Then and Now

Founded in 1959 by Don Jackson, the Mental Research Institute has been one of the leading sources of ideas in interactional/systemic studies, brief psychotherapy, and family therapy. The Mental Research Institute became the go-to place for cutting edge psychotherapy research and practice and as an incubator to explore innovative directions for future projects.


How did Don Jackson influence the field of family therapy? How did Watts influence the steam engine? He made it. Others have refined the steam engine into a better, more efficient machine. I'd say that is what Don did for family therapy, he established the discipline. Others have gone on to refine it.

— Richard Fisch

Funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, the Mental Research Institute started the first formal training program in family therapy, producing seminal research, papers, and books in the field. It soon became a place where some of the field's leading figures came to work and completed residencies. Among the Institute’s internationally recognized innovators were Gregory Bateson, Richard Fisch, Jay Haley, Jules Riskin, Virginia Satir, Paul Watzlawick, and John Weakland.

Throughout its many years at the Middlefield Road location, the founders presented creative models for the comprehensive approach to systemic family therapy and brief therapy models. Their work is revered throughout the world and has influenced subsequent brief and family therapy approaches in nearly every country in the world.

Our Future

Anxiety, constant stress, peer pressure, economic uncertainty, and social media shape our world today in ways our founders could never have anticipated. Mental health advocacy in the 21st century requires breakthrough thinking, innovative research, professional training, and effective therapies.

We believe that, in these times, the best ways for us to promote widespread, positive change for individuals, families, and organizations is through philanthropy. To this end, we created an endowment fund.

Our grants will fund projects and programs that align with our founder’s theories of interactional systems-based therapy. We welcome applications from groups or individuals whose goals are to understand the processes that strengthen advances in psychology, social systems, and interactional approaches to human relationships.

In the near future, we wish to enhance national and international exchanges and collaboration among researchers and practitioners working in the field of social psychology. We will set up new, innovative, virtual and in-person platforms to discuss the advances in the field of interactional systems-based therapy.