Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Virginia Satir

Have you ever heard of Virginia Satir?
She is often referred to as a pioneer of family therapy.

In my social work training back in the 1980s I was always looking for something, someone to feel attached to. I was always looking for something that felt truly meaningful to me. I found that centering when I was introduced to Virginia Satir late in my undergraduate work.

It wasn't until I was in grad school that I was able to read significant amounts of Satir and to figure out the way I wanted to move forward. One of Virginia Satir's most novel idea of the time was the idea that the presenting problem of an individual or of a family system is seldom the real problem, but was, rather, unhealthy coping attempts by the members of the family. Satir, further, offered insight into the problems that low self-esteem could cause problems in the relationship. We in the biz consider much of her work as Neo-Freudian.

Individual and family therapies were all undergoing major changes and better understandings of clinical treatments and interventions during Virginia Satir's career and she was a major player in some of these major moves toward modern psychotherapy. In her practice, Satir tried  to help people to accept life as it is and to reach peace of mind. She encouraged clients to meditate, use breathwork, and visualize positive results. She also suggested using affirmations to boost self-esteem.

Self-esteem! This was a new focus of therapy.
Now imagine how improved self-esteem and better personal power would change the entire business of working with a family. It was a switch from thinking of a sick family system to a positive, health-focused view. What a shift! 

I loved Virginia Satir then and I love her now. 

Satir introduced so many new concepts and ideas to family therapy that truly transformed and made hopeful the field of family therapy. 

It's been awhile since I practiced in the field of social work or since I did anything in the therapy field, but when I think of the best of that field, I think of Virginia Satir. My hero.


Here are just a few things Virginia Satir said:
  • Life is not what it's supposed to be. It's what it is. The way you cope with it is what makes the difference..
  • We need 4 hugs a day for survival.
    We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance.
    We need 12 hugs a day for growth..
  • We must not allow other people's limited perceptions to define us..
  • Problems are not the problem; coping is the problem..
  • Over the years I have developed a picture of what a human being living humanely is like. She is a person who understand, values and develops her body, finding it beautiful and useful; a person who is real and is willing to take risks, to be creative, to manifest competence, to change when the situation calls for it, and to find ways to accommodate to what is new and different, keeping that part of the old that is still useful and discarding what is not.
  •  Adolescents are not monsters.
    They are just people trying to learn how to make it among the adults in the world, who are probably not so sure themselves..
  • What lingers from the parent's individual past, unresolved or incomplete, often becomes part of her or his irrational parenting..
  • I want you to get excited about who you are, what you are, what you have, and what can still be for you.
    I want to inspire you to see that you can go far beyond where you are right now..
  •  I want to love you without clutching, appreciate you without judging, join you without invading, invite you without demanding, leave you without guilt, criticize you without blaming, and help you without insulting. If I can have the same from you, then we can truly meet and enrich each other..
  • Every word, facial expression, gesture, or action on the part of a parent gives the child some message about self-worth. It is sad that so many parents don't realize what messages they are sending..
  •  In the nurturing family...parents see themselves as empowering leaders not as authoritative bosses. They see their job primarily as one of teaching their children how to be truly human in all situations. They readily acknowledge to the child their poor judgment as well as their good judgment; their hurt, anger, or disappointment as well as their joy. The behavior of these parents matches what they say.
    Can you see why I love her?

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