Harlene Anderson is a contemporary psychologist who has pioneered the use of collaborative and postmodern therapeutic methods.

Professional Life

Harlene Anderson, PhD, is one of the founders of the Houston Galveston Institute, as well as a founder of both Access Success and the Taos Institute. Dr. Anderson has helped thousands of people through the use of her collaborative theory, which was developed with Dr. Harold A. Goolishian (1924–1991). She works with organizations, teams, families, couples, and individuals to foster improved communication and solution-based strategies, implementing a unique and proven technique that allows positive outcomes for people who have been resistant to other forms of therapeutic treatment.

She has been recognized by various communities and associations for her influence on the field of psychology. Her awards include the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy’s 2000 Outstanding Contributions to Marriage and Family Therapy Award and the 1998 Lifetime Achievement Award presented to her by the Texas Association for Marriage and Family Therapy. Anderson continues to help people throughout the country and conducts lectures and speaking engagements in order to further educate people about the benefits of collaborative therapy.

Contribution to Psychology

Harlene Anderson and Dr. Harold A. Goolishian developed collaborative therapy as a postmodern approach to creative and solution-based communication. A core component of postmodern collaborative therapy is that the relationship between therapist and client is one of equals; the therapist is not in a position of authority over the client. Instead, therapy is viewed as a partnership that allows the therapist and client to combine their expertise. There is a strong emphasis on becoming comfortable with uncertainty, including the therapist's own uncertainty. The therapist avoids the use of jargon, and makes notes readily available to the client. Clients are encouraged to actively participate in the process by providing feedback on the process itself, for example, and loved ones in the client's life are not stigmatized or viewed as harmful. Instead, they too are invited to participate in the therapeutic process.

Anderson's theory emphasizes the importance of avoiding over-pathologizing normal client characteristics and behavior. For example, a therapist might repeatedly diagnose most young, female clients with eating disorders or assume every middle-aged, male client is having a midlife crisis.

The theory strives to allow clients to engage their own curiosity, interest, and creative abilities to develop a dialogue that elicits team cooperation and enhancement. This model has been successfully applied across a broad range of sectors. Managers and organizations have been positively impacted by the coaching and insight they gain from Dr. Anderson. She uses her vast expertise in human understanding to develop a bridge of communication for the clients she works with. Collaborative therapy is a viable treatment option for people who have comorbid disorders, specifically bipolar, schizophrenia, psychosis, and substance abuse issues. Additionally, collaborative therapy has proven successful in many body image disorders including anorexia nervosa, body dysmorphic disorder, and other issues that may lead to extreme depression or obsessive-compulsive behaviors.