Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Enmeshment in Couples and Families

  • Teresa D’AsticeEmail author
  • William P. Russell
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_1021

Name of concept





Salvador Minuchin (1974) used the term enmeshment to describe the overinvolved relationships that develop from diffuse boundaries within family systems and between family members and other systems. Enmeshed families or subsystems are characterized by a high level of communication and lesser levels of distance, and differentiation (Minuchin 1974). Structural concepts, including enmeshment, were foundational to the field of Marriage and Family Therapy and remain vital tools for systemic assessment and treatment (Fishman 2012; McAdams et al. 2016; Nichols and Davis 2017). Its established position in the field notwithstanding, the concept of enmeshment has been reexamined over the years by various theorists who have suggested adjustments to its usage.

Theoretical Context for Enmeshment

The theoretical context for the concept of enmeshment is Structural Family Therapy (SFT), which was developed by Salvator Minuchin. SFT posits...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.The Family Institute at Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • David Kearns
    • 1
  • Bahareh Sahebi
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Family MedicineUniversity of IowaIowa CityUSA
  2. 2.The Family Institute at Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA