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What is strategic psychotherapy?

Updated: Apr 4, 2023

Imagine if you had the ability to control how much you felt affected by what happened to you... An inbuilt filter that automatically sorted the beneficial material from the crap... And, only saved that which was helpful...

Strategic psychotherapy is based on the concept that our problems arise due to our perspectives rather than by what happens to us. Just like two different people can experience the same event, and have very different responses to it, how we relate to the world is largely governed by our mindset.

Strategic psychotherapy is a form of brief therapy which directs clients to have a fast and effective resolution to their problem. It is both goal oriented and outcome based.

Developed by the late psychotherapist Jay Haley who was frustrated with the self-fulfilling prophecies of diagnosing or worse - convoluted and theory-driven traditional psychotherapies, strategic psychotherapy offers a supremely practical, goal-orientated approach to problem solving. It allows clients to focus on the behaviours they find problematic, and take actions to modify them.

What this means in a practical sense is this model of therapeutic intervention is firmly focused on the future. Exploring and analysing the past isn't required, nor is it typically very useful.

While airtime may be given to the associated feelings of the problem space if a more traditional counselling approach is preferred by the client, this style of intervention is a short-term, targeted effort to solve a specific problem. No need for three months of weekly appointments reliving traumatic events.

In session, questions typically begin with 'how' - not 'why' - and are posed to help uncover what ineffective response patterns are the client's default. It is through these 'process based' questions that the therapist can discover where the client has skill gaps.

It may be that the client finds it difficult to determine which thoughts to listen to, and which to ignore. Or they may lack a criteria to evaluate if a feeling is valid, or not.

Through a short series of queries, clients quickly discover the ineffective processes which lead to and maintain their problem patterns/behaviours. The awareness allows for the learning of new skills and more effective processes, creating better strategies and building emotional resilience.

Working with a strategic psychotherapist will benefit you if:

  • you're aware of your problem space

  • you're motivated to move through it

  • you accept you will need to actively participate

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