Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Brief Strategic Couple Therapy

  • Michael J. RohrbaughEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_157

Name of Model

Brief Strategic Couple Therapy.


Brief problem-focused therapy; Brief Therapy Center; MRI model; Palo Alto group; Palo Alto model


As described here, brief strategic couple therapy is an extension of the “brief problem-focused therapy”* developed over 40 years ago by Richard Fisch, John Weakland, Paul Watzlawick, and their colleagues at the Mental Research Institute (MRI) in Palo Alto, CA (Weakland et al. 1974; Watzlawick et al. 1974; Fisch et al. 1982). The hallmark of this approach is conceptual and technical parsimony: Therapy aims to resolve the presenting complaint as quickly and efficiently as possible by interrupting ironic processes, which in couples take the form of interaction cycles centered on well-intentioned but persistently applied “solutions” that keep problems going or make them worse. The approach is “strategic” because the therapist intervenes to interrupt ironic processes deliberately, on the basis of a case specific plan that...

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.


  1. Fisch, R., & Schlanger, K. (1999). Brief therapy with intimidating cases: Changing the unchangeable. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  2. Fisch, R., Weakland, J. H., & Segal, L. (1982). The tactics of change: Doing therapy briefly. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  3. Haley, J. (1987). Problem – Solving therapy: New strategies for effective family therapy (2nd ed.). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.Google Scholar
  4. Rohrbaugh, M. J., & Shoham, V. (2011). Family consultation for couples coping with health problems: A social-cybernetic approach. In H. S. Friedman (Ed.), Oxford handbook of health psychology (pp. 480–501). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Rohrbaugh, M. J., & Shoham, V. (2015). Brief strategic couple therapy: Toward a family consultation approach. In A. S. Gurman, D. K. Snyder, & J. Lebow (Eds.), Clinical handbook of couple therapy (5th ed., pp. 335–357). New York: Guilford Publications.Google Scholar
  6. Rohrbaugh, M. J., & Shoham, V. (2017). Family consultation for change-resistant health and behavior problems: A systemic-strategic approach. In L. E. Beutler, A. J. Consoli, & B. Bongar (Eds.), Comprehensive textbook of psychotherapy (2nd ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Rohrbaugh, M.J., Shoham, V., & Schlanger, K. (1992). In the brief therapy archives: A request on the don D, jackson memorial award. Mental Research Institute, Palo Alto, CA.Google Scholar
  8. Shoham, V., & Rohrbaugh, M. J. (1997). Interrupting ironic processes. Psychological Science, 8, 151–153.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Watzlawick, P., & Weakland, J. H. (Eds.). (1978). The interactional view. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  10. Watzlawick, P., Beavin, J., & Jackson, D. D. (1967). Pragmatics of human communication. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  11. Watzlawick, P., Weakland, J. H., & Fisch, R. (1974). Change: Principles of problem formation and problem resolution. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  12. Weakland, J. H., Fisch, R., Watzlawick, P., & Bodin, A. (1974). Brief therapy: Focused problem resolution. Family Process, 13, 141–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Weakland, J. H., Fisch, R., & Watzlawick, P. (1992). Brief therapy–MRI style. In S.H. Budman, M.F. Hoyt, & S. Friedman (Eds.), The first session in brief therapy (pp. 306–323). New york: Guilford press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.George Washington UniversityWashingtonUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Corinne Datchi
    • 1
  • Ryan M. Earl
    • 2
  1. 1.Seton Hall UniversitySouth OrangeUSA
  2. 2.The Family Institute at Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA