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Analysis of Strategic Family Therapy

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Strategic theory and interventions strongly affect the founding of family therapy. Strategic family therapy focuses on affecting different family members through careful intervention planning and the publication of directives for resolving problems. These directives may appear to be in direct opposition to the goals of treatment. As we all know strategic therapy is one of the most widely studied approaches for treating family dysfunction.

Families undertake complex interactional orders that involve both verbal and nonverbal. For example, posture, intonation, volume, and different forms of communication. Family members continue to send and receive numerous messages. Strategic family approaches were designed to change psychological difficulties by solving problematic interactions between individuals. Especially, strategic family therapy helps one’s to state individual problems in the family. For instance, depression, anxiety, and Schizophrenia. Many psychological symptoms are stated as the results of misguided attempts at change. For example, concerned family members may attempt to protect one’s patient from anxiety by reorganizing activities and state out so that the patient is never left alone.

First, let’s talk about the history of strategic family therapy. The timeline affects strategic family therapy. The cybernetic theories of Gregory Bateson in 1940. Strategic family therapy developed from the strategic therapy of Milton Erickson in 1950s. The structural therapy of Minuchin in the 1960s. Also the brief therapy model of the Mental Research Institute and communication theory of Don Jackson. Moreover, Jay Haley & Cloe Madame combined these elements into strategic problem-solving therapy, which evolved into a family systems approach. Furthermore, the influence of cybernetics on strategic family therapy. There are 3 main models in this theory. First of all, the Mental Research Institute which started by Jackson who worked with Bateson, and with Haley on the Bateson project. The Haley and Madanes Strategic approach is influenced by Erikson, Bateson, and Minuchin. Erikson believed the unconscious was full of knowledge. Thus, no need to give people insight, just helps them to get access to it on one’s own. The MRI which is families makes basic knowledge however misguided one’s attempts to solve one’s problems. The solution selection as well as its success is affected by system rules. Identify the feedback loop, find the law governing and change the circulations and regulations. They are not interested in long-term change, insight, and what function the indication serves in the family, serious issue-focused behavioral change is important.

Haley and Madanes' theories also take a fundamental role in the development of strategic family therapy. Four categories of problems result from their theories. Desire to control and dominate, desire to be loved, desire to love and protect others, and desire to repent and forgive. Therefore, Haley and Madanes are interested more in short sequences, but also in long ones that last years and reflect chronic structural problems. The Milan Group theories followed many of the works of MRI, Haley, and Madanes. Which worked with power struggles and boundaries, focused on long time spanning even multiple generations, and worked mostly with families which includes members with psychological problems, for example, depression or schizophrenic families.

Communication is an ever-present feature of human interaction. The five axioms of communication, formulated by Don Jackson help to describe the processes of communication that take place during interaction and help to explain how a misunderstanding may come about. This includes five main types of axioms. First of all, One cannot communicate. Secondly, Communication occurs on levels. Thirdly, Communication has content and relationship which is report and commands. Fourth, the relationship is defined by commands. Fifth, relationships are symmetrical or complementary.

First of all, one can not communicate 'Activity or inactivity, words or silence all have message value, they influence others and these others, in turn, cannot respond to these communications and are thus themselves communicating' (Watzlawick, Beavin, and Jackson, 1967) Everything does is a message, 'Activity or inactivity, words or silence all have message value: they influence others and these others, in turn, cannot respond to these communications and are thus themselves communicating' (Watzlawick, Beavin, and Jackson, 1967, p. 1). However, there is a problem, in the relationship system though. For instance, if one doesn’t want to communicate and inadvertently communicates this fact it may anger the other party. Insensitivity to these differences or the signals that people send may hinder or undermine a smooth process considerately.

Secondly, communication occurs on level 'Content and relationship levels of communication' The actual subject matter of what is being discussed is content. And the relationship level of a communicative is how the two communicators view one another and how they communicate it. As Watzlawick, Beavin, and Jackson (1967) said, 'All relationship statements are about: ‘This is how I see myself, this is how I see you, this is how I see you seeing me’' and further determines 'how this communication is to be taken'. Watzlawick and Beavin (1967) state the relationship level of strategic family therapy is that 'information about this information' (p. 5).

