Jean McLendon on the Legacy of Virginia Satir
A longtime trainee and friend of Virginia Satir, Jean McLendon shares stories of her early years in training, the tremendous influence Satir has had on the field psychotherapy, and her ongoing influence in the 21st century.
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|Jay Lappin:||So, Jean, the first thing I want to ask you is, what can Virginia Satir’s family therapy offer to new therapists? What could young therapists entering the field learn from the model?|
|Jean McLendon:||Well, I find myself wondering, what can the more experienced therapists learn from the model? New therapists who have not been in the room with a client or a patient, or have done very little work, don’t have much of a context or framework for how to even be in the therapeutic interaction.|
Just recently I heard that a young therapist asked if it was okay to have a clock in her room, and if so, should the clock be visible just to her or to her and the client? I was floored that someone who was finishing their graduate degree was concerned at all about that. I responded in a way that I didn’t particularly like because I was so astounded by the question. Theoretically I believe that all questions are good questions, but this one led me to think, what is this person learning about the importance of authenticity, of connection, of working with the client, not on or for the client.
I think the worry behind that question is, “I don’t want my client to think that I’m only watching the clock and that I’m not interested in what they have to say,” or something like that. But the clock is not going to give people a message one way or the other, or if they make a meaning of it you have no control over that. My sessions are 45, 50 minutes and I definitely want my clients to have access to the same clock I’m using. Why would I not? So being able to say, “Since we only have 45 minutes, I’ve got a clock here. We can both keep our eyes on it,” or, “I have a clock. I’ll let you know before the 45 minutes is up,” is thoughtful, it's considerate, it is sharing useful information.
Virginia was very astute about engaging clients in the here-and-now, in the room, sharing her thoughts and participating with them.Virginia was very astute about engaging clients in the here-and-now, in the room, sharing her thoughts and participating with them. So she might say, “I don't want the clock to bother you. We can turn it towards me.” Or, “Would you like to have the clock so that you can see it too?” But to ask the question, “is it okay to have a clock in the office, is it okay if the client knows you have a clock?” I fear there's a whole basis of skill and belief about humans and communication that just isn’t reaching these students.
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Jean McLendon, LCSW, LMFT, is the past president of The Virginia Satir Global Network and is currently the Director of Training Programs at Satir Systems, a professional therapy and coaching center in North Carolina. She trained with the late Virginia Satir for nearly twenty years and has been published in several journals and books. She has been on the faculties of the University of North Carolina School of Social Work, and The NIMH Staff College and served as faculty specialist with the Whole Systems Design Graduate Program at Seattle University. Jean travels widely applying the Satir Growth Model to a variety of contexts, situations, countries and cultures. Jay Lappin is a Structural Family Therapist, who worked at the Philadelphia Child Guidance Clinic under the direction of Dr. Salvador Minuchin. He is a Contributing Editor for the Psychotherapy Networker, a board member for the Minuchin Center for the Family and is in private practice. He is Family Therapy Director for CENTRA, Comprehensive Psychotherapy & Psychiatric Associates, Marlton, NJ & Philadelphia, PA. Jay can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
CE credits: 1
- Describe the nuts and bolts of the Satir Model.
- Understand Satir's role within the family therapy movement.
- Critique current business models of therapy.
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