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Carl Whitaker (1912–1995) was a psychiatrist and psychotherapist who worked on determining what psychotherapy is and approached this question in much the same way an artist explores painting by painting. He called his therapeutic approach experiential. His therapeutic explorations led him to family therapy, and symbolic experiential family therapy emerged, founded not on a specific theoretical formulation but on clinical experience. His artful style was modeled on parallel play.

The large dairy farm on the St. Lawrence River near Messina, New York, where Whitaker grew up was part of his identity and provided roots for how he characterized himself. He began a residency in obstetrics and gynecology, but after working in a psychiatric hospital, he became fascinated with people who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and ...

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