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There are, no doubt, charismatic and even mystical elements in Satir's work—not to mention her skills as a stand-up-comic lecturer. Her own explanation for her personal power was that she was "congruent," i.e., all her internal parts (images, sounds, words, feelings) worked together to support her external senses. A strong feature of her work was always to assume that everyone's intentions were positive, no matter how awful the behavior. But Satir's real power was her ability to work in many styles at once. Her sessions incorporated essential elements of strategic, structural, systemic, intergenerational, and experiential family therapy into a distinctive whole, in which her intuitions found their full play. Satir saw a cognitive approach to self-differentiation as insufficient, believing that meaningful change meant involving the whole person, reaching out to him or her on as many levels as possible.

Like a strategic therapist, she emphasized obtaining specific descriptions of the family's presenting problem from family members. But she insisted that the presenting issue itself was seldom the real problem; rather, how people coped with the issue created the problem—a novel idea when she first presented it, as were her insights into how low self-esteem engendered peculiar, unbeneficial behaviors and relationships. A master of the strategic art of reframing, she incorporated in her work the structuralists' insistence upon giving people an experience of change within the therapy hour, believing words change people only if they're supported by the full experience of what the words point out.

Through techniques like family sculpting, she got people to enact their interactional difficulties, to give a clearer picture of exactly what was going on. But in addition to her concern with the here and now, she recognized the enormous influence of people's experiences in their families of origin.

Summing up her view of how therapy works, Virginia Satir said, "It is simply a question of life reaching out to life. As a therapist, I am a companion. I try to help people tune into their own wisdom. Of course, all this doesn't fit much of a psychotherapeutic theory."

6. Albert Ellis

Albert Ellis is credited (at least he credits himself) with inventing cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT), the most widely practiced and popular of all psychotherapy approaches today. By his own lights, he beat Aaron Beck, the "other" inventor of CBT, to the punch by a few years.

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