Brief Strategic Therapy: what is it and how does it work?
What is Brief Strategic Therapy, developed by Giorgio Nardone and Paul Watzlawick? Let's look at it.
Many people believe that going to psychotherapy involves exploring aspects of the past that have defined our personality and even our psychological vulnerabilities. In fact, the most frequent stereotype of the typical psychologist is that of an individual who constantly asks questions about what our childhood was like, over a long series of sessions that become a habit rather than a necessity.
However, this view of psychotherapy is outdated: today, most mental health professionals put a lot of effort into addressing the patient's problem as it presents itself in the here and now, in order to provide quick solutions without the need to reconstruct the past.
Brief Strategic Therapy, currently based mainly on the work of Giorgio Nardone and Paul Watzlawick, is an example of these efforts to help patients by focusing on the present.is an example of these efforts to help patients by focusing on the present. In this article we will see what it is and on what principles it is based.
What is brief psychotherapy?
To understand what Strategic Brief Therapy is, it is important to know that it is included in a broader category, that of brief psychotherapy.
The concept of brief psychotherapy is used to refer to a wide variety of therapeutic proposals whose objective is to obtain concrete and objective results in as limited a period of time as possibleso that patients can benefit from the satisfaction of their needs as soon as possible.
Put this way, the raison d'être of brief psychotherapy seems to obey pure common sense. Isn't the aim always to obtain satisfactory results in the quickest way? In theory, the answer to this question is yes. In practice, however, this is somewhat more complicated than it seems, especially if we focus on what psychotherapy has been historically.
While today the work of applied psychology (and, consequently, of psychological therapy) is concerned with obtaining results by optimizing the use of resources and available time, a few decades ago this was not so clear.
From the perspective of psychoanalysis, for example, which became the dominant paradigm in psychotherapy in the first half of the twentieth century, helping patients required probing deeply into their unconscious processes, and even questioning whether their real reason for coming to therapy was what they said it was. And beyond the direct followers of Sigmund Freud, other forms of psychotherapy influenced by psychoanalysis also adopted part of this working philosophy according to which psychotherapy is a process of change without a clear end, or even for life.
In opposition to these approaches, brief psychotherapy is much more pragmatic and focused on the solution of specific and defined problems from the very and defined from the first sessions through dialogue between therapist and patient. Therefore, Brief Strategic Therapy inherits this way of working and tries to give concrete answers to very limited needs.
What is Brief Strategic Therapy?
Brief Strategic Therapy is a model of psychological intervention in patients developed by researchers Paul Watzlawick and Giorgio Nardone in the second half of the twentieth century and is currently being studied to find out what kind of psychological problems and disorders it can be used effectively.
The working mechanism by which Brief Strategic Therapy is governed consists of detecting which is the vicious circle of behaviors that is keeping alive the problem to be treated, in order to "undo" that wheel that is turning by itself by its own influence on the patient's actions, and give this person the opportunity to adopt new habits to start from scratch.
That is why the Brief Strategic Therapy concentrates his efforts on the presentIf it were to focus mainly on the past, the development of the problem to be addressed would always be several steps ahead of the therapist's inquiries, and this waste of time would increase the risk of failure in helping the patient.
Thus, Strategic Brief Therapy requires a global vision of the way in which the psychological disorder or behavioral dysfunction is expressed in the present, on the one hand, and a plan to intervene in the present problem without forgetting that it is a vicious circle in which all its parts must be taken into account at the same time (hence the word "strategic").
Ideas and principles of this psychological intervention
In summary, the ideas from which Strategic Brief Therapy starts are the following.
1. Perception is key
As in cognitive-behavioral therapy, in Brief Strategic Therapy it is assumed that the way in which the patient interprets reality explains at least in part why the disorder or dysfunctionality to be treated arises.
2. The problem keeps to itself
Another characteristic aspect of Brief Strategic Therapy is that it sees what needs to be solved as a combination of three types of behaviors that feed back on each other. that feed back on each other: behavioral patterns of perception, behavioral patterns of emotional management, and maladaptive cognitive patterns.
3. The problem is in the present
As we have seen, in this type of psychotherapy it does not make sense to obsess about what happened in the first years of the patient's life, but it is more practical to know how to deal with the present.Rather, it is more practical to know what the problem is like in the present, since that is what must be solved. In addition, this will make it possible to see which behaviors that the patient puts into practice to try to weaken his problem have the opposite effect, reinforcing it.
The two leading researchers
As we have seen, there are two names that especially stand out when it comes to understanding what Strategic Brief Therapy is: Giorgio Nardone and Paul Watzlawick. To conclude, let's look at a couple of short summaries about who they are.
The psychologist Paul Watzlawick (1921 - 2007) was one of the main exponents of radical constructivism, a philosophical current that emphasizes subjectivity and the way in which it creates apparently objective phenomena. Therefore, he wanted to investigate how different ways of perceiving things affect our actions.
In addition, Watzlawick was one of the most prominent researchers at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto.California, and one of the founders of the Brief Therapy Center.
Giorgio Nardone (1958 - ) is Director of the Centro di Terapia Strategica in Arezzo, Italy.. For years he collaborated with Paul Watzlawick to develop the theoretical and practical foundations of Brief Strategic Therapy.
- Griffin, E. (2012).A first look at Communication Theory. 8th. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Nardone G. (2016). The therapy of panic attacks: Free forever from pathological fear. Herder: Barcelona.
- Watzlawick, P. & Nardone, G. (2005). Terapia Breve Estratégica. Barcelona: Paidós.
(Updated at Mar 28 / 2023)