Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

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

Prescribing the Symptom in Couple and Family Therapy

Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-15877-8_322-1

Name of Concept

Prescribing the Symptom



Prescribing the Symptom is the most well-known paradoxical directives. It is one of the hall mark interventions in Strategic Family Therapy.

Theoretical Framework

Strategic Family Therapy is considered by many as more pragmatic than theoretical. It is very much influenced by Milton Erickson, and its theoretical roots are deeply connected to researches of theorists of Mental Research Institute (MRI), such as Paul Watzlawick and Don Jackson.

Milton Erickson broke away from the psychiatric foundations of his time. He viewed the unconscious mind as having the wisdom to solve problems and heal, rather than destructive. The therapist’s job was to help patients to gain access to that wisdom. Instead of devoting lengthy effort to interpret patients’ behavior, Erickson focused on the symptoms, developed different ways, including paradoxical interventions, to change people’s behavior and...


Paradoxical Directives Strategic Family Therapy Physical Fights Intrapsychic Dynamics Fight Dirty 
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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Alliant International UniversitySan DiegoUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • Eli Karam
    • 1
  1. 1.University of LouisvilleLouisvilleUSA