Virginia Satir Family Therapy: Its Goals and Uses

Family therapy by Virginia Satir, co-founder of Palo Alto MRI and in charge of training students in this institution for many years, had a major influence on the systemic orientation interventions that emerged in the second half of the twentieth century.

In this article, we will analyze the main features of the therapy offered by Satir, describe his growth model and make a brief review of his biography and work.

    Biography of Virginia Satir

    Virginia Satir was born in Neillsville, Wisconsin in 1916. During the Great Depression, her family moved to Milwaukee from the farm where they lived so that Virginia, the eldest daughter, could attend high school. She then graduated from Milwaukee State Teachers College with a degree in education and worked as a teacher for a few years.

    Later, Satir trained as a social worker; in 1951 he began to devote himself to this task, which would constitute the core of his professional activity. Soon after, he began working at the Illinois Psychiatric Institute. During this period, Satir’s preference for family intervention (over individual treatment) was already well established.

    At the end of the 1950s Satir co-founded the Mental Research Institute, commonly abbreviated as “IRM”, In the city of Palo Alto, California. Other therapists who were instrumental in creating this institution were Don Jackson, Paul Watzlawick, Chloe Madanes, Salvador Minuchin, RD Laing, and Irvin Yalom.

    MRI has been at the heart of American family therapy for several decades, especially when it comes to systemic counseling. Satir was leading the training of the students, so the influence of his ideas on this therapeutic model was very significant.

    Virginia Satir died in 1988. In addition to her contributions as a family therapist and social worker, Which are summarized in the book “Conjoint Family Therapy” (1964), Satir left behind a series of inspiring, poetic-tone publications through which he tried to help other people develop further as human beings. .

      Objectives of the Satire Growth Model

      Satire’s work was derived from his personal values ​​and beliefs, which had a spiritual and self-transcendent character with remarkable similarities to the approaches of the humanist psychological stream. this author defined five general objectives in its growth model, A name he gave to his theory of psychotherapy.

      1. Increase self-esteem

      For Satire, the concept of “self-esteem” refers to our deep perception of ourselves and includes awareness. According to his approaches, high self-esteem is linked to identifying oneself with spiritual energy.

        2. Promote decision making

        In this sense, one of the goals of Satir Family Therapy is to empower patients so that they can take their own decisions behind achieving psychological and physical health. Personal transcendence would be linked to the experience of freedom of action.

        3. Adopt the responsibility of the personality

        Satir argued that experiencing our selves fully enables us to take responsibility for it and truly know ourselves. Such facts would contribute centrally to the human development of individuals.

        4. Achieve self-congruence

        Personal congruence is defined as the harmony between the experience of an individual and his “vital energy”, Linked to self-transcendence. In this sense, important aspects are such as authenticity and sincerity, both on the part of the client and the therapist, which should serve as a role model.

        Principles of family therapy

        Five fundamental therapeutic principles have been identified in the methods of intervention of Satir; in them we will focus on this last section. These keys must be present throughout the treatment, as they are necessary elements for therapeutic change.

        1. Experiential methodology

        This characteristic mainly involves two aspects: the full perception of personal experience and the re-experience of significant events from the past as part of the therapy. Satir emphasized the importance of hypothetical bodily memory as a useful tool for therapeutic change.

        2. Systemic character

        Although systemic therapies they tend to understand how they focus primarily on the family relationshipIn fact, the concept of “systemic” also refers to other interpersonal contexts, to the interaction between past and present, and even to the organism itself as a whole.

        3. Positive directivity

        Satir said that the therapist is to help clients perceive the world in a positive way, achieve physical and psychological health while developing their maximum human potential. This is why it is necessary to generate a new framework for interpreting experiences and promoting the use of personal resources rather than in psychopathological aspects.

        4. Focus on change

        Satir’s Family Therapy Focuses on Personal and Interpersonal Transformation. To this end, this author has emphasized the usefulness of deep self-reflection questions at the individual level.

        5. Self-congruence of the therapist

        The congruence between the behavior of the therapist and the self is a necessary condition for the therapist to be able to help other people to realize theirs. The client perceives this congruence through tools such as humor, metaphors, self-disclosure and creative behaviors in general.

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