History of Marriage and Family Therapy

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The history of family therapy began around 1960 when Gregory Bateson came up with the term, “system thinking.” This type of therapy was a daring departure, from traditional and individual treatment during the 1960s. He was involved in the schizophrenia research project in Palo Alto, California, which had a strong impact in shaping the course of family therapy. Along with his colleagues Jay Haley, John Weakland, William Fry, Don Jackson and later Virginia Satir, Paul Watzlawick, Bateson developed a communication theory which aim was to explain development of schizophrenic behavior within the familial environment.

The group introduced ideas from cybernetics and general systems theory into social psychology and psychotherapy, focusing in particular on the role of communication. The Palo Alto group believed that communication is the most important thing in families and that pathological communication is what makes families pathological. They emphasized the importance of feedback and homeostatic mechanisms and here-and-now interactions.

From the mid-1980s to the present the field has been marked by a diversity of approaches that partly reflect the original schools, but which also draw on other theories and methods from individual psychotherapy and elsewhere – these approaches and sources include: brief therapy, structural therapy, constructivist approaches (e.g., Milan systems, post-Milan/collaborative/conversational, reflective), solution-focused therapy, narrative therapy, a range of cognitive and behavioral approaches, psychodynamic and object relations approaches, attachment and Emotionally Focused Therapy, intergenerational approaches, network therapy, and multisystemic therapy (MST).[8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15] Multicultural, intercultural, and integrative approaches are being developed.[16][17][18][19][20][21] Many practitioners claim to be "eclectic," using techniques from several areas, depending upon their own inclinations and/or the needs of the...
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