His books have been translated into 85 foreign-language editions, and continue to be translated -- one is planned for a Hungarian translation this year.
He also wrote "The Language of Change: Elements of Therapeutic Communication" (1978) and "The Situation is Hopeless but Not Serious" (1983), a small but popular book that demonstrated his dry wit.
Watzlawick, 85, died of a heart attack Saturday after a quiet evening with his wife listening to Italian music and in a cheerful mood. He had suffered from increasing degrees of Alzheimer's disease since the early 1990s, and suffered from injuries from a fall for some time. There will be no services at his request. He has willed his body to science via the Stanford University Medical Center for research purposes.
He was a native of Villach, Austria, graduating from high school in 1939. He studied modern language and philosophy at the University of Venice, graduating in 1949. He then worked at the C.G. Jung Institute in Zurich, from which he received an additional degree in 1954. He studied for a year in India, then in 1957 taught and did research in El Salvador.
He joined the MRI staff in 1960, and in 1967 became a member of the clinical faculty at Stanford, in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science, from which he retired in the late 1980s as a full professor. He had numerous honorary degrees, and his key works have been described as life-changing by numerous academics.
He and colleagues at MRI, notably Gregory Bateson, developed the "double bind theory," as well as making contributions in a field known as "radical constructivism" and the theory of communication -- particularly influential in the field of family therapy. MRI, at 555 Middlefield Road, is recognized as a leading developer of the so-called "family systems theory" of therapy and change, which places the individual within a family setting as a way to understand both personal motivations and responses and as a way to best effect change.
Watzlawick spoke five languages, and maintained both his sense of humor and language abilities despite his increasing memory gaps in recent years.
In addition to his wife, he is survived by two stepchildren, Yvonne and Joanna; a sister in Austria, Maria Wunsch; and a nephew, also in Austria, Harold Wunsch, in addition to several nieces.
This story contains 460 words.
Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.
If you are already a subscriber, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Subscriptions start at $5 per month and may be cancelled at any time.