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Paul Watzlawick
[1921-2007] was a pioneer in family therapy, system theory, and constructivist philosophy. 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.

Dr. Watzlawick received his Doctorate in 1949 from the University of Venice (Cà Foscari) in Philosophy and Modern Languages and trained at the C. G. Jung Institute in Zurich. After teaching for a year at the University of El Salvador School of Psychology and Medicine, while traveling back to Europe, Paul met Don Jackson. 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.

Paul devoted his life to teaching, mentoring generations of therapists, researchers, and teachers. Along with his career-long collaborators Weakland and Fisch, Paul pioneered the application of interactional/communication principles in the practice of brief therapy. Out of his collaboration came one of the clearest and most influencial brief therapy orientations, MRI Brief Therapy.

Paul Watzlawick is among the best known figures in the field of communication and constructivist theory, family and brief therapy. His contributions to the Interactional View of Human Behavior are profound, many and among the most influencial and widely read. Paul published some of the most influential publications in communication/interactional theory (see the list below). He authored more than 150 scientific papers and 22 books that are translated in 80 languages.


  • The Pragmatics of Human Communication (1967 – with Don Jackson and Janet Beavin)
  • Change: Principles of Problem Formation and Problem Resolution (1974 – with John Weakland and Richard Fisch)
  • How Real is Real (1976), The Language of Change (1977)
  • Ultrasolutions: How to Fail Most Successfully (1988)
  • The Invented Reality (1990)
  • Munchhausen’s Pigtail, or Psychotherapy & ‘Reality’ (1990)
  • The Situation is Hopeless but not Serious: The Pursuit of Unhappiness (1993).

Awards and Honors:

  • Prix Psych, Paris, 1971
  • Distinguished Achievement Award, American Family Therapy Association, 1981
  • Outstanding Teacher Award, Psychiatric Residency Class 1981, Stanford University Medical Center
  • Paracelsus Ring, City of Villach (Austria), 1987
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Milton H. Erickson Foundation, 1988
  • Distinguished Professor for Contributions to Family Therapy Award, American Association of Marriage & Family Therapy, 1982
  • Medal for Meritorious Service, City of Vienna, 1990
  • Doctor honoris causa, University of Liege (Belgium), 1992
  • Doctor honoris causa, University of Bordeaux_III, 1992
  • Honorary Medal, Province of Carinthia (Austria), 1993
  • Author’s Award (Nonfiction), Donauland Book Association, Vienna, 1993