Virginia Satir: biography of this pioneer of family therapy

Virginia Satir (1916-1988) is recognized as one of the pioneering psychologists of family therapy. His theory has had a significant impact on systems-based psychotherapy, as well as on the humanistic tradition of clinical psychology.

We will see below a biography of Virginia Satire, As well as some of his major contributions to family-oriented clinical intervention.

    Brief biography of Virginia Satir

    Virginia Satir was born on June 26, 1916 in the town of Neillsville, Wisconsin, United States. She is remembered as a self-taught woman, who even she learned to read and write with her own teaching resources from an early age. She grew up in a family that was both Catholic and scientific, and was the older sister of five children.

    In 1929, when he was 13, the family moved to the city of Milwaukee, so Virginia could start school. That same year the Great Depression began, so at a very young age Virginia started working while continuing her education. Once this is done, began his college education at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Formerly known as Milwaukee State Teachers College.

    During this time, he worked at the Works Projects Administration (WPA), a program created to offset the aftermath of the Great Depression in the United States, which primarily employed adult men living in poverty. In the second half of the 1930s, the WPA was already employing women and young people in public projects. Virginia also worked for a while as a nanny. Eventually he specialized in education and, already as a professional, she worked as an educator.

    In the summer of 1937, Virginia began classes at Northwestern University in Chicago, an activity she continued to pursue for a few more summers. She then studied in the Department of Social Services Administration at the University of Chicago, where she completed her graduate studies in 1948. She eventually trained as a social worker, a profession she practiced from 1951 until 2015. at the beginning of his career.

      The beginnings and influences of family therapy

      After completing her studies, Virgina Satir began working in a private practice, and in 1955 she was working at the Illinois Psychiatric Institute. Among his main demands, Satir defended the need to analyze not only the individual; but to carry out in-depth analyzes of family dynamics.

      I thought that studying psychology at the individual level was essential, but it could not stay here because it did not offer the necessary explanations and sufficient alternatives. For Satire, it was important to look at the first system that sustains the individual, and that was the family.

      In other words, Virginia Satir argued that the “obvious problem” (what is verbalized in therapy or what was easily observed) was hardly ever the real problem; but it was only a “presentation”. In other words, it was a superficial conflict that had been generated by the very interaction of the individual and the family with the underlying problem.

      From there, he proposes to make specific analyzes (which would consider the case of each subject according to his family background), and not general (which would explain the experience of a subject from the coincidences he had with d ‘other subjects out of context.). all that introduce important innovations in the field of clinical and educational psychologyThis ultimately laid the groundwork for a new model of intervention or family therapy.

      As a result, in the late 1950s, Satir and other well-known American psychotherapists founded a research institute on mental functioning called the Mental Research Institute.

      The head office was located in the city of Palo Alto, California, and quickly established itself as one of the most recognized institutions for psychological care at the family level. Among other things, it is from the interventions and research carried out at the Mental Research Institute that the foundations of the systemic tradition in family psychotherapy have been consolidated.

      The humanistic perspective of Satir

      The main objective of Virginia Satir’s psychotherapeutic intervention was to achieve personal growth, that is, to allow the human to become a complete being. And for that, it was necessary to look at the “microcosm” represented by the nuclear family.

      In it, the mother figure, the father figure and the son or daughter were to build a whole human validation process; which was reflected later in each person’s connection with the rest of society.

      The above results in the constant establishment of interpersonal relationships, since once networks between family members are consolidated, they are extrapolated to other members of society. Thus, “to heal” the family networks, it could generate better people and better links at scale.

      The personal growth model

      Virginia Satir’s theory was eventually consolidated into a model of personal growth, which had important implications for psychotherapy. This model mainly pursued the following objectives:

      • Increase self-esteem.

      • Promote decision making.
      • Take on personal responsibilities.
      • Achieve self-congruence.

      remarkable works

      Some of Virginia Satir’s major works are Self-Esteem of 2001; In Intimate Contact, 1976; Change with parents, 1976; and All Your Faces, from 1978, among many others. In the same way receive various recognitions from different universities and psychotherapy associations around the world.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Virginie Satir (2018). Famous psychologist. Accessed September 14, 2018.Available at

      Leave a Comment