History of Marriage and Family Therapy

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History of MFT

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.

By the mid-1960s a number of distinct schools of family therapy had emerged. Partly in reaction to some aspects of these systemic models, came the experiential approaches of Virginia Satir and Carl Whitaker, which emphasized subjective experience and unexpressed feelings (including the subconscious), authentic communication, spontaneity, creativity, total therapist engagement, and often included the extended family. Concurrently and somewhat independently, there emerged the various intergenerational therapies, which present different theories about the intergenerational transmission of health and dysfunction, but which all deal usually with at least three generations of a family. Psychodynamic family therapy - which, more than any other school of family therapy, deals directly with individual psychology and the unconscious in the context of current relationships - continued to develop. Multiple-family group...
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