Virginia Satir – 1916 – 1988 is often referred to as “The Mother of Family System Therapy”. Rather than placing her focus on illness, Satir’s style came to be based on personal growth. She was concerned with the health and healing of each individual human spirit by connecting with a universal life force.
As early as age five, she recalled that she knew what she wanted to do when she grew up, apparently saying “I’d be a children’s detective on parents”. She was educated at the University of Chicago and received her Master’s degree from their School of Social Service Administration. She worked at the Dallas Child Guidance Centre and at the Illinois State Psychiatric Institute. Later she helped start the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto, California. She was instrumental in forming the first formal programme of Family Therapy in the USA.
Her first book was published in 1964 and called Conjoint Family Therapy. She is quoted as saying ” Problems are not the problem; coping is the problem. Coping is the outcome of self-worth, rules of the family systems, and links to the outside world.” She recommends that a person pursue their dreams instead of trying to determine whether the dreams can be realized or not.
She used techniques that blended Eastern meditations and spirituality and incorporated them along with affirmations in her work. She helped people redesign their lives using a variety of techniques such as deep breathing and visualization. She said that “dreams and wishes go together” and encouraged students to use affirmations such as “I own me. I can engineer me.”
Satir formed an educational organization in 1977 called the Avanta Network.