Jay Haley: The Strategic Therapist

What is strategic therapy?

Strategic Therapy is any type of therapy where the therapist initiates what happens during therapy and designs a particular approach for each problem. As Haley wrote in Uncommon Therapy: The Psychiatric Techniques Of Milton H. Erickson MD: “Strategic therapy isn’t a particular approach or theory, but a name for the types of therapy where the therapist takes responsibility for directly influencing people” (Pg. 17).

In the 1950s, therapists began to study the environment of a patient, not just the patient himself. The theory of strategic therapy states that the patient’s symptoms are a result of attempts by family members to correct what they consider “problem” behavior. Haley’s strategic therapy focuses on short-term, targeted efforts to solve a specific problem.

A therapist employing strategic therapy must:

Identify solvable problems.

Set goals.

Design interventions to achieve those goals.

Examine the responses.

Examine the outcome of the therapy.

Jay Haley has refined and mastered the technique of strategic therapy. His approach is modeled after the therapy developed by¬†Milton H. Erickson MD, one of the world’s leading hypnotists and psychiatrists. Erickson believed that within one’s consciousness, everyone has the power to heal himself or herself. Erickson’s ideas and methods have greatly influenced therapists from all schools for decades, and they continue to do so through the talent and writing of therapists like Jay Haley in his directive approach to therapy.

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