Thirdly, Punctuation. How participants in the system punctuate their communicative sequences. In a communicative event 'every item in the sequence is also stimulus, response and reinforcement' (Bateson & Jackson qt. in Watzlawick, Beavin, and Jackson, 1967, p. 4). One can interpret an act as being a response. For example, 'I don't trust you, because you don't share your feelings with me'. The other can interpret it as being a stimulus. For example, 'I don't share my feelings with people that don't trust me'. Different punctuations make people see the sequence of events differently and may lead to incessant conflicts which make pointing the finger at each other which is pointless way.

Fourth, command and Report. Which is human communication pragmatics (Watzlawick, Beavin & Jackson, 1967), strongly influenced by Haley and Madame's theory of one can not communicate. All research has a report and command function. ( Watzlawick, Bavelas, & Jackson, 1967) The report, or content of the message, conveys information. For instance, “our neighbor just insulted me!” may transmit a command. “Do something about it.” The command is not only captured by words, but also via nonverbal communication. In families, command messages are patterned as rules, which Jackson regulated family rules (Jackson, 1956) communication can be both digital and analogical. There are two different codes based on this theory. On one hand, digital code is what the person says, what the words actually mean. On the other hand, analogical code is how something is said or the nonverbal intimation that goes with it. This means that someone can convey two opposing messages at once, which may cause problems. It pays off to learn how to identify when people are silently saying yes, even when you hear 'no'.

The fifth axiom was complementary and symmetrical communication. Concerned with the communication being complementary. Either the participants in the system are on the same ground with regard to power relations, or one of them is over the other.

Case conceptualization.

First of all, feedback loops which are the mechanisms of interactions through information are returned to the system and bring into influence it. There are both negative and positive feedback loops. The negative feedback loops are ways in which families correct dysfunction in family functioning so as to return it to a previous state. What are considered “Symptoms”? It’s the result of misguided attempts at changing an existing difficulty

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(Watzlawick, 1974) Symptoms that make a family's things worse. For instance, the depressed person whose family tries so hard to cheer him up, therefore, making him more and more depressed. This attempts to solve the problem and to deteriorate it. For conceptualization of “symptoms”, a symptom is refer to a communication act, with message qualities, which serves as a sort of contract between different members and has a function within the interpersonal network. (Haley, 1976) The family is an interpersonal system that is in many ways homologous to other cybernetics systems. (Hoffman, 1971).

The treatment goal has several goals. First-order change, occurs within a system according to the rules of the system and logical change to a problem. For a second-order change, a change in the rules of the system, and operating principles are changed and outside the change of effects with the whole system. And for manipulation is unavoidable all relationships have hidden agendas, which expected change in clients. Which focuses on creating second-order change, shift into a new level of homeostasis (Foley, 1986), Permanent after the temporary change (Foley, 1986), And the goal, changing the existing rules to create new problems (Reaser, 1982)

And following are therapeutic techniques that have several general characteristics, generally quite pragmatic, concerned with techniques that work only, care less about the family dynamic, symptom-focused, and behaviorally oriented. When power struggles are avoided, use indirect ways of turning the family’s involvement into positive use, positive interpretation, and homeostatic trends are employed. And cornerstones which are the utilization of tasks and directives. And there are problems that are solvable form, objectively agreed upon, and analyzed the outcome.

There are main techniques adopted. First of all, paradoxical communication. Paradoxical Communication, which does something that seems in opposition to the goals of treatment ( Stanton, M. D.1981). Secondly, assumption, which is great resistance to change, under considerable pressure to adopt its ways of interacting and communicating. And resist the therapist’s efforts to intake them change. Thirdly, directives, for instructions which homework assignments aimed to help families interrupt homeostatic patterns of problem-unsolvable behavior and families need to interact, negotiate and communicate with others about specific behavioral assignments. Fifth, help illuminate their processes of F.O & S.O change. For example, what they have tried in the past. Lastly, paradoxical directives, direct the client to continue, are non-confrontational, undermine resistance, and tie into patients.

