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Richard Fisch
[1926-2011] 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, NY, followed by Psychiatric Residency at the Shepard 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 (in 1966), 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’. He has also applied the fundamental principles in his continuing consultation to the Juvenile Probation Department of San Mateo County and in his activities of Associate Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at Stanford University.

The contributions of Richard Fisch to family therapy are outstanding and reflect an extraordinary vision in developing and applying techniques to help couples and families achieve rapid and effective change. He has pioneering a philosophical paradigm shift which enabled effective brevity.
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.



  • Fisch, R. (1965). Resistance to change in the psychiatric community. Archives of General *Psychiatry, 13, 359-366.
  • Fisch, R. (1975). The treatment of women with low sexual desire. In M. I. Lief (Ed.), Medical aspects of human sexuality. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins.
  • Fisch, R. (1977). Sometimes it’s better for the right hand not to know what the left hand is doing. In P. Papp (Ed.), Family therapy: Full length case studies. New York: Gardner Press.
  • Fisch, R. (1982). Erickson’s impact on brief psychotherapy. In J. Zeig (Ed.), Ericksonian approaches to hypnosis and psychotherapy. New York: Brunner/Mazel.
  • Fisch, R. (1988). Training in the brief therapy model. In H. A. Liddle (Ed.), Handbook of family therapy training and supervision. New York: Guilford Press.
  • Fisch, R. (1989). I’ve had my share. In J. A. Kottler & D. S. Blau (Eds.), The imperfect therapist. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Fisch, R. (1990). The broader implications of Milton H. Erickson’s work. In S. Lankton (Ed.), Ericksonian Monographs,7. New York: Brunner/Mazel.
  • Fisch, R. (1990). Problem solving psychotherapy. In J. Zeig & W. M. Munion (Eds.), What is psychotherapy? Contemporary perspectives. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Fisch, R. (1994). Basic elements in the brief therapies. In M. F. Hoyt (Ed.), Constructive therapies. New York: Guilford Press.
  • Fisch, R. (1994). Case commentary: A woman with chronic anxiety. In S. Lankton & K. Erickson, (Eds.), The essence of a single session success: Ericksonian monographs, No. 9. New York: Brunner/Mazel.
  • Fisch, R. (1994). The essence of Ericksonian methods—up for grabs. In J. K. Zeig (Ed.), Ericksonian methods: The essence of the story. New York: Brunner/Mazel.
  • Fisch, R., Watzlawick, P., Weakland, J. H., & Bodin, A. M. (1972). On unbecoming family therapists. In A. Ferber, M. – Mendelsohn, & A. Napier (Eds.), The book of family therapy. New York: Science House. [Also in P. Watzlawick & J. H. Weakland (Eds.), The interactional view. New York: W. W. Norton, 1977.]
  • Fisch, R., & Weakland, J. H. (1976). A case of hyperactivity resolved by brief psychotherapy. In D. M. Ross & S. A. Ross (Eds.), Hyperactivity: Research, theory and action. New York: John Wiley.
  • Fisch, R., & Weakland, J. H. (1985). The strategic approach. In S. Henao & N. P. Grose (Eds.), Principles of family systems in family medicine. New York: Brunner/Mazel.
  • Fisch, R., & Weakland, J. H. (1992). Brief therapy—MRI style. In S. Budman, et al. (Eds.), The first session in brief therapy. New York: Guilford Press.
  • Fisch, R., Weakland, J. H., & Segal, L. (1982). The tactics of change: Doing therapy briefly. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Fisch, R., Weakland, J., Watzlawick, P., Segal, L., Hoebel, F., & Deardorff, C. (1975). Learning brief therapy: an introductory manual. Palo Alto: Mental Research Institute.
  • Schlanger, K., Weakland, J., Fisch, R., & Watzlawick, P. (1992). MRI: con 30 años de historia, adónde va? Perspectivas sistémicas, April/May, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  • Watzlawick, P., Weakland, J. H., & Fisch, R. (1974). Change: Principles of problem formation and problem resolution. New York: W. W. Norton. Watzlawick, P., Weakland, J., & Fisch, J. (1974). Change: Principles of Problem Formation & Problem Resolution, 1974,NY: W.W. Norton.
  • Fisch, R., Weakland, J., & Segal, L. (1982). The Tactics of Change – Doing Therapy Briefly, 1982, San Francisco, CA:Jossey-Bass.Fisch, R., Weakland, J., Watzlawick, P., & Bodin, A. (1972). On Unbecoming Family Therapists, (With R. Fisch, P.Watzlawick, & A. Bodin) in The Book of Family Therapy, pp. 597–617.
  • Weakland, J., & Fisch, R. (1976). Brief Therapy (With R. Fisch), in Hyperactivity: Research, Theory & Action, D. Ross & S. Ross, Eds. NY: Wiley, pp. 176–182.
  • Weakland, J., Fisch, R., Watzlawick, P. (1984). Kurztherapie: Ein umfassender Ansatz,” in Das Buch der Familientherapie, ed. by Martin R. Textor. Fachbuchhandlung fur Psychologie, Frankfurt, pp. 50–64.
  • Fisch, R., Weakland, J., Watzlawick, P., & Schlanger, K. (1992). El Mental Research Institute cumple años: hacia donde va?” Perspectivas Sistemicas (Buenos Aires), (5) 21, 4-6.
  • Fisch, R., & Weakland, J. (1992). Brief Therapy − MRI Style” (with R. Fisch). In The First Session in Brief Therapy, S. Budman, M. Hoyt, & S. Friedman, eds., NY, Guilford Publications, pp. 306–323.
  • Bavelas, J., Weakland, J., Haley, J., Fisch, R., & Wilder, C. (1998). A conversation about beginnings,” in W. Ray, & S.deShazer (Eds.), Evolving Brief Therapies, Iowa City: IA: Geist & Russell, 1998, pp. 3–43.


  • Fisch, R. (1963). [Review of M. Grotjahn, Psychoanalysis and family neurosis.]. Family Process.
  • Fisch, R. (1964). Home visits in a private psychiatric practice.Family Process, 3, 114-126.
  • Fisch, R. (1978). [Review of J. Haley, Problem solving therapy.]Family Process, 17.
  • Fisch, R., & Weakland, J. H. (1984). Cases that ‘don’t make sense’: Brief strategic treatment in medical practice. Family Systems Medicine, 2(2), 125-136.
  • Fisch, R., Weakland, J. H., Schlanger, K., & Watzlawick, P. (1992). El Mental Research Institute cumple 33 anos: Hacia donde va? Perspectivas Sistemicas, 5(21), 4-6.
  • Fisch, R., deShazer, S., & Ray, W. (2000). A little friction can be fun: A dialogue between Richard *Fisch and Steve deShazer. (2 audiotape). The Hinks-Delcrest Institute, Toronto, Canada.
  • Fisch, R., Ray, W., & Schlanger, K. (1996). MRI Then & Now: Brief Therapy in Context. (2 audiotapes). AAMFT Convention Tapes
  • Ray, W., & Fisch, R. (1995). On John Weakland (With Richard Fisch). AAMFT Family Therapy News, 26 (5), October,5
  • Weakland, Fisch, R., Watzlawick, P., & Bodin, A. (1974). Brief Therapy: Focused Problem Resolution (with R. Fisch, P.Watzlawick & A. Bodin),Family Process, 13, 141-168.
  • Weakland, J. & Fisch, R. (1984). Cases that Don’t Make Sense: Brief Strategic Treatment in Medical Practice” (with R.Fisch), Family Systems Medicine, (2) 2, 125-136.