Salvador Minuchin: biography of this pioneer in family therapy

From humble origins, this precursor of family therapy never stopped working as a therapist and teacher for other future professionals who sought to follow his model.

Minuchin’s long career in the field of psychotherapy allowed him to develop a new model of therapy, known as structural family therapy, which arose from his work as a therapist with unstructured families.

In this biography of Salvador Minuchin we will review the life of this researcher and all the work carried out by this Argentinian psychiatrist in the field of family therapy.

    Brief biography of Salvador Minuchin

    Salvador Minuchin was born on October 13 of the year 1921 in the city of San Salvador, in the province of Entre Rivières (Argentina), in a family belonging to a close-knit community of Jewish-Russian immigrants. He was the oldest of three children of his parents, who made a living with a small store in their locality.

    His family went through many economic hardships due to the various socio-economic changes that took place in the country, even losing their business after the great financial crisis of 1929, known as the Great Depression.

    Because of this, his father had to work for a while as a horse transporter. During this time, Minuchin collaborated with her mother in her work as a seller of all kinds of products. Years later, an uncle from Minuchin saved the family business, becoming the leader, in place of Minuchin’s father.

    It should be noted that despite all the economic problems that happened to Salvador Minuchin’s family, he and his brothers never neglected their studiesbecause their parents made sure that they never miss this opportunity which would allow them to have a more prosperous future.

      Admission to the Faculty of Medicine of the National University of Cordoba

      In 1940, when he finished high school, Minuchin enters the Faculty of Medicine of the National University of Cordoba (Argentina). While in his fourth year of college, the country suffered a military coup, leaving education under state control, previously run by representatives of teachers and students, so several students were imprisoned who opposed it, including Salvador Minuchin.

      After spending 3 months in prison, Minuchin was readmitted to the university, graduating in 1946, choosing the specialty of pediatrics.

        First stay in New York: first contact with child psychiatry

        Two years after graduating, Minuchin’s attention was drawn to the ongoing wars in Israel, which is why decides to help the Israeli army as a doctor.

        After the end of the war, Salvador Minuchin decided to go to New York to continue his training and thus specialize in child psychiatry, coming to work in a hospital with children suffering from psychotic disorders.

        Meanwhile as a worker at New York Children’s Hospital he met a child development psychologist named Patricia Pittluck, whom he married. They both worked side by side in their duties as psychotherapists, helping each other continue to grow in the workplace and in research.

          Return to Israel

          In 1951, Minuchin returns to Israel with his wife, in order to continue working from home, until he co-directs five institutions focused on helping children who were orphaned during World War II, as well as migrant children from the Middle East and Asia, who had been accommodated in residences belonging to institutions run by Minuchin.

          In these institutions, Minuchin learned a lot about cultural diversity and this experience allowed him to understand the value of working with groups rather than individuals.

          Return to the United States

          In 1954, Minuchin and his wife, now parents, returned to the United States. It is at this stage that Minuchin he begins to work with the psychiatrist who developed the interpersonal theory, Harry Stack Sullivan, at the William Alanson White Institute, where Minuchin developed his training as a psychoanalyst therapist.

            Working at the Wiltwyck School for Boys: Origin of the Development of Family Structural Therapy

            Three years after starting his training with Sullivan, Minuchin began his work as a psychiatrist at the Wiltwyck School for Boys, an educational institution attended by young people who had experienced many conflicts in their lives and belonged to unstructured families. . . There he immediately realized that working with these young people in a setting like the center and applying a series of psychological techniques could not help the young people and that they were getting long term results.

            Minuchin then decided that it would be more appropriate to work with young people in difficulty in their family context and, after 8 years of long work with the help of his team of collaborators, they developed a theoretical model of how unstructured families work, coming to create a series of psychotherapeutic techniques that could help them.

            In 1967, he published “Families of the slums”, where he explains everything he learned in his work as a psychotherapist with families and young people who were going to study at Wiltwyck, exposing the foundations of family structural therapy, a therapeutic model. established by Minuchin and his collaborators.

            Family structural therapy postulates that unstructured family organization is an accompaniment to problematic symptoms of young people, the goal of psychotherapy is therefore to intervene on these dysfunctional family patterns and to strengthen other patterns that are more useful for the proper development of a structured family climate.

              Stay in Philadelphia: Growth of Family Structural Therapy

              The reputation of Salvador Minuchin and his collaborators grew steadily until he obtained the position of director of a children’s referral clinic in the city of Philadelphia. (USA), a place that under his leadership grew exponentially to become one of the most prestigious family therapy clinics in the world.

              Among his collaborators at the center, he highlighted the role of Braulio Montalvo and Jay Hayley; both participated with Minuchin in the development and consolidation of the family structural therapy model.

              Upon his arrival in 1975, Minuchin decided to leave the post of director of the clinic to devote himself to teaching his model of psychotherapy to other professionals in many countries. in the 1980s, family structural therapy became the most widely practiced systematic model.

              The Minuchin clinic having an agreement with the Philadelphia hospital, he had the opportunity to work in many cases with families of children suffering from various psychological disorders, where he came to corroborate his theoretical hypotheses on family structures in which he postulated this maladjustment. patterns within the family favored the development and worsening of the child’s symptoms and could be brought back by family therapy.

              New step in New York: foundation of a family therapy center

              In 1984, Minuchin returned to New York City, where he founded a family therapy center while continuing to teach his model of psychotherapy. other trades.

              There, he studied the dynamics of violence and the recovery process of a multitude of clinical cases throughout the different phases of the development of a family nucleus. At the same time, he was in charge of carrying out various projects to help disadvantaged families and take charge of young drug addicts.

                Years of residence in Boston

                Minuchin and his family moved to Boston in 1996, where his children and granddaughter lived.. During his residency in this city, he was hired to supervise other therapists who work from home with families. It was after his work that he published the book “Poverty, institution and family” with Patricia Minuchin and Jorge Colapinto.

                Residence in Florida: last stage of his life

                Minuchin’s last change of residence came in 2004, when he moved to Florida, where he continued to teach his model of family therapy while continuing his work of disseminating that model through books.

                At 92 years old, Minuchin continues his educational work around the model of structural family therapy that he has been developing for more than 5 decades., when he started in downtown Wiltwyck, New York.

                He died at the age of 96 in the city known as Boca Ratolí, located in Palm Beach County, Florida (USA), leaving an extremely important legacy in psychotherapy and, more specifically, in models of systemic family therapy, which persists in this regard. daytime.

                most remarkable works of Salvador Minuchin

                Then we review some of the major works on family psychotherapy developed by Minuchin in chronological order.

                • “Families and family therapy”, in 1979
                • With Charles H. Fishman, he developed “Family Therapy Techniques” in 1984.
                • “Family Kaleidoscope: Images of Violence and Healing”, 1985
                • Collaboration with Michael Nichols, “The Family Recovery: Stories of Hope and Renewal”, in 1994
                • “The Art of Family Therapy”, published in 1998.
                • With Patricia Minuchin and Jorge Colapinto, he wrote “Poverty, Institution and Family” in 2000.

                Bibliographical references

                • Minuchin Family Center. Salvador Minuchin MD. Retrieved from https://minuchincenter.org/salvador-minuchin/.
                • Rodriguez, A. (2019). Manual of psychotherapies. Barcelona: Herder.

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