A maverick and a visionary in the ’60s and ’70s, Salvador Minuchin transformed the very idea of what a therapist was supposed to be, from the self-contained cipher sitting mostly silent behind the patient’s head into something dazzlingly different—a brash interventionist willing to make people change regardless of what they were feeling or whether they even knew what they were feeling. Beyond that, he put forth a brand new model of psychotherapy—family therapy.
"Only the family, society's smallest unit, can change and yet maintain enough continuity to rear children who will not be 'strangers in a strange land,' Minuchin famously wrote in his book, Families and Family Therapy.
Now 95 years old, Salvador Minuchin is the world’s most famous living family therapist and probably the most imitated practitioner ever. In the video clip below from the Networker Symposium's First-Ever Lifetime Achievement Award, celebrating Minuchin, renowned couples therapist Esther Perel shares the heartwarming story of how Minuchin played an integral role in her development as a young therapist hoping to make a big difference.
Esther Perel, MA, LMFT, is author of the bestseller Mating in Captivity. Her TED talk has reached more than 5 million people.
As Perel mentions, Minuchin had an indelible impact on the lives of many budding therapists, and continues to influence their work even today. "All of us have formative books that shaped us," Perel tells Minuchin. "But you were my book, and I still read that book. There are some you'll go back to your entire life, and they'll always shape you differently each time you read them. What you taught us is that you'll never be the same person two sessions in a row."
Minuchin, too, is a firm believer in the depth and impact of a life well-lived. "When I look back on my life," he reflects in our January issue, "I see a sheltered Jewish child, a rebellious young adult, a revolutionary, a soldier, a stammering, helpless immigrant, and many, many, other things. At 95, I think of myself as having journeyed through life as many different people, and I think of a line from Antonio Machado, one of my favorite Spanish poets: 'The road is not the road; you make the road by walking.' I hope in my own walking I’ve cleared away some debris for those who will follow."
Did you enjoy this video? You might also want to check out Minuchin's reflection on the history of family therapy in "Systems Therapy: The Art of Creating Uncertainty," or Perel's "The Mystery of Eroticism," in which she argues that therapists need to ask more probing questions in order to get to the root of couples' sexual problems. To see more reflections from the 2017 Networker Symposium, check out our May/June issue, What Now?: Five Therapists Face the Limits of What They Know.