The Systemic and Strategic Approach

The Systemic and Strategic Approach

Since its inception, the systemic and strategic therapy has proven to be a pragmatic and rigorous approach helping individuals, couples, families or teams solve personal, inter-personal problems in their own unique contextual environment. It focuses on solving problems in their current manifestations, whether recent or ingrained.

Through questioning techniques, the therapist or coach seeks to understand the nature of the problem and the way it persists rather than trying to understand ‘why’.

The goal is to establish new perception patterns as well as adopting new behaviors to promote change.


The systemic and strategic therapy and its coaching applications in the business world is part of a larger group of therapies called ‘brief’‘brèves’.therapies. It was developed in the 1960s in Palo Alto , California by a team of researchers, among whom the best-knownPaul Watzlawick, Richard Fisch and John Weakland. At the core of the Mental Research Institute (MRI) was a new way of conceptualizing psychological suffering and a new method of treatment. It considered the interactions and how people relate to one another and even within themselves.Gregory Bateson’s body of work on communication and its paradoxes along with the therapeutic strategies and hypnosis of  Milton Erickson inspired the Palo Alto researchers’ team.
In the 1980s, the systemic and strategic therapy was developed in Europe thanks to the work of Jean-Jacques Wittezaele, Giorgio Nardone and their respective teams.

A Pragmatic Approach

From the first sessions onwards, the systemic and strategic approach aims to alleviate the person discomfort and suffering, looking for a tangible solution in the ‘here and now’. Through the strategic questioning technique, the therapist refines her understanding of the issues and develop concrete objectives to reach the patient desired outcomes. Between sessions, the patient can be invited to apply the work initiated with the therapist in their daily context to gradually overcome difficulties for which they are consulting.

The therapeutic journey generally does not exceed 10 sessions without a mutual agreement. Often issues can be resolved in less than 5 sessions.


An interactional perspective

The brief systemic and strategic therapy is a psycho-relational therapeutic approach. One of its immediate benefit is to bring the patient back into a more functional movement in how they interact with themselves, others and/or their broader environment. All of us are striving to find a balance in life between the different levels of interactions, but in some cases, our own behaviors may reinforce the problem without us realizing. Seeking help from a professional can be useful in finding alternate solutions. Each situation is unique, some cases may call for meeting other members of the patient’s ecosystem who are involved in the situation and may be asked to contribute to the desired change.

A non-normative, non-pathologizing approach

The therapist does not start from an assumption of what should be “a balanced person”, “a successful couple”, or even “a normal family”, but from what, in the current situation, generates suffering or dissatisfaction.
It is not pathologizing because the therapist neither uses labels, or nor poses a diagnosis properly speaking, but rather aims to highlight certain dysfunctional processes that generate symptoms and proposes alternate ways to correct them. This results in mobilizing patients’ resources and helps them regain their autonomy.
This approach considers the emotional, cognitive and behavioral components of the problems.


Ethics and code of conduct

« Therapy should always be designed to fit the patient and not so that the patient adapts to the therapy. » Milton Erickson

  • The therapist engages in a personal and professional development process through supervision and continuing education within the Gregory Bateson Institute and recognized affiliated centers.
  • The therapist looks after the interests of the person and / or the organization in which she intervenes.
  • Integrity: only accepts the interventions or missions she has the competences to deal with, otherwise refers to fellow therapists or coaches.
  • Respect and benevolence: the therapist must be attentive, listen actively, interested and open. The patient must feel understood and accompanied in the difficulty he/she is going through.
  • The therapy or coaching effectiveness highly depend on the patient’s active involvement and accountability to become more autonomous in the face of their difficulties.