Salvador Minuchin

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Salvador Minuchin
Born(1921-10-13)October 13, 1921
San Salvador, Entre Ríos, Argentina
DiedOctober 30, 2017(2017-10-30) (aged 96)
Boca Raton, Florida, United States
ResidenceBoca Raton, Florida
Known for Structural family therapy

Salvador Minuchin (October 13, 1921 – October 30, 2017) was a family therapist born and raised in San Salvador, Entre Ríos, Argentina. He developed structural family therapy, which addresses problems within a family by charting the relationships between family members, or between subsets of family (Minuchin, 1974). These charts represent power dynamics as well as the boundaries between different subsystems. The therapist tries to disrupt dysfunctional relationships within the family, and cause them to settle back into a healthier pattern.

Family therapy, also referred to as couple and family therapy, marriage and family therapy, family systems therapy, and family counseling, is a branch of psychotherapy that works with families and couples in intimate relationships to nurture change and development. It tends to view change in terms of the systems of interaction between family members. It emphasizes family relationships as an important factor in psychological health.

San Salvador, Entre Ríos City in Entre Ríos, Argentina

San Salvador is a city in the province of Entre Ríos, Argentina. It has 13,228 inhabitants per the 2010 census [INDEC], and is the head town of the San Salvador Department. It is located on the center-east of the province, by National Route 18, about 48 km west of the Uruguay River and 205 km east from the provincial capital Paraná. The city is known as the 'National Capital of Rice'.

Structural family therapy (SFT) is a method of psychotherapy developed by Salvador Minuchin which addresses problems in functioning within a family. Structural family therapists strive to enter, or "join", the family system in therapy in order to understand the invisible rules which govern its functioning, map the relationships between family members or between subsets of the family, and ultimately disrupt dysfunctional relationships within the family, causing it to stabilize into healthier patterns. Minuchin contends that pathology rests not in the individual, but within the family system.



Salvador Minuchin served as a physician in the Israeli army after obtaining his degree in medicine. Once his service was finished, he travelled to New York City to be trained in child psychiatry with Nathan Ackerman. When his training with Ackerman was complete, Minuchin returned to Israel to assist displaced children as a child psychiatrist (Nichols, 2010). In 1954 he returned to the United States to be trained in psychoanalysis at the William Alanson White Institute. After completing his psychoanalytic training, Minuchin worked as a child psychiatrist at the Wiltwyck School for delinquent boys, where he decided that treating whole families would be worthwhile.

New York City Largest city in the United States

The City of New York, often called New York City (NYC) or simply New York (NY), is the most populous city in the United States. With an estimated 2017 population of 8,622,698 distributed over a land area of about 302.6 square miles (784 km2), New York City is also the most densely populated major city in the United States. Located at the southern tip of the state of New York, the city is the center of the New York metropolitan area, the largest metropolitan area in the world by urban landmass and one of the world's most populous megacities, with an estimated 20,320,876 people in its 2017 Metropolitan Statistical Area and 23,876,155 residents in its Combined Statistical Area. A global power city, New York City has been described as the cultural, financial, and media capital of the world, and exerts a significant impact upon commerce, entertainment, research, technology, education, politics, tourism, art, fashion, and sports. The city's fast pace has inspired the term New York minute. Home to the headquarters of the United Nations, New York is an important center for international diplomacy.

Nathan W. Ackerman was an American psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and one of the most important pioneers of the field of family therapy. He also was an expert in marriage counselling.

The William Alanson White Institute, founded in 1943, is an institution for training psychoanalysts and psychotherapists. It is located in New York City, United States, on the Upper West Side, in the Clara Thompson building.

While he held his position at the Wiltwyck School, Minuchin developed a form of family therapy with his co-workers. Their method involved Minuchin or another psychiatrist performing a therapy session with a family while the other psychiatrists viewed the session through a one-way mirror (Nichols, 2010). Observing one another work allowed the therapists to learn techniques easily and led Minuchin to develop structural family therapy. In 1962, once Minuchin had generated his theoretical formulations for family structure, he travelled to Palo Alto to work with Jay Haley. Minuchin's work at the Miltwyck School led to his first book, Families of the Slums (1967), which outlined his theoretical model of family therapy.

Jay Haley American psychotherapist

Jay Douglas Haley was one of the founding figures of brief and family therapy in general and of the strategic model of psychotherapy, and he was one of the more accomplished teachers, clinical supervisors, and authors in these disciplines.

In 1965 Minuchin became the director of the Child Guidance Clinic in Philadelphia. He stepped down from this position in 1976 to become the head of training at the center until 1981, when he left Philadelphia to practice and teach child psychiatry in New York (Nichols, 2010). In 1996, he moved to Boston and retired from his career. Minuchin died on October 30, 2017 in Boca Raton, Florida. [1]

Philadelphia Largest city in Pennsylvania, United States

Philadelphia, sometimes known colloquially as Philly, is the largest city in the U.S. state and Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and the sixth-most populous U.S. city, with a 2017 census-estimated population of 1,580,863. Since 1854, the city has been coterminous with Philadelphia County, the most populous county in Pennsylvania and the urban core of the eighth-largest U.S. metropolitan statistical area, with over 6 million residents as of 2017. Philadelphia is also the economic and cultural anchor of the greater Delaware Valley, located along the lower Delaware and Schuylkill Rivers, within the Northeast megalopolis. The Delaware Valley's population of 7.2 million ranks it as the eighth-largest combined statistical area in the United States.

