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Theoretical Models

Numerous theoretical models have been developed around systems theory therapy, and counseling techniques vary according to the particular theoretical model to which the therapist subscribes. Many therapists are eclectic and use whatever model or techniques seem appropriate for a particular family and treatment setting. These theoretical models include:

Psychodynamic. An object-relations approach to family therapy pioneered by Ackerman (1958) that views dysfunction as the result of inappropriate current behavioral attempts to work out issues of the past.

Generational. Stresses the importance of differentiation, relationships between generations, and triangulation (Bowen, 1978). Therapists function as teachers and coaches.

Communications. Describes pathology as arising out of dysfunctional communication patterns (Bateson, 1972; Jackson & Weakland, 1961; Satir, 1964). Treatment focuses on changing interaction patterns to promote growth, emphasizing conflict management and new adaptive responses to dysfunctional communication.

Structural. Views dysfunction as a consequence of family structure (Haley, 1976; Leibman, Minuchin, & Baker, 1974; Minuchin, S., 1974). Insight comes only after structural change.

Strategic Intervention. A special model of therapeutic change designed by the Ackerman Institute, Jay Haley (1976), and Selvini-Palazzoli (1978), aimed at changing the powerful family rules in families particularly resistant to change. Treatment is brief (eight interviews).