Women's Intellectual Contributions to the Study of Mind and Society

Students, as part of an advanced seminar, examined and wrote about the lives of these women, their intellectual contributions, and the unique impact and special problems that being female had on their careers.

For information about referencing this paper - Click Here

VIRGINIA SATIR (1916 - 1988)

Many phrases can be used to describe therapist and author Virginia Satir. She is referred to as "The Mother of Family System Therapy", "everybody's family therapist", and the "Columbus of Family Therapy". She was born in Wisconsin on June 26,1916 and her career would eventually span over 45 years. 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. She says, "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 Center and at the Illinois State Psychiatric Institute. Later she helped start the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto, California. She was instrumental in forming this country's first formal program in Family Therapy.

Satir has written or co-written twelve books. Her first book was published in 1964 and called Conjoint Family Therapy. Peoplemaking was published in 1972. Another popular book, done in 1988, is The New Peoplemaking. She died in that same year on September 10 in San Mateo, California.

According to author Steven Andreas, Satir helped people to reshape their way of problem solving into more positive ways. He quotes her 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.

Although she did not like the term hypnotherapy because she felt it to be manipulative, she used techniques that blended Eastern meditations and spirituality and incorporated meditations and 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." She showed how feelings of low self esteem are covered up with the use of different ways of communicating such as blaming and intellectualizing.

In working with a client, Satir was careful to be at their level either bending herself down or lifting a child up. Both eye contact and physical touching were important to her methods as was using a sense of humor. She was very aware of subtle, nonverbal cues both from the clients and in her own communication with them. She was known as a strong communicator and was very careful in what words she chose to use.

Satir taught her students that people learn beliefs from their family but that as adults these beliefs may no longer be useful to the individual. Being afraid to take a risk or letting fear stifle a person are ways of thinking and feeling that no longer serve that person's best interests. She set up seminars for helping people create more fulfilling experiences for themselves.

In addition to teaching and writing, Satir formed an educational organization in 1977 called the Avanta Network. Its purpose was to support people from many different professions. Its goal was to give people the coping skills to help them change their lives and handle difficulties in their relationships. The Network continues to provide workshops today. They use Satir's exercises so that the student can experience new ways of relating to themselves and to others.

Avanta is now an international organization in 18 countries. They teach what is called the Satir Growth Model and one of her goals was that world peace could be achieved by changing individual lives.

Much of Satir's early work in the 1940's was based on techniques used in psychiatry. She went on to use her innate abilities to develop new strategies for people to be able to grow and help themselves to new levels of understanding their relationships.

The following is an excerpt from Satir's Self Esteem:

"I am Me. I own my fantasies, my dreams, my hopes, my fears. I own my triumphs and successes, all my failures and mistake...I have the tools to survive, to be close to others, to be productive...I am me, and I am okay" (p.28).