Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example

Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example

Assignment 1: 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 Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example, as you compare structural and strategic family therapy, consider which therapeutic approach you might use with your own client families.


Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example Learning Objectives
Students will:
Compare structural family therapy to strategic family therapy
Create structural family maps
Justify recommendations for family therapy
To prepare for Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example:
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 Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example 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.

Note:Please make sure the Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example paper includes a title page, introduction (including a purpose statement), summary, and references. Lastly, Please follow uploaded rubric.


Use Structural Maps to Manage Your Family Well

Basic Premises and Examples

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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?”

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…

  • the intro to this Web site and the premises underlying it
  • self-improvement Lessons 1 thru 4
  • these Q&A items on families
  • these traits of a high-nurturance family
  • how to make and use a family genogram

  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.

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 versus strategic family therapies assignment example

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. Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example.

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

  • whether the resident adults are psychologically wounded or not, and…
  • whether they’re self and mutually aware and knowledgeable;
  • how healthy the family’s grieving policy is; and…
  • whether the adults are motivated and able to communicate and problem-solve
  • Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example

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.

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.
  • Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example

      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. Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example. 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…

  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. Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example.

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).
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). Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example.


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 = addiction

VC = 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 =  depressed

G =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 versus strategic family therapies assignment example.

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.

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.” Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example.

      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). Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example.

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).


(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. Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example.

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


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).

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? Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example.


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.  Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example.

Structural and Strategic Family Therapies paper



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. Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example.

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. Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example.

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. Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example.

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. As such, this model capitalizes on the structure of the family interactions while continually enhancing necessary changes until the optimal results are obtained. Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example.

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. Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example.


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. doi:10.1177/1049731514530003

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. Structural versus strategic family therapies assignment example.

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 versus strategic family therapies assignment example.