Psychology Salvador Minuchin's System Term Paper

Pages: 10 (2597 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 11  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Family and Marriage

Salvador Minuchin was one of the psychological "giants" who founded family therapy in the 1950's. He envisioned the family as a system with a structure that tended to be self-maintaining under changing internal and external conditions. According to Minuchin, some family systems are dysfunctional in that they create and perpetuate suffering on the part of the members of the family.

This model of family counseling suggests that it is important to change the family system in order to restore well-being through the encouragement of certain principles, such as hierarchy (parents as authority figures), boundaries (a balance of locus of control between self and others), avoidance of placing blame on certain family members, avoidance of triangles, and more.

Minuchin remains active in family therapy today. In a recent issue of the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy (1998), he penned the opening essay, which discusses narrative family therapy. Combs and Freedman, Tomm, and Sluzki replied to the essay.

In his essay, Munuchin credits Narrative Family Therapy (NFT) with the ideas of searching for alternative meanings within the family, therapist as collaborator, and valuable new techniques. He criticizes NFT for downplaying the expertise of the therapist in helping the family heal and downplaying the importance of family interaction and family dynamics.

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Minuchin developed the model of "structural family therapy as a therapy of action. The goal of this model is to modify the present and move beyond the past. The primary target of intervention is the family system. Minuchin describes "structural family therapy as dealing with the process of feedback between circumstances and the person involved - the changes imposed by a person on his circumstances and the way in which feedback to these changes affects his next move. A shift in the position of a person vis -- a -vis his circumstances constitutes a shift of his experience" (p.13).

Term Paper on Psychology Salvador Minuchin's System of Assignment

Structural family therapy does not specifically apply to women's psychology, however all behavior, as well as symptoms, are viewed in context. The pathologizing or labeling of individual members of the family is not encouraged in Minuchin's model. Walters (1985) describes the power inequity between women, children and men in terms of women and children not having equivalence with men. "The boy whose arm is broken by the father he taunts in nonetheless the victim because he is smaller than the father, less powerful, and in a subordinate position socially and economically" (p.6).

Structural family therapy involves transforming the organization of the family and the way members relate to each other. The program has been tested and validated in many scientific studies. The main idea of Minuchin's model is that as soon as the hierarchy of the family group is changed, the relationships of family members can therefore be improved.

Family systems theory and family therapy by Minuchin suggests that activities that create a boundary around the family unit to the exclusion of non-family members and the inclusion of family members, strengthens that family unit (McDonald, 2000). Creating a family tree and having family dinnertime reinforces the boundary of the family as a unit and promote the family.

Minuchin's family systems therapy model suggests that families in which parents are in charge of the children are the strongest families (McDonald, 2000). He recommends that therapists encourage the hierarchy of the family. By assigning the parents roles as the family leaders, the group supports the parental power in their own families, thus strengthening of the family unit and reducing delinquency, substance abuse, and other mental health problems.

According to McDonald (2000), "Family systems theory/structural family therapy by Salvador Minuchin suggests that activities in which a boundary is drawn around the family unit to the exclusion of non-family members and the inclusion of family members will strengthen the family unit. Eating together at a table is a positive activity that many families fail to organize on a regular basis."

Minuchin's model of family counseling suggests that therapists should not impose their cultural or aesthetic differences on the family that they are charged with helping. While Minuchin does not call himself a value free therapist, this suggests that therapists use the concept of neutrality, for instance, where cultural differences are obviously oppressive to women. If a specific culture allows physical abuse as a means of punishment, is that permissible? The silent therapist is promoting that power differential by being a neutral party. Structural family therapy involves a great deal of direction by the therapist. It is an action oriented model. The goal is to alter the family's behavior by enactment and creation of alternative realities.

Thus, the primary goal of therapy is not symptom relief but rather for the family to recreate itself around a symptom that they can apply these structural changes to all areas of their lives. For example, while this model does not discourage women to nurture themselves, it does not promote it either. While the model encourages personal growth through life experience, it does not address equal opportunity between men and women. It is fully neutral.

Family therapy has been proven effective in the treatment of individuals suffering from a variety of problems, including anxiety, enuresis, and eating disorders, and also in working with victims of child abuse (Gale, 2001).


Boszormenyi-Nagy, Ivan. Krasner, Barbara. (1986). Between Give and Take -- A Clinical Guide to Contextual Therapy. New York, NY: Brunner/Mazel, p.421.

Gale Encyclopedia of Psychology. (2001). Gale Group., 2nd ed. Retrieved from the Internet at

Goding, G. (1992), The History and Principles of Family Therapy, Victorian Association of Family Therapists, Melbourne.

McDonald, Lynn. (May, 2000). Research Background of Each Fast Activity for Multi-Family Group Meetings. FAST Program Founder. Retrieved from the Internet at

Minuchin, S. (1974). Families and family therapy. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press.

Minuchin, S. (1998). Where is the family in narrative family therapy? Journal of Marital and Family Therapy 24(4), 397-418.

Minuchin, S., Rosman, B.L., and Baker, L. (1978). Psychosomatic Families: Anorexia Nervosa in Context. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Moloney, Lawrie. (April, 1994). Responding to Family Crisis: Past and Future Roles of the Professional Helper. Family Matters, No. 37, pp. 52-56.

Peacock, David. Structural Family Therapy. (Winter, 1998). Gestalt! Volume II.

Rybicki, D. (August, 2001). Parental Alienation And Enmeshment Issues in Child Custody Cases. Excerpt from book on Expert Witness Testimony and Forensic Psychology. Retrieved from the Internet at

VanKatwyk, Peter. (Spring, 2001). Towards a Balanced Whole: The Well-Functioning Minuchin, Salvador. (1974). Families & Family… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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