|Born||June 26, 1916
|Died||Sep. 10, 1988 (at age 72)
Virginia Satir was a famous American author and psychotherapist. She is best known for her approach to family therapy and her great work with family reconstruction. Most people regard her as Mother of Family Therapy. Some of her best books include Conjoint Family Therapy in 1964 and The New Peoplemaking in 1988, among several others. Virginia is also known for creating the Virginia Satir Change Process Model, which is a psychological model that was developed through clinical studies.
Virginia was born on June 26, 1916, in Neillsville, Wisconsin. She was the eldest child whose parents were Oscar and Minnie Pagenkopf. As a young girl, she was a very bright child with a great sense of curiosity. At only three years old, she taught herself how to read. She also wanted to be a detective when she was young. This interest in uncovering the truth later became her lifelong passion through her therapeutic practice.
When she was five years old, Virginia suffered from appendicitis. At first, her mother did not want to take her to the doctor, but her father decided to overrule this decision. Virginia was lucky since doctors were able to save her life, but she was forced to stay in the hospital for a few months. By the time Virginia was nine, she could read all the books in the library.
In 1929, the family moved to Milwaukee so that Virginia could enroll in high school. Her high school years coincided with the Great Depression and in order to help her family, she took a part-time job. In 1932, she received her high school diploma. After this, she joined the Milwaukee State Teachers College. During this time, she worked as a babysitter to supplement her income.
Career as Therapist
After her graduation, Virginia Satir started working in private practice. By the end of the decade, she moved to California where she co-founded MRI (Mental Research Institute) in Palo Alto. In 1962, the institute received a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. This allowed them to start the first formal family therapy training program. She was hired as the institute’s training director.
One of Virginia’s most novel ideas during this time was that surface problem was hardly ever the actual problem. She offered insights into certain problems that low self-esteem could cause in a relationship. Virginia’s vision was to see people realize their self-worth and get back in touch with their feelings and free themselves from their blocked emotions.
Virginia was also interested in networking. She founded two groups to help individuals find mental health workers or people who were suffering from similar issues to their own. In 1977, she founded the Avanta Network, which was later renamed the Virginia Satir Global Network in 2010.
Contributions to Psychology
Virginia continually planted seeds of hope toward world peace. In 1988, she said that the family is a microcosm and by knowing how to heal the family, the world could also be healed. With this mind, she established professional training groups in Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, the Orient, Central America, Latin America and Russia.
In the mid-1970s, Satir’s work was extensively studied by Richard Bandler and John Grinder, the founders of Neuro-linguistic programming. Richard and John collaborated with Virginia to author a book called Changing with Families.
Virginia Satir also influenced Lori Gordon’s development of the PAIRS relationship education program. She served as the honorary founding chairperson of PAIRS Foundation. Virginia also encouraged marriage and family therapists to shift their focus to relationship education.
In 1964, Virginia Satir published her first book called Conjoint Family Therapy. This was developed from the training manual she wrote to her students at MRI. With each book she wrote, he reputation rose and she travelled the world to speak on her ideas. In most cases, she integrated meditations and poetic writing into her public workshops and writings.
Awards and Recognition
In 1979, Virginia was appointed to be on the Steering Committee of the International Family Therapy Association. She has also been recognized with several honorary doctorates. In 1982, she was selected by West German Government as one of the 12 most influential leaders in the world.
In two different surveys among psychiatrists, social workers, marriage, psychologists and family therapists, she was voted most influential of them all.