Satir Transformational Systemic Therapy (STST)


Satir Transformational Systemic Therapy (STST) was pioneered by Virginia Satir around 1951. This form of therapy was created to enhance communication and relationships between family members by addressing the person’s dynamic within the family. Though it was made with family systems in mind, STST can also been applied to couples and individuals. The family unit is seen as a whole, instead of just as a sum of its parts and is treated based on the problems lying underneath the behaviours of each family member and how they impact all other members.  STST has a strong spiritual component that focuses on change that brings people closer to a fulfilling life by reaching harmony, becoming whole, and increasing their responsibility. Attaining congruence, gaining responsibility, and increasing self-esteem are key goals in this form of therapy.

Focusing only on the presenting concern solves only the crust of the concern. Therefore, Satir therapists encourages individuals to understand the underlying unmet yearning that are acting as the root cause for these concerns. Therapist not only focuses on building the relationship between the partners but also helps them work through past trauma to develop a greater sense of harmony, oneness, and inner peace. When past events are dealt with properly, their current behaviour and attitude will change as a result, which can positively affect the relationships they have.


STST focuses on three therapeutic systems: (1) The Intrapsychic, (2) The Interactive and (3) The Family of Origin. Individuals can work towards change by focusing on the following:

  1. The intrapsychic system emphasizes that human experience is essentially internal. Internal components are interactive and systemic. When change occurs in one area, other areas are change as well.
  2. In the Satir Model, the interactive system recognizes the differences and sameness in relationships. To resolve conflicts that arise from differences, interaction must occur with congruency.
  3. The family of origin system focuses on an individual’s actions, emotions, and perceptions in relation to their dynamic within the family unit.

The core beliefs of STST include:

  1. All humans are connected through the same Universal Life Force.
  2. The human experience, which consists of spiritual connection, doing, thinking, feeling, expecting, and desiring, us universal. Regardless of culture, circumstances, and varying environments, these processes can be accessed and changed.
  3. People are naturally good at the core of Life Energy.
  4. The meanings people adopt, along with their worries and how they cope inform how a problem impacts their life. In other words, problems are not the issue, but how an individual faces and copes with a problem is.
  5. The focus of therapy should be on possibilities rather than problems
  6. By becoming conscious of the internal, change can occur even if external change is restricted.
  7. While the past cannot be changed, using positive energy to the impact that the past had will lift the negative emotions in the present
  8. At any given moment, people do the best they can. The coping that an individual was capable of is tied to their self-worth. By bringing people closer to their life energy, their self-worth can increase, and better choices can be made.
  9. The focus of any therapeutic change is wholeness, growth, and evolution. This is where transformational change happens.
  10. The focus of any therapeutic change is wholeness, growth, and evolution. This is where transformational change happens.


STST uses experimental techniques such as:

  • Roleplaying.  Satir therapists use this technique to help the clients enact the conflicts they are facing. Once it is done, the therapists explore with them about the feelings associated with what has been enacted. This then leads to the discussion on healthy new patterns of interaction. Communication skills training, and behavioural rehearsal are examples of these types of activities. Couples are encouraged to practise newly learnt skills in the presence of the therapist and then outside of therapy.
  • Exploration of Satir Iceberg and Family tree. This technique involves exploring the unmet yearning that has caused a stunt in the growth of Self. This stunt produces unhealthy coping mechanisms that causes concerns between the individuals. This technique helps in understanding the cause root of the concern and explores the intergenerational trauma each partner has.
  • Family sculpting. This is a technique in which the therapist asks one or more members of the family to position the other members (and lastly themselves) in relation to one another in terms of posture, space, and attitude to portray the arranger’s perception of the family, either in general or regarding a particular situation or conflict. This technique often reveals family dynamics visually in a way that may not be adequately captured in verbal descriptions by family members. Family sculpting usually creates an easy insight into uncovering truths about the relationship.


Banmen, J. & Maki-Banmen, K. (n.d.). Satir transformational systemic therapy (in brief). Retrieved from

Edwards, Blake Griffim (2019, August 31). Remembering Family Therapist Guru Virginia Satir.

Psychology Today. 20experiential%20techniques% 20that, in% 20her%20work%20with%20families.

Satir Centre Singapore (n.d.). Satir Transformational Systemic Therapy. Retrieved from

Sinan Okur. (2020). Satir Transformational Systemic Therapy and Spirituality. Spiritual Psychology and

Counseling, 5(1), 45–64.

  • Coping when a member of the family is dealing with an addiction or mental illness
  • Addressing issues related to financial strain, immigration, divorce, deaths, and life transitions
Narrative Therapy

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