1 minute read



In Bowenian family therapy, it is argued that a conflict between two people will resolve itself in the presence of a third person who can avoid emotional participation with either while relating actively to both (Bowen 1978). Typically, it is the therapist who takes on the nonanxious role and forms a triangle with a couple. While remaining emotionally unreactive, the therapist is able to induce change in the relationship that would not have occurred had the same things been said in the absence of the therapist (Friedman 1991). Alternatively, a family system can be detriangulated when the therapist insists that one family member take a position on an issue and maintain that position despite opposition from other family members that might occur (Hoffman 1981). This strategy helps establish differentiation of self but also, in a three-person emotional system, allows one person to remain detached and unreactive.

An essential element of structural family therapy is introducing challenges to the prevailing maladaptive family structure (Minuchin and Fishman 1981). In the case of triangulating cross-generational coalitions, it is the goal of the therapist to realign subsystem boundaries. For example, if a family is characterized by an overinvolved mother-child dyad and an excluded father, techniques are employed to strengthen the parenting alliance and to increase the father's participation in the parental subsystem. One way to do this is to give the parents a common task (e.g., directing them to support one another's parenting efforts). This type of intervention strengthens the parental subsystem and increases the proximity between the spouses while at the same time increasing the psychological distance between the mother and the child. Family members may be asked to physically change their seating arrangement in order to facilitate proper boundary development. If a child engages in frequent detouring behaviors in the Couples that are unable to resolve problems between themselves may redirect their concern onto their children. One parent might show excessive concern for the child while the other parent withdraws. LAURA DWIGHT/CORBIS face of interparental conflict, the therapist may ask the child to sit next to him and instruct the parents to request that their child be quiet while they discuss an area of disagreement.

Additional topics

Marriage and Family EncyclopediaFamily Theory & Types of FamiliesTriangulation - Systemic And Structural Family Theories, Detriangulation, The Empirical Study Of Triangulation, Conclusion