Often called the “mother of family therapy,” Virginia Satir (1916-1988) started her professional life as an educator after graduating from the Milwaukee State Teachers College (now the University of Wisconsin) in 1936. While working as a public school teacher, Virginia developed an interest in meeting and working with her students’ parents – recognizing early on that engaging the support of parents not only yielded more successful outcomes for her students in the classroom, it also unlocked potential for healing within their families as well. She began to see the family as a microcosm for the larger world, famously stating, “If we can heal the family, we can heal the world.”
Her interest in working with families led her to pursue further education at the University of Chicago where she earned her Master of Social Work degree in 1948. From early on in her career, Virginia recognized the significant role that families often play in contributing to an individual’s problems and by extension their crucial role in contributing to the healing process. Her unique approach and ability to help difficult clients quickly led to recognition and demand as a consultant, author, and world-renowned trainer – as well as countless awards that included being voted “Most Influential Therapist” in two national surveys of Psychiatrists, Psychologists, Social Workers, and Marriage and Family Therapists (Psychotherapy Networker, 2007).
During her lifetime, Virginia wrote several widely acclaimed books on the subject of family therapy and she helped establish organizations such as the Mental Research Institute, International Human Learning Resources Network (IHLRN), and The Avanta Network (now The Virginia Satir Global Network) for the purpose of training and providing resources for therapists. She remained devoted to helping others and worked tirelessly up until her death in 1988 writing and traveling the globe as a trainer and lecturer.
The Satir Model ultimately expanded beyond the realm of family therapy and became recognized as applicable to all situations where improving human communication and growth is desired, proving to be useful in areas ranging from therapy and social work to education and information technology. The principles embodied in Virginia Satir’s unique combination of intelligence, insight, and compassion are universal in their applicability to the human condition, and there is little doubt that she deserves her status as one of the most significant figures in the history of modern therapy.
More information about Virginia Satir can be found at Good Therapy.