A general discussion of brief psychotherapy will be offered here illustrated with some of the techniques of Dr. Milton H. Erickson.* Following a description of this style of psychotherapy, an attempt will be made to place it in a theoretical context by relating it to an interpersonal theory of symptoms.
The Stages of Brief Psychotherapy
Brief psychotherapy, defined here as from 1 to 20 sessions of treatment, does not consist of doing less of what is done in long-term therapy but is different both in theory and in method from psychotherapy based on theories of intrapsychic processes. Inevitably brief therapy is active and directive since it is designed to produce therapeutic change in a minimum amount of time. Usually the approach is used with clearly defined symptoms. When it is applied to more vague "character" problems, these are defined in terms of specific, limited goals.