Don Jackson

The vibrant and creative talent of Don Jackson contributred to his success as a writer, researcher, and cofounder of the leading journal in the field of family therapy, Family Process. A 1943 graduate of Stanford University School of Medicine, Jackson strongly rejected the psychoanalytic concepts that formed the basis of his early training. Instead, he focused his interest on Bateson's analysis of communication and behavior, which shaped his most important contributions to the developing field of family therapy.

By 1954, Jackson had developed a rudimentary family interactional therapy out of his pioneering work with the Palo Alto group and research on schizophrenia (Nichols & Schwartz, 1998. Family Therapy: Concepts and Methods. 4th ed. Allyn & Bacon). Jackson observed the mutual impact of schizophrenic patients and their families in the home environment, and quickly recognized the importance of treating the family unit instead of removing patients for individual treatment. His early work centered on the effects of patients' therapy on the entire family, and he developed the concept of family homeostasis to describe how families resist change and seek to maintain redundant patterns of behavior. Jackson also suggested that family members react to schizophrenic members' symptoms in ways that serve to stabilize the family's status quo and often result in inflexible ways of thinking and maintain the symptomatic behavior (Nichols & Schwartz, 1998. Family Therapy: Concepts and Methods. 4th ed. Allyn & Bacon).

In 1958, Jackson established the Mental Research Institute and worked with Virginia Satir, Jules Riskin, Jay Haley, John Weakland, Paul Watzlawick and Bateson. By 1963, Jackson's model of the family involved several types of rules that defined the communication patterns and interactions among family members. Jackson believed that family dysfunction was a result of a family's lack of rules for change, and that the therapist's role was to make the rules explicit and to reconstruct rigid which maintained family problems. In 1968, tragically Jackson died by his own hand at the age of 48.

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