The Mental Research Institute (MRI)

In the late 1950s Jackson determined there was a need to create a research institute devoted to the study of interactional processes. He set about the task of securing funding, creating a Board of Directors, and putting together a staff of researchers. In September 1958 the Mental Research Institute was founded, initially as a family research and training arm of the Palo Alto Medical Research Foundation (PAMRF), a not for profit Foundation of which Jackson was already a part. When MRI first began Jackson was joined by Jules Riskin, MD, as Assistant Director, Virginia Stair, MSW, as Director of Family Therapy Training, and one secretary. For a period of time the Bateson Projects and the MRI shared office space because both were functioning under the auspices of PAMRF, and while the two research groups were never formally combined, they shared staff and office space. John Weakland and Jay Haley both became Research Associates at MRI. Gregory Bateson never formally joined the MRI staff. He was, however, a frequent participant in activities and his wife, Lois, was a Research Associate. The first federally funded family therapy training program was based at MRI, with Jackson as principal investigator, and Satir as Director of Training. Virginia Satir's first book, Conjoint Family Therapy, originated as the training manual developed for students undergoing family therapy training program at MRI. After the Bateson Research Projects came to an end in 1961, most of Jackson's seminal research in family process and his pioneering work in Conjoint Family Therapy took place at the MRI. The best summary of the early work in communication processes conducted at the MRI is the book Pragmatics of Human Communication: A Study of Interactional Patterns, Pathologies, & Paradoxes, by Paul Watzlawick, Janet Bevin-Bavelas, and Don D. Jackson.

The list of people who have been research associates at MRI is a veritable 'Who's Who' of family and brief therapy including Don Jackson, John Weakland, Jay Haley, Virginia Satir, Paul Watzlawick, Antonio Ferreira, Richard Fisch, Janet Bevin Bavelas, Art Bodin, Lynn Hoffman, and Lynn Segal. Since its inception more than 50 major research projects have been house at MRI, and more than 500 journal articles and 50 books published in multiple languages have been produced by various research associates.

One of the most influential research projects housed at the MRI is the Brief Therapy Project, which Richard Fisch founded in 1965. After Jackson's death it was Fisch, Weakland, Watzlawick, and Bodin that were to go on to create one of the most influential models of Brief Therapy in existence today. For further information about the Brief Therapy Center readers are encouraged to read the ground breaking article Brief Therapy: Focused Problem Resolution, by Weakland, Fisch, Watzlawick, & Bodin, and two pivotal books written by that group: Change: Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution, by Watzlawick, Weakland, & Fisch, and The Tactics of Change - Doing Therapy Briefly, by Fisch, Weakland, & Segal.


MRI