Satir’s Concepts of Transformation and 'use of Self ’

28 Mar 2018

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The Satir Model and Family Reconstruction

Satir’s concepts of transformation and 'use of self ’ in counseling

Student Name: Lo Chi Sing



“Change what you think” always is a sentences for some people facing dilemma. However, change is not an easy task due to a set of assumptions deeply taken root in our culture, social relationship and personal histories (Mahoney & McCray-Patterson, 1992). Therefore, we need to recognize and acknowledge what keep us frozen and stuck in order to make decision with limitation. Viginia Satir’s process of change is a way to assist people in making choices that raise self-esteem, provide self-accountability or responsibility, and move a person toward being more congruent with self and others. Of course, before we facilitate our clients, we not only need to deeply understand ourselves, but also recognize and acknowledge our level of yearnings, expectations, perceptions and feelings which might influence the counseling process. As a social worker in the future, I am facing different dilemma and change is also a dilemma. However, how do I overcome it and be congruence to myself?

My Story – Dilemma of My Further Study and Work

Two years ago, I graduated from University and worked as programme officer in social agency. At the time, I believe that I started my career path with great future development. A year later, I studied in this part-time master programme and keep working as a full time to earn money and experience. Within this year, I thought that I just need to pass my exam and get the license of social work in order to get better pay. However, when I start the first semester of second year, I felt very stressful because of the difficult balance among work, study and placement. Firstly, my job is relatively demanding comparing to my first year. Secondly, I cannot focus on study and deeply understand the elective course, especially satir’s model. Thirdly, I cannot pay attention to my clients in my placement setting. Even though I know that the part time programme is very intensive, I did not expect the dilemma like this. One month ago, I felt that I was outburst, no matter physical body or psychological state. I want to study well but I cannot; I want to do better in placement but I cannot; and I want to do my job well but I cannot. I feel that I am not congruence to inner self and this made me emotional distress for long period of time. Therefore, I would like to have a change to deal with my situation. However, it’s not an easy task.

Exploring Change

The Satir model offers people the possibility of transforming their old way of interacting by making different choices and being more congruent (Satir & Baldwin, 1983). This possibility can change individuals’ belief about themselves, raising self-esteem, and giving them hope. Using this process provides workers with the opportunity to clients with their deepest pain, empathically connect to a deeper level of feeling the feelings. At that moment in time, clients would facilitate new perceptions and internal acceptance of past events. In response to my situation, I found that I want to have better studying environment instead of just passing the programme and get the license. The choices I perceived were maintaining the current situation and pass the programme without deep understand of courses or quitting the job and then spending much more time on studying and find part-time job if the schedule is appropriate. When I was considering these two choices, there is possibility for me to change. I deeply thought and felt what I need now and for my future. When I review what I did in the past few months, I finally knew and discover why I study social work at the very beginning that I want to serve the society with professional knowledge and develop my sense of self to influence other’s life by my life. Finally, I decided to quit the job. However, the decision cannot determine carelessly in consideration of my role of family and girl-friends.

Context of Change

Change happens all around us. Satir stated that transformational change requires an understanding of how perceptions of the world enhance or diminish our ability to change. Having already established that change happens, Satir indicates that change that is transforming is made in a safe, trusting and accepting environment (Satir et al., 1991). When I cannot balance studying, working and placement, I have a thought that I would quit either one. However, I would not quit the MSW programme because it’s my first goal in social service field. Then, only one I can do is to quit my job. Yet, as a part-time student with full time job, I was afraid that I cannot maintain my financial support which will influence my family members and my tutor fee. Also, I am planning to get marriage with my girl-friend. At the very beginning, she did not support my decision. When she understood what situation I was facing, she agreed with my final decision and fully supports me. At the same time, my parents also fully support my decision. They told me that my own saving is enough to support my tuition fee and short period of living expense. What I need to do is focusing on my study and finding some part-time jobs if it’s appropriate with my schedule. According to my family, my relationship with girl-friend and my financial support, it created a safe, trusting and accepting environment for me to change my perception of current situation and precede new perception.

Process of change

The change process is making the internal shift in belief to an external change possible and this internal shift cannot happen without an accepting environment first being established (Sayles, 2002). This environment is necessary in building trust as the person experiences, explores, and acknowledges own feelings. As the feelings are felt and articulated, the old belief is transformed into a new understanding and leading to a new belief. This new belief affects a person at the level of self, which brings about a new awareness of what is externally possible. To apply to my story, when I felt my feelings, it really takes time, not to mention being the state of feeling of feeling. Therefore, when I noticed that the workload from works, study and placement were overloaded and influence my emotional state which directly influenced my physiological state, such as insomnia and no appetite, I suddenly had a thought that I want to quit the job. During this moment, I experience chaos that there were lots of uncertainties and my previous plan will need to be adjusted. However, I tried to listen to myself and deeply thought about my psychological state in terms of different situations. Therefore, I determine to meet my expectation and yearnings which is spending much more time on studying and placement. At the same time, I felt that I get to be in charge of myself, but not from the environment.

Core element in the experience of change – Use of self

The use of self is the most powerful tool. During the period which I was confusing what I am doing, I cannot focus on the client. What I was doing is just listening their opinion but I was not helping them. The one of core element I learnt in Satir model is to be congruent being in touch with myself, such as my feelings, thoughts, expectations and yearnings so as to get in touch with the universal life energy and connect with the client. However, before we connect with the client, as a therapist, I need to experience my iceberg and accept myself. After we experiences acceptance of ourselves, we would accept others, including their context and feels in charge of oneself. This creates an experience of peace, vitality, harmony, connectedness and hope for the counseling process.


Transformational change happens as we look at the impact of an event on our lives and make a choice to be in charge of how the event affects our life. As a social worker, we need to pay attention to the internal messages and feelings formulated a belief that gets translated into our coping strategies to the given event. Then, transformation is a situation in which individuals experience the possibility of being in charge of what is felt, believed, and experienced. Through transformational process, we not only believe in ourselves, but also raise our self-esteem and believe that change is possible. Of course, before change is happened, we need to embrace the pain of the past in the present and feel the difference in the core of our well-being. All of the above is not only about the clients, but also about us, the social worker. Let’s start to use of self.


Mahoney, M., & McCray-Patterson, K. (1992). Changing theories of change: Recent developments in counseling. In S. Brown, & R. Lent (Eds.), Handbook of counseling psychology. (pp. 665–687). New York: John Wiley & Sons.

Satir, V., & Baldwin, M (1983). Satir step by step: A guide to creating change infamilies. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books.

Satir, V., Banmen, J. Gerber, J., & Gamori, M (1991). The Satir model: Family therapy and beyond. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books.

Sayles, C. (2002). Transformational change--based on the model of virginia satir. Contemporary Family Therapy: An International Journal, 24(1), 93-109.

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