Vargas Family Case Study Fourth Session

Vargas Family Case Study Fourth Session

Read “Topic 4: Vargas Family Case Study.” Write a 750-1,000-word paper in which you demonstrate how therapists apply structural family therapy theory to analyze the presenting problems and choose appropriate interventions.

Be sure to answer the following questions in your paper:

1. What are two current presenting problems for the Vargas family?

2. How are the problems maintained according to the structural family therapy perspective?

3. What structural interventions would you plan to use in your next session? (identify and describe your plan for two interventions)

4. What is the role of the counselor in the change process according to the structural family therapy perspective?

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

Prepare this assignment according to the guidelines found in the APA Style Guide, located in the Student Success Center. An abstract is not required.

This assignment uses a rubric. Please review the rubric prior to beginning the assignment to become familiar with the expectations for successful completion.



Vargas Family Case Study Fourth Session

Structural family therapy is a form of treatment that focuses on patterns of interaction that cause problems within a family (Fisher, 2017). Structural family therapy (SFT) focuses on improving communication and interactions in the family and highlighting boundaries that would result in a healthier family structure. After having sessions with the family and observing how they communicate and interact with each other, the therapist should then draw a chart of the family’s structure. The chart is used to identify hierarchy, sub relationships and boundaries within the family unit. Additionally, the chart helps the therapist identify interventions that will help improve the situation (Fisher, 2017). According to SFT, the root cause of many childhood problems originates within the family unit. Therefore, to successfully transform a child’s behavior, a therapist must first help change the family and its dynamics.

Current Presenting Problems for the Vargas Family

A fourth session with the Vargas family has highlighted several problems. Bob and Elizabeth are still not communicating effectively when it comes to Frank and how to handle his behavior. After arriving separately to the session, Elizabeth is clearly upset when she learns that instead of Bob taking Frank to work, he takes him out for ice cream and a movie. Additionally, Bob does not believe that Frank’s suspension from school was valid. Furthermore, he thinks that Elizabeth is overacting and Frank’s behavior is normal. There is also a clear division within the family’s dynamics. Elizabeth and Heidi are on one side with Bob and Frank on the opposite side. Frank is more comfortable with his farther and believes that his mother gets angry easily. Heidi on the other hand, gravitates towards her mother and prefers sitting next to her. Despite Heidi’s stellar performance in school, more attention is still given to Frank and his behavior. As a result, Heidi feels left out. Lastly, Bob and Elizabeth are still divided on Frank’s behavior and whether there is something wrong with it.


How the Problems are Maintained according to the Structural Family Therapy Perspective

According to structural family therapy, problems in the family are maintained by dysfunctional family organizations. Every family is organized into subsystems that have boundaries used to control interactions between family members (Jimenez et al. 2019). The family subsystems are further divided into several categories including spousal, parental, sibling and extended categories. Every family member has a specific role to play in each subsystem. Likewise, every subsystem has unique tasks and when one subsystem intrudes on another, it results in structural difficulties. In the case of the Vargas family, Frank belonging to the sibling category, through his bad behavior is intruding into his parents’ relationship altering the family structure. Additionally, problems are caused when the family’s communication patterns are altered (Jimenez et al. 2019). The Vargas family has clear breakdowns in their communication patterns. Bob takes Frank out on a fun day despite Elizabeth’s instructions not to do so. Likewise, Bob instructs Frank to keep the trip a secret from his mother. When Heidi tries to tell his parents about her achievements in school, she is practically ignored and all attention is directed towards Frank. Overall, a breakdown in the family structure and communication channels between the Vargas family members are the two main contributing factors to the family’s problems.

Vargas Family Case Study Fourth Session

Structural Interventions to be used

The mirroring activity is a fun exercise to help family members relate better with each other. The therapist begins by directing each individual to stand in front of them and copy everything they do or say. Essentially behaving like a mirror. This a fun activity especially for children as it helps them better communicate their emotions to the therapist (Ackerman, 2017). The activity requires family members to be attentive to each other, cooperate with each other and communicate with both their body language and their words. Additionally, the mirroring activity allows family members to be in tune with their feelings and with each other. It is effective with siblings and with parents.

Constructing a genogram helps the therapist and client identify patterns in the family’s genealogy and history and how they might have influenced their emotions and behaviors. A genogram is a graphic representation of the client’s family tree. It contains basic information including name and date of birth (Ackerman, 2017). It also contains additional information concerning chronic illnesses and social behaviors. By constructing a genogram, clients are able to analyze their relationships and determine whether there is abuse or whether the relationships are built on love and understanding.

Role of the Counselor in the Change Process

According to the structural family therapy perspective, the counselor’s main role is to modify the family’s dynamics and way of interacting to develop appropriate boundaries and effective family structures (Williams, Foye & Lewis, 2016). To effect change, counselors should be actively involved in the therapy session, map out the family’s underlying structure and identify potential avenues for change. Additionally, therapists should implement interventions that will change ineffective family structures to ensure healthy functioning.



Ackerman, C. (2017). What is Family Therapy? +6 Techniques & Interventions. Retrieved from

Fisher, U. (2017). Use of Structural Family Therapy with an Individual Client Diagnosed with Intermittent Explosive Disorder: A Case Study. Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 28(2), 150-169.

Jimenez, L., Hidalgo, V., Baena, S., Leon, A. & Lorence, B. (2019). Effectiveness of Structural-Strategic Family Therapy in the Treatment of Adolescents with Mental Health Problems and their Families. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 16(7), 1255. Doi: 10.3390/ijerph16071255

Williams, N.D., Foye, A. & Lewis, F. (2016). Applying Structural Family Therapy in the Changing Context of the Modern African American Single Mother. Journal of Feminist Family Therapy, 28(1), 30-47. Doi: 10.1080/08952833.2015.1130547



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