A brilliant strategist and devastating critic, Jay Haley was a dominating figure in developing the Palo Alto Group's communcations model and stategic family therapy, which became popular in the 1970's. He studied under three of the most influential pioneers in the evolution of family therapy - Gregory Bateson, Milton Erickson, and Salvador Minuchin, and combined ideas from each of these innovative thinkers to form his own unique brand of family therapy.
In 1953 Haley was studying for a master's degree in communication at Stanford University when Gregory Bateson invited him to work on the schizophrenia project. Haley met with patients and their families to observe the communicative style of schizophrenics in a natural environment. This work had an enormous impact in shaping the development of family therapy.
Haley developed his therapeutic skills under the supervision of master hypnotist Milton Erickson from 1954 to 1960. Haley developed a brief therapy model which focused on the context and possible function of the patient's symptoms and used directives to instruct patients to act in ways that were counterproductive to their maladaptive behavior. Haley believed that it was far more important to get patients to actively do something about their problems rather than help them to understand why they had these problems.
Haley was instumental in bridging the gap between strategic and structural approaches to family therapy by looking byond simple dyadic relationships and exploring his interest in trangular, intergenerationsl relationships, or "perverse triangles." Haley believed that a patient's symptoms arose out of an incongruence between manifest and covert levels of communication with others and served to give the patient a sense of control in their interpersonal relationships. Accordingly, Haley thought that the healing aspect of the patient-therapist relationship involved getting patients to take responsibility for their actions and to take a stand in the therapeutic relationship, a process he called "therapeutic paradox."
Haley conducted research at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto until he joined Salvador Minuchin at the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic in 1967. At the Philadelphia Clinic, Haley pursued his interests in training and supervision in family therapy and was the director of family therapy research for ten years. He was also an active clinical member of the University of Pennsylvania's Department of Psychiatry. In 1976, Haley moved to Washington D.C. and founded the Family Therapy Institute with Cloe Madanes, which has become one of the major training institutes in the country. Haley retired in 1995 and currently lives in La Jolla, California.