Bowenian, Strategic and Structural Approaches to Family Therapy

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Laura Miller

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There are differences between Bowenian, Strategic and Structural approaches to family therapy. Bowenian approaches to family therapy involves emotions and family dynamics. The Bowenian approach focuses on aiming for normal family functioning, such as when family members are differentiated, the anxiety in the family is at a low, when all partners remain in good contact with their family and when family members are able to properly manage behavior disorders, such as stress (Nichols & Davis, 2017). A Strategic approach focuses on families keeping their integrity when facing environmental challenges from negative feedback (Nichols & Davis, 2017). With positive feedback being used, the family is able to accommodate to any changing circumstances.

The structural approaches to family therapy include determining why a family behaves the way that they do (Nichols & Davis, 2017). The main approaches to structural therapy with families include using accommodation, establishing boundaries and work together to make decisions on major life choices (Nichols & Davis, 2017). The theoretical approach that resonates with me the most with my approach to family therapy is the strategic approach. This is because the strategic approach focuses on using positive feedback being used to help the family be able to accommodate to any changing circumstances in the family. This aligns with cognitive behavioral theory, which is my chosen theory for counseling.


Nichols, M. P. & Davis, S. D. (2017). Family therapy: Concepts and methods (11th ed.). Pearson Education, Inc.

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Angie Eller

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Structural family therapy focuses on working to achieve a healthy hierarchical organization of the family where different subsystems exist with their boundaries and limits. According to this approach, difficulties expressed are a reflection of a maladaptive reaction to changing demands, a dysfunctional hierarchy within the family, or a family structural imbalance. (Jimenez, et al., 2019) The main goal of this approach is to establish clear boundaries, shift the hierarchal structure, and strengthen subsystems.

Strategic family therapy has a more direct impression and according to this approach, the symptom is regarded as serving a function to the family in addition to reflecting a family difficulty to solve a conflict. In addition, when families are faced with an issue, they work to adopt solutions that have been helpful to them in the past, however, when those solutions are no longer valid, a family can become stuck in a symptom-maintaining sequence. When this happens, they are encouraged to find new solutions (Jimenez, et al., 2019).

The cornerstone of Bowenian family therapy is based on an interpersonal and intrapsychic concept, and focuses on an individual’s differentiation of self, or the capacity to think and reflect instead of automatically responding to emotional pressures. A Bowenian therapist is not interested in changing people or solving problems but instead views therapy as a chance for people to learn about themselves and their relationships, and then assume responsibility for their actions. Additionally, this approach helps family members move past blaming others and instead focus on their own role in family conflict (Nichols & Davis, 2017).

Because according to the text, Minuchin’s structural model is considered through out the world as the most influential approach to family therapy, it definitely influenced my desire to use it in my future counseling (Nichols, & Davis, 2017). However, aside from the worldwide evidence of success from other therapists, the elements of mapping, enactment, reframing, and restructuring all resonate with me because they are very similar to the ways in which I interact with my own family during conflict and have found success in reestablishing homeostasis.

Jimenez, L., Hidalgo, V., & Lorence, B. (2019). Effectiveness of structural-strategic family therapy in the treatment of adolescents with mental health problems and their families. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 16(7): 1255. doin: 10.3390/ijerph1607125

Nichols, M. P. & Davis, S. D. (2017). Family therapy: Concepts and methods (11th ed.). Pearson Education, Inc.

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