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Family Therapy Description Case Study


The paper aims at discussing the worth of the structural family therapy model offered by Salvador Minuchin in the middle of the 20th century. The Duncan’s family is taken for the analysis with its main problem – the inability to talk the things that bother openly. The implementation of the model as well as the comparison with the ways of how other authors use the same model proves its effectiveness and the necessity to provide families with help on a professional level.

It is not enough to define the problem and offer a solution. The SFT model aims at explaining the roles of each member of the family and the description of the changes that can be made. In the paper, the evaluation of different situations is given in order to understand how it is necessary to use the SFT model and benefit from it within a short period of time.

Summary and Examination of a Family

The family consists of 4 members: Mr. and Mrs. Duncan (both are the 37-year-old White Americans), Jimmy (an adopted 8-year-old White American son), and Sunny (a native American-born 3-month-old daughter). Paul and Jane Duncan started dating at school. They truly believed they had to be together all the time.

When they finished their education, got the degrees, and found jobs (at the age of 25), they wanted to have a baby. Still, they faced certain medical difficulties and agreed to adoption in several years. Jimmy seemed to be a new brief for their family. They loved the boy the most. Jimmy does not know he is adopted.

Jane stopped working and devoted herself to the child. As soon as Jimmy started visiting a kindergarten, Jane returned to work and earned good money. When she was 35, she got to know she was pregnant. She gave a birth to an amazing Sunny but did not quit. Paul had some difficulties at work and agreed to take care of the baby so Jane could continue working.

Parents never distinguish their children. No serious quarrels took place in the family. A number of problems took place. Jane Duncan: she likes her job and hates her inability to stay with a child at the same time. She stops paying much attention to Paul as her husband. She likes the way he treats children, still, she wants him to find a good job soon.

Paul Duncan: he enjoys the time when he should not go for a work and does not pay much attention to the search of a new one. He likes sitting with babies, but he wants his wife paying more attention to him. Jimmy: he is envious with his sister having more attention of his father. He faced certain problems at school and participated in different fights without serious reasons.

Sunny: she is a calm child with a number of demands inherent to her age.

Structural Family Therapy Model by Salvador Minuchin

Structural family therapy is a model offered by Salvador Minuchin to provide families with the necessary portion of the treatment and professional help. The chosen approach should correspond to a number of issues discussed below.


  • the family has to be evaluated in regards to the functions each member of the family has;
  • the analysis of the current state of affairs based on the information taken from each family member separately and the whole family at the same time is necessary;
  • the distribution of the duties has to be offered;
  • the necessity to re-align the roles of each member in the frames of one whole and the boundaries of relations for a family takes place.


  • the organization of a group communication;
  • a clear identification of functions and explanations of the choices;
  • the combination of the functions of the father and the son (it is possible for Paul to talk more with Jimmy and asks him to assist in sitting with Sunny; still, it should be not in a form of an order, but in a form of a request, a desire to have some portion of help and understanding);
  • the communication with Jane and evaluation her own attitude to the situation when a mother works and a father is employed;
  • the promotion of open talks between all members of the family.

The SFT model is an opportunity to understand what makes each member of the family does the things he/she finds inappropriate or unpleasant and define the alternatives.

Examination of Research Articles

There are many studies that are based on the structural family therapy model. The example is the work by Weaver, Greeno, Marcus, Fusco, Zimmerman, and Anderson (2013) about the simultaneous effects SFT can have on child and maternal mental health symptomatology in regards to the needs of different family members.

It introduces the evaluation of several families with mothers and children developing different relations, the main problem of which is the inability to develop good relations because of depressions or inabilities to control their own behavior. The identification of the subsystems, their roles, and boundaries is a crucial step of the structural approach with the help of which the families can develop better relations.

Another article written by Epstein, Berger, Fang, and Messina (2012) proves that the SFT model is one of the best options to analyze Chinese families that truly believe in the power of family regardless members’ work, ethnicity, or age. The main problem of the families lies in a diversity of cultures that are usually inherent to a number of families. The model helps to realize how it is necessary to define the boundaries and find the most appropriate solution.

Problem from the Family Perspective

The problem of the family under consideration is the inability to talk about personal discontents openly. In spite of so many years living together, Paul and Jane cannot face the truth and realize that some problems and inabilities to solve them take place. The family is in need of professional help within the frames of which a therapist is able to involve Paul, Jane, and Jimmy in an open discussion during which it is possible to discuss what bother each member of the family.


Epstein, N.B., Berger, A.T., Fang, J.J., & Messina, L.A. (2012). Applying Western-developed family therapy models in China. Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 23(3), 217-237.

Weaver, A., Greeno, C.G., Marcus, S.C., Fusco, R.A., Zimmerman, T., & Anderson, C. (2013). Effects of structural family therapy on child and maternal mental health symptomatology. Research on Social Work Practice, 23(3), 294-303.

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"Family Therapy Description." IvyPanda, 24 Dec. 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/family-therapy-description/.

1. IvyPanda. "Family Therapy Description." December 24, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/family-therapy-description/.


IvyPanda. "Family Therapy Description." December 24, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/family-therapy-description/.


IvyPanda. 2019. "Family Therapy Description." December 24, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/family-therapy-description/.


IvyPanda. (2019) 'Family Therapy Description'. 24 December.

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