaging them in different situations. The second step is the restructuring phase that involves studying the organization of the family. In this case, a therapist identifies different aspects of the family that are repetitive. The goal here is to ensure that these do not occur in the future to ensure that the processes produce a positive result. The third stage involves families valuing their change and then finally conceptualizing the new behavior.
Minuchin’s structural model is an essential tool when it comes to changing the family dynamics, especially among vulnerable families. Minuchin’s main goal was to join the family and eradicate the negative behavior that barred the strengths of the family. To do so, he had to focus on the current issue and address them to ensure that the future is not affected. Furthermore, through his structural model, he creates boundaries, hierarchical systems, and an organization, which creates an environment that ensures the prosperity of each family member.
Carter, B., & McGoldrick, M. (1999). The expanded family life cycle: Individual, family, and social perspectives (3rd ed.). Pearson.
Jiménez, L., Hidalgo, V., Baena, S., León, A., & Lorence, B. (2019). Effectiveness of structural–strategic family therapy in the treatment of adolescents with mental health problems and their families. PubMed Central (PMC).
McAdams, C. R., Avadhanam, R., Foster, V. A., Harris, P. N., Javaheri, A., Kim, S., Kooyman, B. A., Richelle Joe, J., Sheffield, R. L., & 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.
Reiter, M. D. (2016). A quick guide to case conceptualization in structural family therapy. Journal of Systemic Therapies, 35(2), 25-37.
Seminary, D. T. (2015). BC428 Unfolding the Laundry Session 2 [Video]. YouTube.