Jay Haley

Last updated
Jay Haley Jay Haley.jpg
Jay Haley

Jay Douglas Haley (July 19, 1923 – February 13, 2007) [1] was one of the founding figures of brief and family therapy in general and of the strategic model of psychotherapy, and he was one of the more accomplished teachers, clinical supervisors, and authors in these disciplines. [2] [3]


Life and works

Haley was born at his family's homestead in Midwest, Wyoming. His family moved to Berkeley, California, when he was four years old. After serving in the United States Army Air Forces during World War II, he attended UCLA where he received a BA in Theater Arts. During his undergraduate years, Haley published a short story in The New Yorker. [4] After a year spent in pursuit of a career as a playwright, he returned to California and received a Bachelor of Library Science degree from University of California at Berkeley and then a master's degree in communication from Stanford University. He was married for the first time in 1950 and had three children, Kathleen, Gregory, and Andrew, with his wife Elizabeth.

While at Stanford, Haley met the anthropologist Gregory Bateson who invited him to join a communications research project that later became known as The Bateson Project, a collaboration that became one of the driving factors in the creation of family therapy and that published the single most important paper in the history of family therapy, [5] "Towards a Theory of Schizophrenia." [6] The central members of this project were Gregory Bateson, Donald deAvila Jackson, Jay Haley, John Weakland, and Bill Fry.

In addition to his personal involvement in the birth and evolution of family therapy, Haley was an observational researcher of psychotherapy in the 1950s and early 1960s. The Bateson Project arranged for Jay and John Weakland to observe and record clinicians including Milton Erickson, Joseph Wolpe, John Rosen, Don Jackson, Charles Fulweiler, Frieda Fromm-Reichmann, and others.

In 1962, while working at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto, Haley became the founding editor of the family therapy journal Family Process (assisted by his first wife, Elizabeth Haley, an experienced journalist). While at MRI, Jay continued the professional relationship with Milton Erickson that had been established in the earliest years of the Bateson Project. Jay helped to introduce Erickson to the clinical public with such important books as Uncommon Therapy. Haley also worked closely with Salvador Minuchin, who developed Structural Family Therapy.

Haley moved to Philadelphia in the mid-1960s to take a position at the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic. Through his collaboration with Salvador Minuchin and Braulio Montalvo, he influenced (and was influenced by) the evolution of Structural Family Therapy in the early 1970s.

Braulio Montalvo, Salvador Minuchin, and Jay Haley Braulio Montalvo, Salvador Minuchin, and Jay Haley.jpg
Braulio Montalvo, Salvador Minuchin, and Jay Haley

After founding the Family Therapy Institute of Washington, DC, with second wife Cloe Madanes in 1976, Haley continued to be a central force in the evolution of Strategic Family Therapy. His publications from the years at the Family Therapy Institute include one of the field's most influential best selling books, Problem Solving Therapy.

After leaving the Family Therapy Institute in the 1990s, Haley moved to the San Diego area and, in collaboration with his third wife Madeleine Richeport-Haley, produced a number of films relating to both anthropology and psychotherapy. Madeleine also collaborated in the writing of his final book, Directive Family Therapy. At the time of his death, he was also a Scholar In Residence at California School of Professional Psychology at Alliant International University.

Haley combined a systemic understanding of human problems and strengths with a pragmatic approach to intervention. His method of therapy — he claimed not to have a theory of therapy — emphasizes creative and sometimes provocative instructions to which clients react. The approach emphasizes careful contracting between clients and the therapist, experimenting with possible solutions (in a manner sometimes inspired by the therapist and sometimes inspired by the client), review of the results and informed resumption of experimentation until the goal of therapy is achieved. In the 1960s and 1970s when psychodynamic approaches to therapy dominated, such practicality was commonly seen as heretical. The here-and-now emphasis of Haley and others of his generation of pragmatic practitioners is now the norm for the field of psychotherapy.

Haley's 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" (p. 17). [7]

Strategic family therapists may sometimes explore understanding ways in which a patient's symptoms might be viewed as benevolent attempts to deal with other family issues. This a variation of Don Jackson's view of symptoms as "love gone wrong." [8] Haley's strategic therapy focuses on short-term, targeted efforts to solve a specific problem.

A therapist employing strategic therapy must:


By Haley


See also

Related Research Articles

Milton H. Erickson

Milton Hyland Erickson was an American psychiatrist and psychologist specializing in medical hypnosis and family therapy. He was founding president of the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis and a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychopathological Association. He is noted for his approach to the unconscious mind as creative and solution-generating. He is also noted for influencing brief therapy, strategic family therapy, family systems therapy, solution focused brief therapy, and neuro-linguistic programming.

Gregory Bateson English anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, visual anthropologist, semiotician and cyberneticist

Gregory Bateson was an English anthropologist, social scientist, linguist, visual anthropologist, semiotician, and cyberneticist whose work intersected that of many other fields. His writings include Steps to an Ecology of Mind (1972) and Mind and Nature (1979).

Paul Watzlawick was an Austrian-American family therapist, psychologist, communication theorist, and philosopher. A theoretician in communication theory and radical constructivism, he commented in the fields of family therapy and general psychotherapy. Watzlawick believed that people create their own suffering in the very act of trying to fix their emotional problems. He was one of the most influential figures at the Mental Research Institute and lived and worked in Palo Alto, California.

Solution-focused (brief) therapy (SFBT) is a goal-directed collaborative approach to psychotherapeutic change that is conducted through direct observation of clients' responses to a series of precisely constructed questions. Based upon social constructionist thinking and Wittgensteinian philosophy, SFBT focuses on addressing what clients want to achieve without exploring the history and provenance of problem(s). SF therapy sessions typically focus on the present and future, focusing on the past only to the degree necessary for communicating empathy and accurate understanding of the client's concerns.