Friendship with Jay Haley

Braulio Montalvo, Salvador Minuchin, and Jay Haley Braulio Montalvo, Salvador Minuchin, and Jay Haley.jpg
Braulio Montalvo, Salvador Minuchin, and Jay Haley

One of the developments that came out of Minuchin's work with Jay Haley was the collaborative friendship between the two professionals. Minuchin once wrote of Haley as his most important teacher, a man who was "forever pushing the envelope, testing the limits of new ideas" to challenge Minuchin and himself. [2] Minuchin characterizes their relationship as similar to the friendship between Spock and Captain Kirk from the television show Star Trek in that Jay Haley was highly intellectual, while Minuchin was extremely pragmatic (Minuchin, 2007).

Spock fictional character

Spock is a fictional character in the Star Trek media franchise. Spock was first portrayed by Leonard Nimoy in the original Star Trek series, and also appears in the animated Star Trek series, a two-part episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, eight of the Star Trek feature films, and numerous Star Trek novels, comics, and video games. In addition, numerous actors portrayed the various stages of Spock's rapid growth, due to the effects of the Genesis Planet, in the 1984 Star Trek film Star Trek III: The Search for Spock. In the 2009 film Star Trek, Nimoy reprised his role with Zachary Quinto, who depicted a younger version of the character, existing within an alternate timeline. Both reprised their roles in the 2013 sequel Star Trek Into Darkness and Quinto reprised his role again in 2016's Star Trek Beyond.

Star Trek is an American space opera media franchise based on the science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry. The first television series, simply called Star Trek and now referred to as "The Original Series", debuted in 1966 and aired for three seasons on the television network NBC. It followed the interstellar adventures of Captain James T. Kirk and his crew aboard the starship USS Enterprise, a space exploration vessel, built by the United Federation of Planets in the twenty-third century. The Star Trek canon of the franchise includes The Original Series, an animated series, five spin-off television series, the film franchise, and further adaptations in several media.

Theoretical contributions to family therapy

Salvador Minuchin made several important contributions to the field of family therapy during his career, the most important of which was the development of structural family therapy (Nichols, 2010). When Minuchin first began to work as a family therapist, he wrote about enmeshed and disengaged families, which became an important component of structural family therapy. Minuchin also suggested that most families try to solve their problems through first-order changes (changes of single behaviors) and that in order for a family's structure to significantly change and become healthy again, second-order changes (alterations of the family's rules) are necessary. These concepts informed his conception of structural family therapy and influenced other branches of family psychology.

Psychosomatic model for treatment of anorexia nervosa

In 1978 Minuchin helped write Psychosomatic Families: Anorexia Nervosa in Context, which details a clinical model for the causes and treatment of anorexia nervosa based on an integration of medical research and previously successful psychological interventions (Minuchin, Rosman, & Baker, 1978). The psychosomatic model of anorexia nervosa specifically combines elements of psychodynamic and behavioral theory to create a comprehensive account of the origins of anorexia nervosa in a family system. According to the book, optimal treatment of anorexia nervosa involves the application of behavioral and structural family therapy methods. The book also features four case studies of families whose members have suffered from anorexia nervosa and how the model's treatment was successfully applied to their situation.

Anorexia nervosa eating disorder characterized by refusal to maintain a healthy body weight, and an obsessive fear of gaining weight due to a distorted self image.

Anorexia nervosa, often referred to simply as anorexia, is an eating disorder characterized by low weight, fear of gaining weight, and a strong desire to be thin, resulting in food restriction. Many people with anorexia see themselves as overweight even though they are in fact underweight. If asked, they usually deny they have a problem with low weight. They weigh themselves frequently, eat only small amounts, and only eat certain foods. Some will exercise excessively, force themselves to vomit, or use laxatives to produce weight loss. Complications may include osteoporosis, infertility, and heart damage, among others. Women will often stop having menstrual periods.

Criticisms of postmodern therapy

In an editorial in The Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, Minuchin (1998) expressed concerns about postmodern family therapy. He argued that both narrative therapy and solution-focused therapy bring unique and useful methods to the practice of family therapy, such as emphasizing alternative personal narratives to cope with problems. However, he stated that postmodern therapies lost the information that family dialogues produced, the spontaneity of therapist-directed enactments, the focus on the therapist as a positive and helpful, that the therapist can make a family feel more connected, and the acknowledgement that the therapist must function with personal bias. In other words, Minuchin felt that postmodern therapy displaced the family and created a paradigm for therapy that was not representative of the psychological experience of a family.

In a follow up to his initial criticisms, Minuchin (1999) also stated that he felt the focus of postmodern therapy was too broad to be effectively applied to the specific problems of a family unit. He suggests that family therapy should be used to alleviate stress of pain within a family, not to remove the influence of overarching cultural narratives.

Minuchin Center for the Family

When Minuchin moved to New York in 1981, he established the Family Studies Institute, where he could teach family therapists and interface directly with the foster care system through consultation services (Nichols, 2010). Renamed the Minuchin Center for the Family after Minuchin's retirement in 1995, it is dedicated to teaching the concepts and techniques of structural family therapy, and to consulting with organizations that work with families challenged by poverty, racism, and discrimination due to gender or sexual orientation.

Selected works



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  1. Fiore, Faye (November 4, 2017). "Salvador Minuchin, psychiatrist who revolutionized family therapy, dies at 96". Washington Post.
  2. Minuchin, 2007, p.414