In comparing and contrasting the Historical with the Structure/Process models of Family Therapy, it is important to isolate the fundamental difference between the two models. This fundamental difference has to do with the way each of the models defines their time perspective or framework. From this difference in perspective, differences in problem solving and defining family hierarchy quickly follow. In the Historical model, as could be assumed from the name, family history plays a prominent role. That is, the definition of `family’ for the purposes of therapy is really a multi-generational unit.
This means that problems being experienced in the nuclear family cannot be interpreted or treated without taking into account a larger family history. Problems in the nuclear family are understood largely in terms of a lack of maturity on the part of one or both of the marital partners. This lack of maturity is then understood as a function of the martial partner’s relationship with his or her own parents.
Generally, this situation is understood as a lack of ego development on the part of the marital partner because he or she maintains a strong `attachment to parental introjects, a lack of differentiation of self because of unresolved fusion with one’s parents, or a fixed imbalance in one’s ledger because of unsettled loyalty accounts with one’s parents.’
So, specific family problems are seen in a broader context of multi-generational dynamics and further understood to be a result then of an unsuccessful attempt on the part of the marital partner to deal with their life problems.
The three differing schools within the Historical model are of one mind when it comes to their understanding of family dynamics and dysfunction. They also agree that therapy should be directed toward this fundamental immaturity on the part of the marital partners, and therefore concern itself with multi-generational family relationships and dynamics.
Just as the Historical model sees family problems as being long-term, therapy too should be long-term and extensive.
The time framework of the Historical model is of the family over several generations and so a fundamental goal of the therapy must be to free individuals from those attachments to past relationships and allow them to confront their current situations without being encumbered by the past.
Unlike the Historical model, the Structure/Process model does not define its time perspective in terms of multi-generational relationships. Consequently, its time frame is significantly narrowed and its definition of `family’ restricted to the nuclear family.