Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

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

Symbolic-Experiential Relationship Therapy

  • Nicole Sabatini GutierrezEmail author
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_213

Name of the Model

Symbolic-Experiential Relationship Therapy


SEFT; SERT; Symbolic-Experiential Family Therapy


There would be no “psychotherapy of the absurd” (aka: symbolic-experiential relationship therapy) without the boundary pushing spontaneity of obstetrician/gynecologist-turned-psychiatrist-turned-family therapist, Carl Alanson Whitaker (Neill and Kniskern 1982). After his second year of residency in obstetrics and gynecology, Whitaker lost a surgical patient after a freak electrical problem during a routine hysterectomy and decided to spend the next year of residency working in a psychiatric hospital instead (Whitaker and Ryan 1989). He became fascinated with patients who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia: not just in terms of their individual pathology but even more so with their family dynamics. His empathy for the patients he worked with made it difficult for him to subscribe to the ideology of the time that psychosis was incurable, so he sought...

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.California School of Professional PsychologyAlliant International UniversityIrvineUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Kelley Quirk
    • 1
  • Adam R. Fisher
    • 2
  1. 1.Human Development and Family StudiesColorado State UniversityFort CollinsUSA
  2. 2.The Family Institute at Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA