Because family therapy does not attempt to modify a person but rather the behaviors exhibited by a system, it is generally applicable to most of the problems seen by mental health practitioners. With children and adolescents, it has been applied to problems ranging from conduct disorder to anxiety and depression. In adults, it has been applied to relationship problems, as an adjunct to the treatment for schizophrenia, depression and anxiety, modifying family reactions to medical illness, and drug and alcohol abuse.
Most of the couples and families treated with family therapy, at least as described in the scientific literature, have been predominantly upper-lower and middle class, and white. In the past decade, greater emphasis has been made to apply these techniques to more diverse groups such as Asian and Hispanic populations. Because family therapy did not evolve from a psychological perspective but rather from a general systems orientation, most of the assumptions that form family therapy are equally applicable across family types and cultures. For example, Salvador Minuchin developed structural family therapy in the early 1960s at a facility that dealt with young delinquents, mostly black and Puerto Rican.
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