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What Family Therapy Model Is Right For You? Skip to main content

Family therapy can be helpful when an entire family’s dynamic has grown problematic or may be used when a single family member’s behavior or struggles have created familial discord.

It is explained as “a form of psychotherapy that focuses on the improvement of interfamilial relationships and behavioral patterns of the family unit as a whole, as well as among individual members and groupings, or subsystems, within the family.” There is an array of family therapy models that are used in family therapy. The various types of family therapy all look different from one another, both in terms of what is worked on during therapy sessions and the manner of delivery. The family therapy models explained below are the five family therapy modalities that are most widely recognized

Structural Family Therapy

Salvador Minuchin developed structural family therapy. This approach is based on the fundamental idea that the family structure is responsible for its problems. Each person in the family has a specific role that they fulfill and deviating from these roles causes conflict within a family. One of the essential tools of structural family therapy is the completion of a structural map, where the boundaries and hierarchies of a family are illustrated. This model looks at any upset in familial roles and works on integrating everyone back into the roles they were originally intended to fulfill. Structural family therapy believes that a family must maintain a certain hierarchy and establish clear boundaries to remain healthy. This family therapy model works to evenly distribute power, communication, and respect, to allow a family to move forward as a single, functional system.

Milan Model: Systemic Family Therapy

Systemic family therapy views a family as a single system, with a series of symbiotic systems embedded within it. This technique believes that a family member develops symptoms to cope with the behavior of other members of the family. Identifying stagnant patterns of behavior within a living system and changing one person’s actions, can, in turn, help shift the entire family system. This family therapy model approaches resolving problems practically rather than analytically. 

Strategic Family Therapy

Milton Erickson and Jay Haley worked together to develop strategic family therapy. This approach is driven by the idea that a family maintains problems through repeated responses to family interactions. It focuses on patterns within families and relies on techniques such as paradoxical intention to “alter the self-sustaining nature of a symptom by interrupting the reinforcing feedback loops that maintain it through engaging in opposite behavior.” The family therapist will help family members learn applicable techniques for solving problems specific to the family’s interaction and structure. 

Narrative Therapy

Narrative therapy was developed by Michael White and David Epston. It is a non-pathologizing, empowering, and collaborative approach that views people as separate from their problems and focuses on supporting and encouraging each family member. The narrative therapy model assumes “people have many skills, abilities, values, commitments, beliefs, and competencies that will help them change their relationships with the problems influencing their lives.” It believes that conflict resolution is a simple matter of improving self-esteem and self-perception.

Bowenian: Intergenerational Family Therapy

Intergenerational family therapy was developed by psychiatrist, Murray Bowen. It assumes the Bowen family systems theory, which is based on “the assumptions that the human is a product of evolution, and that human behavior is significantly regulated by the same natural processes that regulate the behavior of all other living things.” This family therapy model recognizes generational influences on family and individual behavior and relies on tools such as genograms to identify intergenerational family dynamics. Bowen believed that the goal of therapy was self-differentiation (the ability to separate thoughts from feelings). This approach operates under the assumption that dynamics within a family reside in triads and the role of the therapist is to point out dynamics as a neutral coach and educator. 

Further Information and Support

Navigating the challenges that arise from living with mental illness, struggling with substance abuse, and/ or addiction can not only be all-consuming but are often impossible to effectively handle without proper support. If you are concerned for yourself or a loved one regarding mental illness, substance abuse, and/ or addiction we recommend reaching out for help as soon as possible. Bear in mind that you do not have to be on this journey alone. At {Upwell Advisors}, we offer unique, customized concierge therapeutic services to provide our clients with unparalleled support throughout every step of the recovery process. 

Feel free to reach to contact us anytime via email at [email protected]. We look forward to supporting you on your journey.

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