Malone wrote The Roots o f Psychotherapy (1953), which documented their new approach to the treatment of mental illness. This was a very provocative book for its time. The mental health establishment was aghast at their break from traditional psychiatric practice and not so subtly suggested that the team members receive therapy themselves. It was here that they experimented with seeing families of schizophrenics due to their disenchantment with the individual approach to treatment.
Some credit Whitaker for calling the first meeting of family therapy (Broderick and Schrader, 1991). At Emory, his staff would have a semiannual conference in which they would observe one another working with families of schizophrenics and share their observations. In 1955, Whitaker invited Don Jackson and Gregory Bateson, to participate with them. Whitaker recalls with typical aplomb that, “[Jackson] was a ‘brain’ who sparked a lot of new thinking and [Bateson] was an elder statesman anthropologist— a sage who smelled of people (Whitaker and Ryan, 1988).” During this meeting, the group came to a clear definition of schizophrenia as a family phenomenon.
In 1965, Whitaker left Atlanta to join the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin. It was here that he solidified his thinking about families and family therapy and named his approach symbolic-experiential family therapy (Whitaker and Keith, 1981) to represent the experiential form of encounter between therapist and client that operates at the symbolic level. In other words, the therapist interacts with the family at a metaphorical level to bypass their resistance.