Many forms of family therapy are based on family systems theory. Family systems approaches generally fall under the categories of structural, strategic, or intergenerational:
- Structural family therapy, designed by Salvador Minuchin, looks at family relationships, behaviors, and patterns as they are exhibited within the therapy session in order to evaluate the structure of the family.
- Strategic family therapy, developed by Jay Haley, Milton Erickson, and Cloe Madanes, among others, examines family processes and functions, such as communication or problem-solving patterns, by evaluating family behavior outside the therapy session. Therapeutic techniques may include reframing or redefining a problem scenario or using paradoxical interventions (for example, suggesting the family take action seemingly in opposition to their therapeutic goals) in order to create the desired change. Strategic family therapists believe change can occur rapidly, without intensive analysis of the source of the problem.
- Intergenerational family therapy acknowledges generational influences on family and individual behavior. Identifying multigenerational behavioral patterns, such as management of anxiety, can help people see how their current problems may be rooted in previous generations.