Strategic Family Therapy And How It Can Help You & Your Family

Updated June 02, 2021

Medically Reviewed By: Melinda Santa

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We've all had problems in the family, be it unruly kids, parents, and/or teenagers not respecting each other's boundaries, parents trying to keep their relationship stable for the children, and so on. If you or someone you know has had family troubles, there is no shame in considering family counseling.

With that said, there are many types of family therapies. The one we'll look at is strategic family therapy. Before we look at that, let's look at what family therapy in general is.

What Is Family Therapy?

Family therapy centers around the idea of families being their systems. In the psychological context, the system will interact and have rules in their way, affecting people. The way your parents raise you has quite an influence on how you'll be as an adult.

When it comes to family therapists, they believe that the way families do or do not interact is the main contribution to difficult family dynamics. They'll try to think of ways families can better communicate with each other to have a healthy relationship.

What Is Strategic Therapy?

When you think of the word strategic, what do you think of? Perhaps a general sitting in his quarters, trying to figure out the best way to win the war. Or a coach who is thinking of the best way to win the game. A strategic therapist is not going to ask questions to their clients and hope something sticks. Instead, they're going to think of creative solutions to the problems their clients are experiencing.

They're not interested in just figuring out the cause of the problem. They're going to teach you how to solve the problem that lies in front of you. The strategic therapist isn't going to listen to your problems but instead work with you to find the solution.

Therefore, it's safe to say that strategic family therapy combines these two ideas.

The Steps Of Strategic Therapy

Every counselor will perform strategic therapy in their way, but there are some basic steps that most therapists will follow. Here's the basic outline:


1. Find Solvable Problems

The therapist will listen to the client's problems and look for doable solutions to those problems. Some issues will take longer to solve than others, but some can be solved easily. The therapists will look for the best solution that can be accomplished with ease.

2. Create Goals

Perhaps the best motivator is the concept of a goal. You reach the end of the goal, and you feel so great. Imagining your accomplishments as a race is perhaps the best way to win, and your therapist will know that. They'll create short and long-term goals.

3. Make A Plan To Accomplish Goals

As we said, a strategic therapist is like a coach, and they'll work with you to formulate the best plan to accomplish the goals. They'll try to tailor the goals according to how the person works. Some people work better with groups, some alone, and others work better with a little help all the time. It all depends.

4. See How They Accomplish Their Goals

A good therapist won't just set goals and push their clients on their merry way. They're going to follow up with their clients and see how they accomplish the goals, or if they're even doing so at all. If there are any hurdles to the goals, the therapists will intervene and figure out a new strategy to accomplish the goals.

5. Success

Once everyone has accomplished their goals, the therapist will get everyone together and talk about how well they did and teach them how to accomplish any future goals.

Wondering How Strategic Family Therapy Can Help Your Family?
You're Not The Only One. Get Help From a Licensed Family Therapist Online Now.

Strategic Family Therapy (SFT)

Strategic family therapy, or SFT, takes strategic and family therapies and turns them into a way for families to solve problems and become stronger.

SFT will study how the family interacts and then try to replicate it. The therapist will become the family member as they ask questions and spark debate. The family's problems will soon show like a sore thumb, and the therapist can then point out all the flaws in their interactions. However, where there are flaws, there are also strengths, and a good therapist will use these strengths and use them to the family's advantage.

Everyone likes to pay attention to the negative, and plenty of families don't realize the good in them. By pointing out the good, a therapist can make the family interact with one another better.

Haley's Model Of Family Therapy

Jay Haley, the pioneer of strategic therapy, created family therapy in the '50s. He observed how families interacted and how most psychologists didn't know how to handle them, creating results that were not very effective, especially for dysfunctional families of lower classes.

Haley worked for the next few decades, creating models that were centered around families. He soon created his model of family therapy, and this is the summary of it.

  1. How individuals develop problems: Haley believed that individuals do not create problems while they're alone but respond to the people around them. Thus, families are the perfect place to develop problems.
  2. Developing solutions: the therapists will then create ways for the families to solve problems. These solutions will be specific to how the family interacts and how the dynamic family works.
  3. Studying the family's behavior: the therapist will study how the family behaves. A particular behavior will be scrutinized, and this will then be compared to how the family responds to this behavior.
  4. The therapy will not be about the person but how the family structure is. The therapists will look at certain family situations and see how the best way to solve them will be. They will then create strategies for the families to help them solve the problems without any fuss.

5. The change will soon happen. If the therapist is successful, they should help the family eliminate any behaviors or issues tearing them apart. For instance, if the family is dealing with an unruly teenager, they'll create a solution that satisfies both teen and parent.

Is It Effective?

Perhaps the biggest question you want to be answered before you seek therapy is how effective it is. SFT has been around for over half a century, so they are doing something right. It's quite an effective way to solve family issues.

With that said, SFT involves participation from your family as well. The therapist isn't a magician who can wave away your problems with a magic wand; instead, they're going to work with you to create solutions to all your problems. If your family doesn't effort to accomplish those goals, it won't be effective. But by following the strategies your therapist gives you, you'll be surprised at how effective SFT can be.

With that said, you should pick a therapist who has a good rating. Not all therapists are equal, and you'll want one who specializes in SFT. Please read the reviews, make sure they're qualified, and then give them a try.

Some Causes Of Difficult Family Dynamics

Before you seek help, it may be helpful to consider the causes of the difficulties of your family dynamics. Here is a list of common causes of family dysfunction.

  1. Parents Are Too Strict: The child believes that the parent's authority is too strong, be it religious, financial, personal, and so on. Sometimes, the child has a point. Other times, the child needs to accept authority. And there are cases where it's a bit of both.
  2. Parents Aren't Supportive: Be it emotionally or financially. The parent may be too busy with work to talk with their child, resulting in dysfunction.
  3. Addictive Personalities: The parents may have an addiction to gambling, alcohol, and other substances, leading to family dysfunctions.

These are just a few reasons. You should know if your family is dysfunctional or not, however, and if they are, then you need to

Seek Help!

If your family is dysfunctional, there is no shame in seeking a therapist who can help your family get on the right track. The family is important, and if you keep your family dysfunctional, you may regret it down the line. Having a family that stays together is important, be it the husband and wife or the children.


So if you have a problem, and none of your family members can think of a solution, talk to a counselor today. They can help you find a solution that you might not have thought about and tell you your family's positives. Thinking positively, and noticing your family's positive traits instead of focusing on the negative, can be a great key to keeping your family together.

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