Strategic Family Therapy

A family holds hands in therapy.

In 1976, Dr. Milton Erickson and Dr. Don Jackson were the inspiration for the Family Therapy Institute of Washington to develop a therapy structure that was devoted to expanding on other family-based therapy methods of the time. This new method, strategic family therapy, was developed to help clearly and specifically identify the problems in a patient’s family life that is causing the turmoil, and then scientifically moves forward with goal-oriented solutions to those problems.

Our girls’ therapeutic boarding schools use therapeutic directives to reduce uncontrollable or destructive behaviors in struggling teens. These directives are specifically tailored to the individual, her family and peers.

What is strategic family therapy?

Strategic family therapy is one of the most used models of family therapy in the field, today. The underlying focus of strategic family therapy is to identify the problems of each person within a family and to identify how their problems are affecting the entire family dynamic. This paints an honest, but highly complex picture that illuminates the underlying causes of turmoil in a family. At this point, the therapist can help family members come up with lasting solutions and changes that will help them address their own internal issues, and contribute to a healthier family dynamic and home life.

How does strategic family therapy work?

In order for strategic family therapy to work, a therapist must follow a series of steps to properly assert the methods in the therapy structure. These steps are as follows:

  • The therapist must observe the family’s interactions as a neutral observer. At this point, the entire family member must be apart of these interactions.
  • The therapist directly confronts and questions each family member about their internal problems, and compares these answers to the interactions that they witnessed.
  • The therapist facilitates a discussion between family members where they can talk about the issues that have been discussed. The therapist provides what knowledge they can about these problems, and points out the current power dynamics of the family.
  • The therapist helps family members set up long term goals about how their behavior will change.
  • Each goal is broken down into tangible tasks that can mark progress for changing each person’s behavior. The therapist helps identify how this can be done.