Using a Metaperspective to Clarify the Structural-Narrative Debate in Family Therapy


  • The author wishes to thank Sonya Leathers and reviewers at Family Process for their thoughtful critiques of the manuscript. The author would also like to thank Froma Walsh, Jay Lebow, Jim Eder, and Bill Borden for their helpful feedback on the conceptual model presented in the article.

concerning this article should be addressed to Joshua Levy, Chicago Center for Family Health, 20 North Wacker Drive, Suite 1442, Chicago, IL 60606. E-mail:


The debate in family therapy between structural and narrative therapists often seems irreconcilable. Drawing from work in theoretical sociology that identifies the basic structure of existing social theory, a metaperspective is introduced to clarify a discussion between leading figures in the debate. Disparate views of family interactions are examined in terms of more fundamental disagreements about the center of attention in therapy. Narrative and structural modes of presentation are examined as separate traditions that could not be further apart conceptually. Efforts to identify common ground are discussed in terms of more significant differences that are minimized by drawing out similarities. This analysis provides a framework for standing outside entrenched arguments to see more clearly the unique contributions of each approach.