Strategic Therapy in Couple Counselling
Strategic therapy involves the therapist designing specific approaches to each of the presenting issues. Symptoms and problems are viewed as a couple’s dysfunctional way of communicating and specific strategies are used to alleviate these problems. The strategic therapist places great emphasis on the sequence of interactions between couples. Sequence of interactions refers to habitual ways in which the couple behaves with one another.
For example: when one spouse speaks, does the other spouse interrupt or reject what is being said? By identifying the relevant sequence of interactions, the therapist can develop strategic interventions that target the problem. This style of therapy is action oriented and the therapist takes full responsibility for influencing the outcomes of the therapy (Long & Young, 2007; Brown & Brown, 2002).
The model employs a mix of two styles of directives; therapy inspired and client inspired. The therapist inspired directive is where the therapist encourages the client to try an action or idea that the therapist has developed either through coaching or as a form of advice.
A client inspired directive on the other hand refers to the therapist encouraging the client to try an action or an idea that the client has developed. Overall, the therapy recognises the importance of a quality therapeutic alliance in order to achieve desired outcomes.
According to strategic therapy, problems in relationships develop in three ways. The first way is through the cybernetic process. This refers to challenges being turned into chronic problems if they are not appropriately resolved.
The second way problems are seen to develop in relationships is structural whereby problems are seen as a result of displaced hierarchies in the family. For example, when conflict between a husband and wife increases, a wife may get closer to her son and begin to ignore the husband.
The third way problems are seen to develop in relationships is functional whereby problems are seen to develop in relationships when people try to protect or control one another covertly (Nichols & Schwartz, 2004). The ultimate aim of strategic therapy is centralised around helping couples define clear goals, problem solve, reorganise the family hierarchy, structure and improve communication.
Assumptions of the Strategic Model
- Problems and functions must be considered within the interactional context in which they occur.
- Emphasis is on the sequence of interaction between couples
- Emphasis is on the present and not the past. The history of the couple is irrelevant as the dysfunctional behaviour is
- believed to be maintained by current interactions.
- Insight is not viewed as a vital component of change.
(Long & Young, 2007; Brown & Brown, 2002)
Goals of Strategic Therapy
- Define clear and achievable goals.
- Change behavioural responses to problems.
- Improve problem solving skills.
- Reorganise and Improve communication.
(Adapted from: Nichols & Schwartz, 2004)