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EP90 IA07 - Symbolic Experiential Family Therapy: Model and Methodology

Invited Address 07 from the Evolution of Psychotherapy 1990 - Session 2 - Symbolic Experiential Family Therapy: Model and Methodology, featuring Carl Whitaker, MD.

With discussant Paul Watzlawick, PhD.

Moderated by Stephen Lankton, MSW.



The infrastructure of the family as an organism can be altered. A symbolic experience is a difference that makes a difference. This lecture describes how to precipitate a symbolic experience.


Educational Objectives:

  1. To understand why insight is rarely effective in producing change
  2. To understand why experience fails to alter behavior
  3. To learn how intrapsychic discovery differs from interpersonal discovery 


Product Details
Topic Areas:
Invited Address
Evolution of Psychotherapy |  Evolution of Psychotherapy 1990
Carl Whitaker |  Paul Watzlawick
1 Hour 30 Minutes
Audio Only
Original Program Date:
Dec 12, 1990
Never expires.



Carl Whitaker's Profile

Carl Whitaker Related seminars and products: 26


Carl Whitaker, MD, was an American physician and psychotherapy pioneer family therapist. Whitaker is most well-known for acknowledging the role of the entire family in the therapeutic process. He is the founder of experiential family therapy, or the symbolic-experiential approach to therapy. Rather than scapegoating one family member or even a specific family problem, experiential family therapy looks at the entire family system. Several other approaches to family therapy have drawn heavily from Whitaker's theories.

Paul Watzlawick's Profile

Paul Watzlawick Related seminars and products: 32


Paul Watzlawick, received his Ph.D. from the University of Venice in 1949. He has an Analyst's Diploma from the C.G. Jung Institute for Analytic Psychology in Zurich. Watzlawick has practiced psychotherapy for more than 30 years. He was research associate and principal investigator at the Mental Research Institute. He was Clinical Professor at the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University Medical Center. Watzlawick is a noted family therapist; he is recipient of the Distinguished Achievement Award from the American Family Therapy Association. Also, he is author, co-author or editor of eight books on the topics of interactional psychotherapy, human communication and constructivist philosophy.

He formulated five axioms. They are:

  1. It is not possible to not communicate. Every behavior is some kind of non-verbal communication.
  2. Every communication has a content. In addition, there is 'metainformation', which says how the communicator wants to be understood.
  3. All partners involved in a communication process also interpret their own behaviour during communication.
  4. Human communication involves both verbal and non-verbal communication. In addition to the spoken words, there are is also a non-spoken part (gestures, behavior, intonation..) which is part of the communication.
  5. Communication between humans is either symmetric or complementary. This is based on whether the relationship of those communicating is based on differences or parity.

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