Structural Versus Strategic Family Therapies

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
o 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
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.  Structural Versus Strategic Family Therapies

Structural Versus Strategic Family Therapies


Strategic family therapy and structural family therapy are used as family psychotherapies. In strategic therapy, the therapist establishes specific and realistic goals that the family should accomplish. In structural therapy, the therapist focuses on the interactions within the family that could be contributing to family problems (Goorden et al., 2016). the purpose of this paper is to compare strategic and structural family therapies and propose the preferred therapy.

Key Points in Structural Family Therapy & Strategic Family Therapy

Structural family therapy aims to improve the self-image of individuals and family relationships as well. Therefore, structural therapy uses interventions that aim to change the perspectives and beliefs of the family members. The family structure map is also used to diagnose the root cause of family dysfunction (Jimenez et al., 2019). Therefore, in family structural therapy the interactions and relationships within the family are analyzed to identify and understand the interactions attributable to specific dysfunctions. Once the interactions and perceptions that cause family dysfunction are identified, the appropriate strategies to adjust the perceptions and interactions are implemented (Carr, 2018).

On the other hand, strategic family therapy utilizes a strategic strategy to address family dysfunction. The strategic therapy solves the underlying family problem by using directive strategies to diagnose the problem. The family members are also active in facilitating behavior change for the family member (client) by stopping the behaviors that seem to be impacting the client negatively (Evans et al, 2015).


Comparison of Strategic Therapy with Structural Therapy

The focus of the two strategies is to influence behavior change, enhance interactions and communications within the family, remove any dysfunctional interactions in the family (Jimenez et al, 2019). This, therefore, shows that both the structural and strategic family therapies aim to do away with the maladaptive and negative behaviors and practices affecting the individual and the family. The two types of therapies also focus on changing the family structure with the aim of maintaining proper family balance and both therapies have been effective in addressing and treating behavioral problems among adolescents within the family (Evans et al, 2015). Moreover, strategic and structural family therapies have been utilized successfully to tackle behavioral challenges among youths.  Structural Versus Strategic Family Therapies

However, the two therapies have their differences based on the different approaches employed to implement family changes. For instance, structural family therapy uses various interventions in order to change the perspectives and beliefs of the family members with the aim of eventually changing dysfunctions within the family (Jimenez et al., 2019). On the other hand, strategic family therapy utilizes an interactive strategy to implement changes in the family and correct the negative behaviors (Szapocznik et al., 2015).

Family Illustration using a Structural Family Map

Figure 1: Structural family map

The structural family therapy was used to diagnose the family problem and solve it. The therapy involved a father, mother, and son. In this family, the mother was very dominant, while one of the teenage sons was very controlling and mischievous. The father rarely participated in family issues. There was little collaboration between the parents during parenting and hence they were unable to control their son. The mischievous son was becoming involved in drugs, skipping schools, and was extremely rude to the parents. The father blamed the mother for their son’s delinquency and for poor motherhood. The father was also indifferent towards their son.

Recommendation of a Therapy for the Family & Justification

The recommended family model for this family is structural family therapy. This is because, through structural therapy, it will be possible to individualize therapy for the family by integrating case-specific ingenuity. In addition, the basic needs of the therapy will be retained (Carr, 2018). The structural therapy will pay attention to the interactions in the family and identify the root cause of the poor collaboration during parenting for the parents and the root cause of their son’s delinquency. The interactions and relations within the family are very poor and thus the structural therapy is the most appropriate model for the presented family. Through this model, a codependent and collaborative relationship between the parents will be rebuilt since the model focuses on analyzing the role of the family dysfunction in the family (Jimenez et al., 2019). Additionally, as Oruche et al (2014) explain, structural therapy involves all the family members making it suitable for analyzing the role of each member of the family in the family dysfunction.      Structural Versus Strategic Family Therapies


Even though structural and strategic family therapies use different approaches, the two therapies focus to facilitate behavior change, enhance interactions and communication within the family, and do away with the problematic interactions in the family. In this presented case, the son was a delinquent and there was little collaboration between the father and the mother during parenting. The most appropriate model for the family was structural family therapy as it allows the root cause problem and structural problems leading to family dysfunction, to be identified.


Carr A. (2018). Family therapy and systemic interventions for child-focused problems: the current evidence base. Journal of Family Therapy. 1(1), 1-61.

Evans, P, Turner, S & Trotter, C. (2015). The Effectiveness of Family and Relationship Therapy: A Review of the Literature. Melbourne: PACFA.

Goorden M., Schawo S.J., Bouwmans-Frijters C.A.M., van der Schee E., Hendriks V.M., Hakkaart-van Roijen L. (2016). The cost-effectiveness of family/family-based therapy for the treatment of externalizing disorders, substance use disorders and delinquency: A systematic review. BMC Psychiatry, 16(237).

Jimenez L, Hidalgo V, Baena S, Leon A & Lorence B. (2019). Effectiveness of Structural–Strategic Family Therapy in the Treatment of Adolescents with Mental Health Problems and Their Families. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 16(7), 1255.

Szapocznik J, Muir J, Duff J, Seth S & Brown H. (2015). Brief Strategic Family Therapy: Implementing evidence-based models in community settings. Psychother Res. 25(1), 121–133.

Oruche U.M., Draucker C., Alkhattab H., Knopf A & Mazurcyk J. (2014). Interventions for family members of adolescents with disruptive behavior disorders. J. Child Adolesc. Psychiatr. Nurs. 1(27),99–108.  Structural Versus Strategic Family Therapies


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