Jay Haley

Jay Haley ( born July 19, 1923 in Midwest, Wyoming, † 13 February 2007) was an American psychotherapist. He was a student of Gregory Bateson and Milton H. Erickson, 1959 one of the founders of the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto and in 1967 close associate of Salvador Minuchin in Philadelphia. In 1976 he founded with Cloe Madanes the Family Therapy Institute in Washington, DC. Haley taught and influenced several generations of psychotherapists and family counselors. He is considered a " pioneer of strategic family therapy " and represented a directive approach.

" Objectives of this treatment are a) to solve problems, b ) to achieve goals and c ) to modify the behavior of the patient. The problems of the individual must be considered in the context of his social environment. The emphasis is not on the single individual himself; Therapy should rather concentrate on achieving a change by adaptation of the social environment. All people of a social context are responsible for the problems of each individual. "


Palo Alto

Haley studied the early 1950s, communication science at Gregory Bateson at Stanford University and was invited by the latter to the employees on his research project about human communication to Palo Alto. Haley remained until 1967 in this small town in Silicon Valley, first in the so-called Bateson Project, which developed the double bond theory and published, in 1959 as co-founder of the Mental Research Institute, where he continued to work intensively worked on the Schizophrenia Research and jointly with Richard Fish, Lynn Hoffman, Don D. Jackson and John Weakland theory and technique of family therapy justified.

Jay Haley was also known for having worked together with representatives of different and contradictory to each other schools, on the one hand with Gregory Bateson and representatives of Systemic Therapy in Palo Alto, on the other hand, with the hypnotherapist Milton Erickson or behavior therapist Richard Stuart. His integrative and school -wide view of psychotherapy was primarily influenced by the question: " What works? " And then had great impact on research and teaching. In 1962 Jay Haley the journal Family Process, which has become one of the leading international journals on family therapy.


1967 Jay Haley went to the Child Guidance Clinic in Philadelphia. There Salvador Minuchin was a director, the founder of structural family therapy, who specializes in psychosomatic medicine, anorexia and diabetes mellitus. In the center of his understanding of therapy were structure, subsystems and boundaries. He named recurring transactions within the family as a model from which a family structure would be diagnostically read. Subsystems he called subsystem, such as father / son or grandmother / granddaughter. Jay Haley used during his time with Minuchin with this intense intellectual exchange and he could - parallel to Minuchin - try and formulate its own approach. 1973 appeared his tribute to Milton H. Erickson under the title: Uncommon Therapy .. 1976 Haley published his own summary of twenty years of therapeutic work with families: Problem - solving therapy. There is a direct line from the Brief Therapy in Palo Alto on the problem solving in Philadelphia for solving focus in Milwaukee, where Insoo Kim Berg and Steve de Shazer 1978 opened their BFTC.

1975 Minuchin stepped down as director of the clinic, he remained for six years as Director of the Training Institute. Jay Haley also was looking for a new field.


In 1976 he founded - together with Cloe Madanes, his wife - the Family Therapy Institute in Washington DC There he occupied himself with leaving home, published in 1980 - with the detachment youth problems and developed the Ordeal Therapy: The therapist deliberately creates even worse alternatives to existing problematic behaviors. There is a certain proximity to provocative therapy by Frank Farrelly. Symptoms would arise - according to Haley - from specific incongruence between overt and covert levels of communication with others, and they serve to give the individual a sense of control in his relationships. Therefore, Jay Haley sees it as the primary task of the therapist to move the patient to assume responsibility and how to obtain positions. Haley has postulated two important demands on the family therapy:

  • In the assessment of a problem to the appropriate organizational sequence is considered.
  • When observing changes the respective stages are observed.

Haley tried to clarify the hierarchical boundaries within the family system, " probably indicative of the danger that psychotherapists thus may also contribute to organizational abnormality in familial processes. " Systemic therapy owes Jay Haley central methods, for example, paradoxical interventions, Ordeals and homework.

1995 Jay Haley retired and lived and then published in La Jolla, California. His teaching - including four U.S. universities - he continued unabated. Even in 2003, he brought a substantial book out: The art of strategic therapy.

German -language publications

  • Detachment problems of young people, 1980, Munich 1981, first edition, ISBN 3-7904-0340-7
  • Directive Family Therapy, 1977, Munich 1985, 3rd Edition, ISBN 3-7904-0245-1
  • The common denominator interaction, 1977, Munich 1987, 2nd edition, ISBN 3-7904-0258-3
  • The Milton H. Erickson Psychotherapy, 1978, Munich 1999, 5th Edition, ISBN 3-608-89613-9
  • Ordeal therapy: Unusual ways of changing behavior Hamburg 1989 Salzhausen 1994, ISBN 3-89403-425-4
  • Typical Erickson, samples of his work, Paderborn 1996, ISBN 3-87387-302-8
  • Therapy teach and learn: How to apologize to a patient, after having inflicted an irreparable brain damage. Paderborn 1999, ISBN 3-87387-416-4
  • The Jesus Strategy: The Power of the Powerless. Heidelberg 2007, 3rd edition, ISBN 978-3-89670-591-4