Salvador Minuchin was born in Argentina. After earning his degree, he joined the Israeli army and then traveled to New York to continue his education in the field of child psychiatry. In 1954, Minuchin began to train in psychoanalysis at the William Alanson White Institute. From there, Minuchin went to the Wiltwyck School, a home for delinquent boys, where he encouraged his colleagues and the clients to engage in family therapy. His work at the Wiltwyck school led Minuchin to write about his experience in the groundbreaking book, Families of the Slums. As his expertise grew, his demand grew as well, and Minuchin was offered the position of Director of the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic. Although it was minimally staffed when Minuchin began, under his tutelage the Clinic grew to become one of the most modeled and respected child guidance facilities on the globe. While at the clinic, Minuchin continued to develop his Structural Family Therapy.
Even after Minuchin retired as Director of the Clinic, he continued to remain with the organization, acting as head of their training department for another five years. In 1981, Minuchin left Pennsylvania and began his own family therapy center in New York. He worked with the center to train, teach, and practice his Structural Family Therapy technique until his retirement in 1996. Shortly after, his predecessors renamed the center the Minuchin Center.
During his retirement, Minuchin continued to pursue his passion, providing treatment to underprivileged families. He is the author of nearly a dozen books, and his former colleagues and students continue to offer Structural Family Therapy services at the center named in his honor and throughout the world.
Contribution to Psychology
Structural Family Therapy (SFT) is a form of psychotherapy that strives to identify subsets within a family construct in order to isolate dysfunctional subsets and remap them into more harmonious, healthy relationships. Minuchin, who developed Structural Family Therapy, theorized that the symptoms manifested within the individual was a result of the dysfunctional family system. During SFT, a therapist must understand the communication of the family as well as the individual subsets within the family itself. The SFT therapist participates in the therapy by joining in the family system. This disruption in the existing construct is what precipitates the transformation and is essential for progress.
SFT utilizes rules in order to maintain order and boundaries. Additionally, family rules ensure that the subsets within the family are in the proper orientation. The therapist can move family members physically, or can introduce elements, such as one way mirrors, to enhance the therapeutic process. Clients who participate in SFT report that the fundamental changes that occur within the family are maintained far outside the limits of the therapeutic walls.