an organized pattern in which families interact, not deterministic or prescriptive, only descriptive
Partly universal, partly idiosyncratic
Can only be seen when a family is in action, because verbal descriptions rarely convey the true structure. (Haley once said that if you ask a family member what the problem is, what they describe is not the problem.)
Not a matter of creating new structures, but activating dormant ones
What distinguishes SFT from other forms of family therapy is the emphasis on modifying family structure in the immediate context of the therapy setting.
When new patterns are repeated, and result in improvement of family relationships, they will stabilize and replace old patterns without having to keep supporting them. (Similar to the behavioristic notion of reinforcement.)