The Art of Strategic Therapy

The Art of Strategic Therapy

The Art of Strategic Therapy

The Art of Strategic Therapy


Experience the art of Jay Haley's strategic therapy as he personally utilizes a variety of techniques in treating depression, violence, and psychosis with couples, children, families and various ethnic groups.Visit for additional resources by Jay Haley, including live videos of the pioneering therapist in action.


When one of the founding geniuses of family therapy comes out with a new book, attention must be paid. There was a time when anything with Jay Haley's name on it would find an instant audience. In the golden age of family therapy, books like Problem-Solving Therapy and Leaving Home were crowning examples of what made strategic therapy the most compelling approach of the time. But that was before postmodernism, before the collaborative model, and before narrative and solution-focused therapies became so popular. Today, some people would say that strategic therapy is dead.

The strategic therapy that flourished in the 1980s was centered in three unique and creative groups: MRI's brief therapy center (Weakland, Watzlawick, and Fisch); Mara Selvini Palozzoli and her colleagues in Milan; and, of course, Jay Haley and his colleagues at the Family Therapy Institute of Washington, D.C. The master, Milton Erickson, was a school unto himself. What made strategic therapy so popular was that it offered a simple framework for understanding how families get stuck and a clever set of techniques to help them get unstuck.

According to the cybernetic metaphor, families become trapped in dysfunctional patterns when they cling to solutions that don't work. The trick is to get them to try something different. If the essence of neurotic behavior is stubbornly continuing to behave in self-defeating ways, the essence of strategic therapy is getting people to try something different. To accomplish this, strategic therapists introduced a number of ingenious techniques, many of them paradoxical, designed to break up homeostatic ("problem-maintaining") solutions and get families moving and on their way.

Like many people not lucky enough to receive training from an accomplished master like Jay Haley, I learned about strategic therapy from books and from sitting in with a group of graduate student therapists and their supervisor. What I remember about those sessions was that an earnest and intelligent group of people used to interview families with a wide range of

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