Vargas Family Case Study: Fifth Session

Vargas Family Case Study: Fifth Session

Read “Topic 5: Vargas Family Case Study.” Write a 750-1,000-word paper in which you demonstrate how therapists apply Strategic Family Therapy theories to analyze the presenting problems and choose appropriate interventions.

Be sure to answer the following questions in your paper:

1. How would Jay Haley or Chloe Madanes approach the current presenting problem? Identify and describe two interventions that he/she may use and why.

2. How would an MRI-style therapist approach the current presenting problem? Identify and describe two interventions that would be used and why.

3. How would a Milan-style therapist approach the current presenting problem? Identify and describe two interventions that would be used and why.

Cite at least three academic sources (peer-reviewed journal articles, books, etc.).

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Vargas Family Case Study: Fifth Session


Strategic family therapy has been significantly influenced by concepts found in the Bateson’s cybernetics model. Based on both family and brief psychotherapy, the model focuses on transforming behavior rather than changing insight as seen in other creative interventions (Tramonti, 2018). Under the Bateson’s cybernetics model are three models including; the mental research institute (MRI) model, Haley and Madanes strategic approach and the Milan model. According to Jay Haley, strategic therapy is a form of therapy where the therapist initiates the entire therapy session, designs approaches for every family member with a presenting problem, and takes responsibility about the care offered (Szapocznik et al. 2015). The MRI approach is based on the view that the client’s complaint is the main problem and it is not a symptom of other issues (Ray, 2018). The Milan Family System model views the family as a single functioning unit throughout the entire therapeutic process (Brown, 2015). By using the aforementioned strategic family therapy theories, appropriate interventions will be provided to facilitate a state of wellness for the Vargas family members.

Haley and Madanes Strategic Approach

The Haley and Madanes strategic approach is more concerned with symptoms and the function they serve in the therapy process. After analyzing triadic interactions over long periods of time, Haley was more concerned with power struggles and formulated rules following a hierarchical order (Szapocznik et al. 2015). Madanes on the other hand, was more concerned with incongruous hierarchies where children use symptoms to change the behaviors of their parents. Additionally, this strategic approach believes that families go through dysfunctional stages to be able to get to functional stages. The approach also posits four categories of problems arising from; a desire to dominate, control, be loved, love and to protect others and a desire to repent and forgive (Szapocznik et al. 2015). Therefore, the model focuses on both short and long-term sequences to reflect on chronic structural problems.


The Haley and Madanes approach to family therapy focuses more on increasing the family members’ ability to love and soothe than to dominate or gain control over other family members. With this objective in mind, the love-first approach to intervention is the most effective strategy to use when addressing the Vargas Family. This approach encourages the family to provide love to each other throughout the treatment process (“Types of Intervention Methods”, 2019). The Haley and Madanes model also recognizes the role that children play in affecting their parent’s behavior. As such, the systematic family model of intervention which highlights the influence that one family member has on other members of the family is an effective intervention. By doing this, the highlighted family member responds better to treatment.

MRI Style Therapist Approach

This approach is based on the view that problems arise from the way difficulties in life are handled by an individual or by other members of the family (Rohrbaugh & Shoham, 2013). The therapist’s main aim is to gather adequate information about the presented problems and establish minimal goals towards change. The focus of all interventions is on solving the presenting problem rather than seeking changes in the entire family system. With this in mind, the most effective intervention for Frank Vargas will require the interruption of ionic processes that take place during repeated attempts to address his behavior. Ionic problem solution loops should be used to assess the intervention (Rohrbaugh & Shoham, 2013). In addition to interrupting ionic processes, the therapist can carry out activities that encourage family members to ritualize specific scenarios that result in conflict using objects like hats. The therapist then uses the information to interrupt the problem sequence and allow the family members to reconfigure themselves (Mloispro, 2017).

Milan-Style Therapist Approach

The Milan-style therapist approach shifts the focus away from interactive sequences in the family and directs it towards questioning the family’s belief systems. Therefore, the model strives to help families examine their thoughts and belief systems instead of helping the family transform their behavior (Loras, Bertrando & Ness, 2017). In line with this, two key interventions are identified that could benefit the Vargas family. They include; positive connotations and family rituals. Positive connotation involves reframing the problematic behavior in the family where the symptoms are viewed as positive since they help facilitate the family’s well-being. Family rituals like weddings and funerals play a central role in the family’s life. Therapeutically, these rituals may be used to establish family patterns and alter beliefs (Loras, Bertrando & Ness, 2017).


The Haley and Madanes strategic model, the MRI style approach and the Milan-style therapist approach all draw fundamental concepts from the Bateson’s Cybernetics model. By focusing on the effects that children have on their parent’s behavior, Haley and Madanes model provides interventions that focus on the effect that one family member has on other members. The MRI interventions on the other hand interrupt ionic processes to control behaviors. Lastly, the Milan intervention concentrates on family rituals and uses them to transform behavior.



Brown, J. M. (2015). The Milan Principles of Hypothesizing, Circularity and Neutrality in Dialogical Family Therapy. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 31(3).

Loras, L., Bertrando, P. & Ness, O. (2017). Researching Systematic Therapy History: In Search of a Definition. Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 28(2), 134-149. Doi: 10.1080/08975353.2017.1285656

Mloispro. (2017). Mental Research Institute (MRI) Systemic Therapy. Mindfully, Retrieved from

Ray, W.A. (2018). Bateson’s Cybernetics: The Basis of MRI Brief Therapy: Prologue. Researchgate, 36(8), 859-870. Doi: 10.1108/03684920710777388

Rohrbaugh, M.J. & Shoham, V. (2013). Brief Therapy Based on Interrupting Ironic Processes: The Palo Alto Model. Clinical Psychology (New York), 8(1), 66-81.

Szapocznik, J., Muir, J.A., Duff, J.H., Schwartz, S.J. & Brown, H. (2015). Brief Strategic Family Therapy: Implementing Evidence-based Models in Community Settings. Psychotherapy Research: Journal of the Society for Psychotherapy Research, 25(1), 121-133. Doi: 10.1080/10503307.2013.856044

Tramonti, F. (2018). Steps to an Ecology of Psychotherapy: The Legacy of Gregory Bateson. Systems Research and Behavioral Science, 36(1). Doi: 10.1002/sres.2549

“Types of Intervention Methods”. (2019). Ridgefieldrecovery. Retrieved from

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