Virginia Satir

Virginia Satir is one of the key figures in the development of family therapy. She believed that a healthy family life involved an open and reciprocal sharing of affection, feelings, and love. Satir made enormous contributions to family therapy in her clinical practice and training. She began treating families in 1951 and established a training program for psychiatric residents at the Illinois State Psychiatric Institute in 1955.

Satir served as the director of training at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto from 1959-66 and at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur beginning in 1966. In addition, Satir gave lectures and led workshops in experiential family therapy across the country. She was well-known for describing family roles, such as "the rescuer" or "the placator," that function to constrain relationships and interactions in families (Nichols & Schwartz, 1998. Family Therapy: Concepts and Methods. 4th ed. Allyn & Bacon).

Satir's genuine warmth and caring was evident in her natural inclination to incorporate feelings and compassion in the therapeutic relationship. She believed that caring and acceptance were key elements in helping people face their fears and open up their hearts to others (Nichols & Schwartz, 1998. Family Therapy: Concepts and Methods. 4th ed. Allyn & Bacon). Above all other therapists, Satir's was the most powerful voice to wholeheartedly support the importance of love and nurturance as being the most important healing aspects of therapy. Unfortunately, Satir's beliefs went against the more scientific approach to family therapy accepted at that time, and she shifted her efforts away from the field to travel and lecture. Satir died in 1988 after suffering from pancreatic cancer.

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