The therapeutic double-bind which forces clients into a sure-win situation is Used to warn against precocious change, allowing the family to feel acceptable and unblamed, uncovers counter-paradoxical patterns, and interrupts unproductive games. And for prescription, there is serval symptom prescription. This included requests to continue to perform and expand the symptom, compliance-based and disdained-based. For positioning, enlarge or overstate the family’s explanation of the problem. And for restraining, and controlling techniques. This restraining technique includes attempts to discourage, or even deny the possibility of change, warned of the dangers of change, restrained from trying to change, asked to change slowly. For example “Go slowly,” “The situation appears hopeless,” or “Don’t change.” The family is conflicted about changing.

And strategy family therapy also includes rite, which alters dysfunctional familial dynamics which contribute to different family problems. For first and second-order change which engages families in a sequence of actions that contradicted family rules. Also made use to dramatize positive meaning. For example, power struggles in parenting. And reframing provides another meaning to explain an event (Piercy, et al.) and provides a new framework from which to evaluate interactions. This lead to changes in reactions to behaviors (first-order change) or to the alteration of rules that govern behavior (second-order change), do not necessarily have to reflect the actual truth, criticized for an overly pragmatic approach in which any reframe that might lead to a change was allowable and increased their efforts to be sensitive

For relabeling which positive connotation including similar to reframing, changing the label attached to a person or problem from negative to positive, what problem behaviors might actually serve a purpose in familial homeostasis, this particular pattern may not be needed to change and focus on larger issues instead. For instance, the Child “acts out” when parents arguing

For strengths, first of all, resolving presenting problems by focusing on behavioral sequences, getting people to behave differently, shifting the family organization so that the presenting problem is no longer functional, move the family toward the appropriate stage of family development, problems often arise during the transition from one developmental and stage to the next.

Secondly, the strategic approach solves through the presenting problem, individuals don’t develop problems in isolation, but as a response to their social environment, the therapist develops techniques for solving problems specific to the family’s interactions and structure and the therapist sees the problem as part of a sequence of interactions of those in the individual’s immediate social environment. Thirdly, symptoms of a particular pathology or behavior must be studied in relation to the family system. Fourth, the emphasis of the therapy is not on the individual but on the structure. Lastly, the goals of strategic family therapy are to solve problems, achieve the family’s goals ultimately, and change an individual’s dysfunctional or some problematic behaviors.

For weakness, first of all, giving one-sided reframings or paradoxical instructions. Secondly, the problems of conventional morality, deception regardless of motivation and circumstance is viewed as immoral (Kohlberg, 1969). Thirdly, deception is corrupt and not ethical to deceive a patient for the patient’s own good. There are also several risks in strategy family therapy. X long-term therapies involve a rapid destabilization of the current situation and change is initiated by the therapist with the use of interventions that are not substantially influenced by different factors.

For disrespectful, first of all, comparatively unconcerned with searching for and uncovering the “whys” of behavior (Haley, 1976). Secondly, differentiate the facts of functioning in human relationship systems (Bowen,1978) “how, when, and where they are taking place”. Thirdly, therapists are not obligated to explain the observations or share the basis for the interventions. Fourth, less concerned about the information flowing between therapists and insight-oriented therapists. Fifth, act on the information for discussion and share it completely, X takes patients entirely into confidence and suggested without a full revelation. Moreover, adaptation in Chinese definitely, Hong Kong is greatly influenced by Confucianism. However, how’s a strategic family related to Confucianism?

In conclusion, strategic family therapy conceptualize symptoms as the indicators of system stucking. In order to recover the system to a homeostatic state, people need to balance the imbalance system in a directive way. Although it can be used to change the system patterns it neglects affection and self-growth. That leads to its questionable application in the Chinese context.

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Analysis of Strategic Family Therapy. (2023, April 21). Edubirdie. Retrieved November 29, 2023, from
“Analysis of Strategic Family Therapy.” Edubirdie, 21 Apr. 2023,
Analysis of Strategic Family Therapy. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Nov. 2023].
Analysis of Strategic Family Therapy [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2023 Apr 21 [cited 2023 Nov 29]. Available from:
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