Change; Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution

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This classic book, available in paperback for the very first time, explores why some people can successfully change their lives and others cannot. Here famed psychologist Paul Watzlawick presents what is still often perceived as a radical idea: that the solutions to our problems are inherently embedded in the problems themselves.

Tackling the age-old questions surrounding persistence and change, the book asks why problems arise and are perpetuated in some instances but easily resolved in others. Incorporating ideas about human communication, marital and family therapy, the therapeutic effects of paradoxes and of action-oriented techniques of problem resolution, Change draws much from the field of psychotherapy.

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Acording to the model put forward by these authors there are three major ways for intractable problems to form, firstly perfectionism, secondly attempting to change what should be accepted as something being inherently part of life's rough and smooth and lastly avoiding what should be confronted. By following any of these problem engendering strategies we end up in a painful game without end which includes conditions that are commonly classified as psychopathology.
Whilst the authors don't entirely reject psycho-dynamic understanding of psychopathology they do point out how personal problems are the result of contemporary attempts to solve emotional problems. This aligns them more with Karen Horney's and Alfred Adler's approach than to more classical models of psychoanalysis which base problems more on what happened in the past rather than the here and now.
In a similar way to the above rather than providing insight and making the conscious unconscious this approach focuses on changing what people actually do through re-framing the meaning of the problem engendering behaviour or/and finding new meaning in symptoms and paradoxically prescribing the problem.
This was a ground breaking book by the Mental Research Institute (MRI) which developed out of Gregory Bateson's famous double bind project based at the Menlo Park mental health facility in Palo Alto California. And although MRI's pragmatic approach is not being entirely identical with Bateson's systemic world view it takes many of his brilliant ideas and applies them to the field of psychotherapy both individually and in natural groups like families.
This book and others from the MTI laid the groundwork for the eventual development of contemporary solution focused approaches to psychotherapy, I believe It is a book that should be profitably read by all psychotherapists and mental health workers whatever their background and orientation.
 

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About the author (1974)

Paul Watzlawick was an associate at the Mental Research Institute, Palo Alto, and clinical professor in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences, Stanford University Medical Center. An internationally known psychologist, Watzlawick died in 2007.

John H. Weakland died in 1995.

Richard Fisch is a psychiatrist with a private practice in Palo Alto, California.

Born in Nevada in 1901, Milton Erickson grew up on a farm in Wisconsin. As a pioneer in the use of hypnosis, he established hypnosis as a valid and effective therapeutic technique. His books on hypnotherapy, although geared toward health professionals in medicine, dentistry, and psychotherapy, are written in an original and personal style. Both a psychiatrist and a psychologist, Erickson was a member of many national and international professional organizations. At the time of his death in 1980, he was the world's leading practitioner of medical and therapeutic hypnosis.

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