CONJOINT FAMILY THERAPY - ASSUMPTIONS AND COMMUNICATION STYLES

Virginia Satir's novel approach to family therapy centered on her idea that usually the problem at hand was not the real issue; instead, she believed it was the manner in which the person dealt with the issue(s) that actually created the underlying problem.

Assumptions:

1. Virginia Satir's approach is based on congruence and openness in communication
2. Families have many spoken and unspoken rules
3. Relies on the validation process
4. Emphasis is on family roles where the role played by each family member is based on one's behavior - the peace-keeper, the victim, the hard-working caregiver, and the disciplinarian
5. Focus on emotional honesty, congruence, and systemic understanding
6. Stuck families follow broken rules, and pathology is considered a deficit in growth (in a dysfunctional family, symptomatic behavior makes sense and is also covertly rewarded)
7. People rely on a "nurturing triad" (or a primary triad, which consists of the two parents and child where the child is nurtured) as their source of identity

Satir believed in five styles of communication. She considered four as dysfunctional and one as functional.

Dysfunctional Styles of Communication:

1. Placater - fearing rejection, they want to please, becoming dependent
2. Blamer - to cover their own inadequacies and emptiness, they attempt to control others by bullying and attacking their faults
3. Super reasonable (coined "computers") - keeping others at a 'safe distance', they depend upon detachment to protect their own feelings, skirting emotional issues with intellectual rationalization
4. Irrelevant or Distractor - often the youngest child falls into this category; rather than face the situation, they'll make the problem go away and pretend it doesn't even exist, hoping others involved will do the same

Functional Style of Communication:

1. Leveler or Congruent - telling it like it is, they are honest and genuine

Why People Do What They Do:

1. Strive for honesty and openness in family communication
2. Family members are considered "functional" when they are given the opportunity to be individuals. This entails the family member having a life separate from the family, with freedom and flexibility in their skills to communicate with other family members.
3. When family members allow their similarities to unite them and use their differences to help them grow

The Core of a Healthy "Self" Embodies Eight Levels:

1. Physical
2. Intellectual
3. Emotional
4. Sensual
5. Interactional
6. Contextual
7. Nutritional
8. Spiritual