What Is Structural Family Therapy: Structural family therapy (SFT) is a treatment that addresses patterns of interaction that create problems within families. Mental health issues are viewed as signs of a dysfunctional family; therefore, the focus of treatment is on changing the family structure rather than changing individual family members. The goal of SFT is to improve communications and interactions among family members and to highlight appropriate boundaries to create a healthier family structure. SFT is also used working with individuals to look at how someone interacts with others in their life.
How It Works: SFT was developed by psychiatrist Salvador Minuchin in the 1960s while he was working with troubled youth in New York City. Minuchin came to realize that successfully treating children and adolescents requires the support and cooperation of parents and other family members. He felt that the root of most childhood problems is not within the child but within the family unit. Therefore, to change the child’s behavior, the therapist must help change the family dynamics. To do this, Minuchin looked closely at family structure, or hierarchy, family subsystems, and boundaries, both rigid and flexible. The therapist is an active member of the treatment group and gets involved in the dynamics between and among family members to effectively promote change and strengthen the family structure.