In Memoriam

Celebrating the Life of Eileen Bobrow

Eileen portrait

It is with great sadness that we inform our family therapy community of Eileen Bobrow’s passing, April 10, 2015, at the age of 73. She was surrounded by her family and went peacefully, without pain. Eileen was a force of nature. She was passionate about her work and to the end she was fighting to come back to teach, to train, and to heal. She worked tirelessly to improve the lives of the people around her, especially her clients, and modeled this for her interns.

Looking over her long career as a therapist, some of the highlights include initial training with Steve de Shazar, a pioneer of Solution Focused Brief Therapy and Peggy Papp at the Ackerman Institute in 1975-76. Eileen was also involved for two years at the Gestalt Institute of SF, in the late 70's early 80's and was particularly interested in the hypnotherapy that worked with Gestalt. She maintained her interest thru the years, and maintained her connections with Gestalt therapists through out the Bay Area. She also was very interested in Ericksonian Hypnosis and eventually required her interns to study it. In 1985 she began commuting weekly to Washington DC to work with Jay Haley and Cloe Madanes at their Family Therapy Institute, an affiliation that lasted many years culminating in 2001 with her teaching for them on the west coast as a member of their Regional Faculty. Her mature theoretical approach combined elements of many of these systems, with an emphasis on Strategic Family Therapy, but also incorporating interventions from Narrative, Brief, Solution Focused, Gestalt, Ericksonian Hypnosis and even psychodynamic modalities. In Eileen’s case, the more provocative Strategic techniques were tempered by her enormous empathy and tender heart. All who came into contact with Eileen were aware that she was a powerful presence. She could be very impatient with dishonesty and inefficiency, and was quick to challenge people, especially when their actions caused harm to others. She was equally quick to rally to the defense of people in need, whether through advocating for the family with local schools, social programs, or the legal system and she often would ask her staff to work outside of the office to support families in these efforts.

In 1999 Eileen founded the Strategic Family Therapy Training Programs and Clinic and was its director until her passing. The internship and externship programs headed by Eileen attracted people from around the world. The training included Gestalt, Hypnosis, and Strategic modalities, with an emphasis on working with families in a systemic way. One unique feature of the program, which is a strength of training with MRI, was the weekly observation of live cases. Therapy trainees who enrolled in the program could watch and learn many techniques demonstrated in real time, coached by Eileen, her colleague Terry Soo Hoo, and subsequently Reed Letsinger, Rachel Safadi, and Laurie Phuong Ertley, who all graduated from student to trainer. Mirror work is an increasingly rare thought onset tool in learning the difficult work of managing families in crisis. Through these efforts Eileen leaves behind a legacy of many great well trained therapists who studied with her and are expanding her influence through their excellent work with families and the training that they offer as well.

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Celebrating the Life of Richard (Dick) Fisch
December 1926 - October 2011
Dick Fisch

Richard Fisch was born in December 1926 in Brooklyn, New York. From 1945-46 Dick served as a medic in the US Navy. Returning to civilian life he graduated from Colby College, then spent a year studying at Columbia University School of Anthropology before entering New York Medical College where he graduated in 1954. Dr. Fisch completed a year rotating internship at the Brookdale Hospital in Brooklyn, New York, followed by Psychiatric Residency at the Sheppard Pratt Health System, Brookdale University Hospital Medical Center in 1958, where Harry Stack Sullivan’s Interpersonal Theory of Behavior was still central in the teaching of faculty. This was to be his first indirect contact with Don D. Jackson and the Mental Research Institute. 

That same year Dick moved to California, where he became Assistant Director for the San Mateo County Hospital. He held a number of other positions in traditional hospitals in the San Francisco Bay Area, but was disenchanted with the traditional medical treatment that dominated psychiatry (Fisch 1965) so he began exploring alternatives. This is how he found Don Jackson, Founding Director of the Mental Research Institute (MRI), and soon joined the family therapy research and training then being pioneered at MRI in Palo Alto.

In a memo to Don Jackson, dated September 15, 1965, Fisch proposed creation of a research project focused specifically on how to make therapy more effective and efficient. With this proposal and creation of the MRI Brief Therapy Center, Richard Fisch triggered the emergence of Brief Therapy approaches that have radically changed the practice of therapy and family therapy in the world.

The brief therapy approach set forth by the BTC Team (Fisch, Weakland, Watzlawick, & Bodin, 1972; Fisch, Weakland, & Segal, 1982; Fisch & Schlanger, 1999; Fisch & Ray, 2006; Weakland, Watzlawick, Fisch, Bodin, 1974; Watzlawick, Weakland, & Fisch, 1974) is one of, if not the first and most influential brief therapy approaches in use today. The above mentioned publications have been translated into more than 40 languages around the world and continue to be required reading for most students in the mental health fields.

More interested in finding ways to make therapy more effective than seeking personal notoriety, Richard Fisch was among the most unassuming, dedicated, and influential pioneers of Brief Therapy. Many of his students around the world, describe interactions with him as 'life changing'. Dr. Fisch retired from MRI in 2008 and the Brief Therapy Center continues to operate under Karin Schlanger, MFT. He died in his sleep near Palo Alto, California on October 23, 2011. He is survived by his sons David Fisch and Benjamin Fisch and daughters Amy Solomon and Sara Needham, his grandson Oliver and older brother Ray.

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In honor of celebrating Dick's life, we have assembled an online Memories book. This is an ongoing tribute, so please send any thoughts and memories you have of being with Dick to Karin & Maria Pia (below), or your favorite picture, so that we may add them to this book.

Celebrating the Life of Dick Fisch
A Collection of Memories
Page Turning online version!

Memory Album

email Karin Schlanger
and Director at

View our photo album of Dick Fisch at our -Facebook page-

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Paul Watzlawick - July 25, 1921 - March 31, 2007

Paul Watzlawick, a pioneer in family therapy, system theory, and constructivist philosophy, died Saturday, March 31, 2007 at his home in Palo Alto, California. He was 85 years of age.

Dr. Watzlawick's widely read and influential contributions to system theory were many. He is internationally known for his contributions to Communication Theory, the practice of Brief Therapy, and in the fields of cybernetics applied to human interaction and constructivist theory. He authored 22 books which have been translated into more than 80 languages, including The Pragmatics of Human Communication (1967); Change: Principals of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution (1974); The Language of Change (1977); The Invented Reality (1990); and How Real is Real? (1976).

Dr. Watzlawick received his Doctorate in 1949 from the University of Venice (Ca' Foscari) in Philosophy and Modern Languages and trained at the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich. Since November of 1960, he served as a member of the staff at the Mental Research Institute (MRI). At the time of his death, he was a Senior Research Fellow at MRI, a founding member of the MRI Brief Therapy Center team, and Professor Emeritus at the Stanford University School of Medicine Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. After 46 years, he gave up his office at MRI and entered into full-time retirement.

He is survived by his wife, Vera; stepdaughters Yvonne and Joanne; sister, Maria Wúnsch; and his nephew Harald Wúnsch of Villach, Austria.

Dr. Watzlawick donated his body to science. There will be no services held.

-Obituary written by Art Bodin-

-article by the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper-

Jay Haley - In Tribute

With the death of Jay Haley on February 13th, 2007, the world of psychotherapy lost one of its keenest critics and one of its most influential proponents. His contributions and collaborations were critical to the evolution of modern psychotherapy, and his leadership inspired generations of therapists to break free from the constraints of older theories and experiment with modern approaches.

-read the full article-