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From 1946 Whitaker served as Chairman of the Department of Psychiatry at Emory University, where he focused on treating schizophrenics and their families. He became a professor of Psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison in 1965 until his retirement in 1982.
Whitaker co-developed the symbolic-experiential approach to therapy and the use of co-therapists.
His work has been characterized by some as "confrontational" but really what he was trying to confront was the process of therapy, by challenging it along with the patient's presumptions of their own mental illness. He told a story at the first Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in Phoenix of his experiences working with adolescents in a treatment facility earlier in his career. Whitaker was ruggedly built and well muscled from working outdoors in his youth. He would challenge each patient to an arm wrestle at the beginning of the therapy. He explained that if he was going to have to struggle with someone to help them to change, he might as well bring this right out on the table. He said he did this successfully for years until, "it didn't feel genuine anymore, then I stopped".
- ↑ Therapist profile at Allyn & Bacon Family Therapy site: Allyn and Bacon/Longman publishing; retrieved 17 Jan 2008.
- Whitaker, C.A. (1975; 1999). The Symptomatic Adolescent – an AWOL Family Member, in M. Sugar (Ed.) The Adolescent in Group and Family Therapy. New York: Brunner/Mazel. (2nd Edition, New Jersey: Jason Aronson).
- Whitaker, C.A. (1976). The Technique of Family Therapy. In G.P. Sholevar (Ed.)(1977). Changing sexual values and the family. Springfield, Ill: Charles Thomas.
- Napier, A.Y. & Whitaker, C.A. (1978; 1988). The Family Crucible. New York: Harper & Row.
- Whitaker, C.A. & Bumberry, W.A. (1988). Dancing With the Family: A Symbolic-experiential Approach. New York: Brunner/Mazel.
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