Salvador Minuchin was a family therapist born and raised in San Salvador, Entre Ríos, Argentina. He developed structural family therapy, which addresses problems within a family by charting the relationships between family members, or between subsets of family. These charts represent power dynamics as well as the boundaries between different subsystems. The therapist tries to disrupt dysfunctional relationships within the family, and cause them to settle back into a healthier pattern.

Play therapy childrens mental health therapy method

Play therapy refers to a range of methods of capitalising on children's natural urge to explore and harnessing it to meet and respond to the developmental and later also their mental health needs. It is also used for forensic or psychological assessment purposes where the individual is too young or too traumatised to give a verbal account of adverse, abusive or potentially criminal circumstances in their life.

Brief psychotherapy is an umbrella term for a variety of approaches to short-term, solution-oriented psychotherapy.

In psychotherapy, systemic therapy seeks to address people not only on the individual level, as had been the focus of earlier forms of therapy, but also as people in relationships, dealing with the interactions of groups and their interactional patterns and dynamics.

Psychological resistance is the phenomenon often encountered in clinical practice in which patients either directly or indirectly exhibit paradoxical opposing behaviors in presumably a clinically initiated push and pull of a change process. It impedes the development of authentic, reciprocally nurturing experiences in a clinical setting. It is established that the common source of resistances and defenses is shame, further its pervasive nature in trans diagnostic roles are identified.

Donald deAvila "Don" Jackson, M.D. was an American psychiatrist best known for his pioneering work in family therapy.

The Palo Alto Mental Research Institute (MRI) is one of the founding institutions of brief and family therapy. Founded by Don D. Jackson and colleagues in 1958, MRI has been one of the leading sources of ideas in the area of interactional/systemic studies, psychotherapy, and family therapy.

Personality systematics

Personality systematics is a contribution to the psychology of personality and to psychotherapy summarized by Jeffrey J. Magnavita in 2006 and 2009. It is the study of the interrelationships among subsystems of personality as they are embedded in the entire ecological system. The model falls into the category of complex, biopsychosocial approaches to personality. The term personality systematics was originally coined by William Grant Dahlstrom in 1972.

The Bateson Project (1953-1963) was the name given to a ground-breaking collaboration organized by Gregory Bateson which was responsible for some of the most important papers and innovations in communication and psychotherapy in the 1950s and early 1960s. Its other members were Donald deAvila Jackson, Jay Haley, John Weakland, and Bill Fry. Perhaps their most famous and influential publication was Towards a Theory of Schizophrenia (1956), which introduced the concept of the Double Bind, and helped found Family Therapy.

John H. Weakland was one of the founders of brief and family psychotherapy. At the time of his death, he was a senior research fellow at the Mental Research Institute (MRI) in Palo Alto, California, co-director of the famous Brief Therapy Center at MRI, and a clinical associate professor emeritus in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Family therapy, also referred to as couple and family therapy, marriage and family therapy, family systems therapy, and family counseling, is a branch of [[psychology that works with families and couples in intimate relationships to nurture change and development. It tends to view change in terms of the systems of interaction between family members.

Richard Fisch

Richard Fisch (1926–2011) was an American psychiatrist best known for his pioneering work in brief therapy.

Paradox psychology is an approach that aims to advance the general field of psychology and treatment. These advances include: An approach that specifically addresses a 'hard-to-treat' or resistant client; A scientific understanding that supports a process for 'spontaneous change'; Unifying behavioral, cognitive, and psychodynamic orientations under a single umbrella theory; A science-based model showing how treating secondary non-criminogenic behaviors will impact primary targeted (volatile) criminogenic behaviors

Cloé Madanes is a teacher in family therapy and brief therapy. She has teamed up with Tony Robbins since 2002 to train strategic interventionists for finding solutions to interpersonal conflicts, to prevent violence and to contribute to the creation of a more cohesive and civil community.

Michael D. Yapko is a clinical psychologist and author, whose work is focused in the areas of treating depression, developing brief psychotherapies and advancing the clinical applications of hypnosis.

Helm Stierlin

Helm Stierlin, is a German psychiatrist, psychoanalyst and systemic family therapist. From 1974 to 1991 he was the medical director and chairowner of the Department for Psychoanalytice Basic Research and Family Therapy at the Medical Faculty of the University of Heidelberg. Stierlin has contributed significantly to the establishment and further development of systemic therapy in Germany.


  1. Holley, J. (2007, March 3). Jay Haley, pioneer in family therapy. Washington Post .
  2. Ray, W. A. (2007). Jay Haley – a memorial. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 33(3), 291-292.
  3. Nichols, M., & Schwartz, R. (2005). Family Therapy: Concepts and Methods (7th Ed.). New York: Prentice Hall.
  4. Haley, J. (1947, July 5). The Eastern question. The New Yorker, p. 53.
  5. Keim, J., & Lappin, J. (2002). Structural-strategic marital therapy. In A. S. Gurman & N. S. Jacobson (Eds.), Clinical Handbook of Couple Therapy (3rd Ed.) (pp. 86-117, here p. 88). New York: Guilford.
  6. Bateson, G., Jackson, D., Haley, J., & Weakland, J. (1956). Toward a theory of schizophrenia. Behavioral Science, 1(4), 251-264.
  7. "Jay Haley: The Strategic Therapist". Jay Haley On Therapy. Retrieved May 23, 2019.CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  8. Rambo, West, Schooley, Boyd (2012). Family Therapy Review: Contrasting Contemporary Models. Routledge. p. 90.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)