This model of MFT seems to be in two distinct worlds, that of the 1960s with inspiration from two of the leading figures, Virginia Satir and Carl Whitaker, and now with the work of Johnson and Greenberg (1985) and Schwartz (1995) â€“ see the Gehart text for more information about these theorists.  During the time between these theorists, this model lost momentum as these two founders died.  The newer Experiential theorists have combined the emotional focus of the model with the more sophisticated concepts of systems theory.  In a discussion post, you will explore the founding and more modern conceptualizations of this model. 

Please note that, within the AATBS materials, Virginia Satir’s therapy model is called the “Human Validation Process Model”

Additional Materials

Though not required, you are invited to view the following videos of Virginia Satir and Carl Whitaker providing therapy:

The Lost Boy by Virginia Satir 

  1. Session Intro: This session. Recorded in 1984 by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and digitally remastered in 2007, features Virginia Satir conducting a live, unedited therapy session with a family. The featured family is a large, intact family with ten children whose presenting problem is the grief following the loss of one of their children who is still missing a year after his abduction. In this session, the family is emotionally and physically engaged through use of touch and positioning to reflect the mourning, sibling rivalry, and distancing of the father. It provides an excellent demonstration of Satir’s open, directive, and spatial style.
  2. Therapist Intro: Virginia Satir (1916-1988) was one of the key figures in the development of Marriage and Family Therapy. Recognized internationally as a therapist, author, and teacher, her career and contributions to the field spanned over 45 years and include the development of the “Virginia Satir-change Process Model.” A master at getting people to open up, she believed that the most important healing aspects of therapy were love and nurturance.

Video Link: (86 minutes) http://www.viddler.com/v/72f31c27

NOTE: Please use this password – NCU123 â€“ to access the video.

Usefulness of Non-Presenting Symptoms by Carl Whitaker 

  1. Session Intro: This session, recorded in 1986 by the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy and digitally remastered in 2009, features Carl Whitaker conducting a live, unedited therapy session with a family. The featured family includes a grandmother, mother and two preadolescent sons. The women are recent widows and the boys were abused by their deceased alcoholic father. Through pushing and then drawing the family in, intergenerational rules that hypnotize people to act in destructive ways are searched out. Themes of suicidal behavior, depression, unresolved grief and obesity become apparent as the family is challenged to deal with issues in a healthier fashion.
  2. Therapist Intro: Carl Whitaker (1912-1995) is considered one of the founders of the Marriage and Family Therapy profession. He was a spontaneous and highly creative innovator in the field. Known to throw Frisbees in the middle of a session to keep his clients engaged, he was a pioneer, encouraging therapists to use their own creativity and personalities to push families to open up. His techniques promoted intensity in the therapy room and left an everlasting impression on the practice of MFT.

 Video Link (130 minutes): http://www.viddler.com/v/d2593926

NOTE: Please use this password – NCU123 â€“ to access the video.

Instructions regarding AATBS materials, the readings listed below will be found in the following volumes:

  • California Exam Volume II – Treatment Planning and Treatment (focus on the information about this model)

    Please note that the table on page 20 references experiential and provides human validation process model as an example. Also, on page 26, in section D, the first sentence discusses experiential models under human validation process model.

  • National Exam Book – Treatment (focus on the information about this theory)

Be sure to carefully review this Week’s resources.  You will be expected to apply the information from these resources when completing your assignments.

Supplemental Reading:

Books to consult for additional information about this week’s model.


  • Satir, V., & Ives, B. (1972). Peoplemaking. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books.
  • Satir, V. (1983). Conjoint family therapy. Palo Alto, CA: Science and Behavior Books.


  • Johnson, S. (2004). The practice of emotionally focused couple therapy: creating connection. New York, NY: Routledge.
  • Johnson, S. Bradley, B., Furrow, J., Lee, A., Palmer, G., … Wooley, S. (2005). Becoming an emotionally focused couple therapist: The Workbook. New York, NY: Routledge. 

Internal Family Therapy

  • Schwartz, R. C. (1997). Internal family systems therapy. New York, NY: The Guilford.
  • Swezy, M., Ziskind, E. L., & Schwartz, R. C. (2013). Internal family systems therapy: New Dimensions. New York, NY: Routledge.  
Books and Resources for this Week:

Reference Instruction
Association for Advanced Training in the Behavioral Sciences (AATBS) materials

Read materials related to Experiential Family Therapy models (titled Human Validation Process Model)

Gehart, D. R. (2014) Mastering competencies in family therapy

Read Chapter 6

Reference Instruction
PowerPoint – Chapter 6 Experiential MCFT

Chapter 6 Experiential MCFT.pptx

View PowerPoint

The assignment for this week involves uploading a discussion post responding to the following prompts:

  • Who were the primary theorists in this model and what impact did their personalities have on its development?
  • What concepts from Experiential Family Therapy theories seem to be the most applicable (the essential concepts of the model) to doing work with clients?
  • What would be the obstacles of using the assessment and intervention strategies of these models in your practice?
  • In what cases would these models work and in what cases would they not work?
  • What diversity considerations would apply in the use of these models?
  • What are your thoughts about the fact that these theorists use similar words but give them different meanings?
  • Explain and provide at least one specific example that will illustrate why experiential family therapy can be considered a system-based model.

Length: 200-400 words

Your response should demonstrate thoughtful consideration of the ideas and concepts that are presented in the course and provide new thoughts and insights relating directly to this topic. Your response should reflect scholarly writing and current APA standards.

Post your discussion response in the discussion field below.

Learning Outcomes

1.0   Articulate the primary concepts of the classic and intergenerational models of Marriage and Family Therapy.

2.0   Synthesize specific concepts of the key classic and intergenerational models of therapy.

3.0   Critique classic and intergenerational models of therapy in the professional literature.

4.0   Evaluate the degree to which classic and intergenerational models of family therapy address issues of diversity including, age, culture, spirituality, race, gender, and socioeconomic status.

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