The Strategic Approach

Rooted in the work of Milton Erickson and the Bateson Project, strategic therapy was developed by Jay Haley and Cloe' Madanes through their work at the Family Therapy Institute of Washington, D.C.  A systemic approach, some of its characteristics follow:

  • It is a theory of optimism and hope rather than explaining problems as pathological and terminal.
  • It is a therapy of change rather than insight without action, promoting solutions and new behaviors over understanding and excuses about why problems should exist.
  • Strategic therapy is dedicated to the premise that therapists should practice in an active, directive, and skillful fashion.
  • The tone of therapy is warm and respectful, often with a playful nature.  Humor is used frequently.
  • The uniqueness of clients and the need for interventions tailored to that uniqueness is respected.  The therapist is expected to work within the client’s own world view whenever possible.
  • Flexibility is a key element of the therapy, and different approaches are needed for the variety of presenting problems and cultural, ethnic, and social contexts brought to therapy.
  • It is a therapy of responsibility – of parents for children, of therapists for clients, and of supervisors for supervisees.
  • Strategic therapy is a therapy of justice and advocacy in which therapists take strong stands against violence and abuse and advocate for children, families, and those living in poverty.

A brief, pragmatic approach to solving problems, strategic therapy has proven to be effective with some of the most severe cases.