Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

Videotape Reviews -- Virginia Satir: The Use of Self in Therapy

Academic journal article Journal of Marital and Family Therapy

Videotape Reviews -- Virginia Satir: The Use of Self in Therapy

Article excerpt

For anyone who has not seen Virginia Satir at work, The Use of Self in Therapy is a lovely introductory tape. Dr. Dewitt Baldwin, Jr., Emeritus Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at University of Nevada Medical School, as well as Satir's colleague and friend, provides commentary on the clips shown, explaining and expanding how Satir used the person of the therapist in her therapy. His perspective is also influenced by the work of his wife, Michele Baldwin, who studied with and worked closely with Satir, analyzing her interviewing process and theories, and collaborated with her on two books, one entitled The Use of the Self in Therapy.

While watching family therapy tapes, one often identifies with the therapist, almost with a we/they attitude. Such an attitude seems to me to be impossible while watching Satir. Her knowledge of people is so fine-tuned, her knowledge of the dynamics that operate deeply in all of us is so laser sharp, that we find ourselves identifying not only with her but also with the clients with whom she works. She touches them deeply, asking questions and having them say the previously unsayable to each other in a now safe way. It is dramatic work and at the same time simple, taking big leaps through many minute steps. Such work takes a lot of what many might call "micronoticing," as well as risk and daring. Most importantly, her work is based on her precept that the therapist must believe in and be congruent with what he/she does and that one's use of self is the essential element the therapist has to offer clients.

Satir is famous for her use of self. She is so fully at home inside herself, she so fully inhabits that self, that Satir the person cannot be disconnected from Satir the therapist. Most therapists, including couple and family therapists, are taught to do "sit down" therapy, where you use your brains and maybe occasionally have family members switch seats.

Satir is hardly still for a minute. Her activity is purposeful and natural as she engages family members with one another and herself with them. Touch is not an unnatural element in her therapy. Totally natural, it is nevertheless quite conscious, boundaried, and purposeful, as well as checked out with clients. She uses her body in how she sits, her facial expressions, and voice tone; she listens carefully to each word and nuance of clients' sentences, searching with them to understand their meanings, then carrying them forward from there to someplace new. …

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