Thursday, January 13, 2011

Virginia Satir and the psychodrama link

Virginia Satir, who is considered one of the most influential and innovative of family therapists, has a psychodrama link. And a Wisconsin link.

Psychology students still read her most well-known books Conjoint Family Therapy as well as Peoplemaking and The New Peoplemaking, the last published in 1988.

Virginia Satir was born  in Neillsville, Wis., in 1916, the eldest of five children, and later moved to Milwaukee. At the age of five, Satir decided that she would grow up to be "a children's detective on parents." She later explained that "I didn't quite know what I would look for, but I realized a lot went on in families that didn't meet the eye."

Now to the link with psychodrama.

Psychodramatist Barbara Seabourne developed what she called "action sociometry" in the early 1960s, giving life to people's most important relationships by having them take postures to show their connections with each  other -- or the lack of same. Satir used similar ideas as she developed family sculpting, helping families to experierence their relationships with each other, not just talk about them.

 Zerka Moreno, the widow and collaborator of Dr. J.L. Moreno, the physician who developed psychodrama, adds that, in addition,  remembers flying to Milan, Italy, in 1963 to a conference of the International Association of Group Psychotherapy.

She writes:

"Dr. Moreno had secured seats on the plane for all those going to the conference. Virginia Satir sat across the aisle from us and attended the Moreno Academy one-day session before the conference in which I worked with a married couple. As far as I am aware, she attended all other sessions, including Moreno's presentation, at the conference, in which I presented "Sociogenesis of Individuals and Groups." She did not engage with us, nor seemed to do so much with anyone else on the plane; she was rather shy and quiet.

"We published a book containing all the presentations, called "The International Handbook of Group Psychotherapy." brought out by The Philosophical Library in New York, 1966. I was assistant editor.

"Virginia Satir's presentation is entitled: "Family Therapy: An Approach to the Treatment of Mental and Emotional Disorders." p. 441-445. She speaks, among others, of family conjoint therapy. She was, I believe, just beginning, but she was good at what she was doing.

"Virginia and I met again in 1985, in Phoenix, at the first Milton Erickson Foundation on Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference."

Satir died of pancreatic cancer soon after that meeting.