Another Visualization of the Satir Change Model

Some years back I had a conversation with Bas Vodde about the graphical way that the Satir Change Model is usually represented. If you search on the internet, you’ll likely to end up at Steve Smith’s description, which is very good but shows “performance” as if it’s a measurable thing. While at the UNC Satir Summer Intensive workshop in 2018, I thought about a different way to view the process of change. This view is less from an external point of view, and more from the point of view of the person going through the change. Rather than a graph, it’s a map of the journey from the Old Status Quo to the New Status Quo.

Late Status Quo

Imagine you’re sitting at home, minding your own business. It may not be the life of your dreams; it may not even be without pain and annoyances, but you’re accustomed to the way things have been going.

Foreign Element

Then something happens that upsets the apple cart and drives you out of your recent status quo. This may be an internal event, such as deciding that your status quo isn’t good enough, but it’s most often externally triggered. Something may have happened that revealed your status quo wasn’t good enough for you any more. Something may have happened that destroyed your status quo–perhaps you were let go from your job, a loved one rejected you, or, as shown here, your house was struck by lightning and burned down with all your possessions.


Whatever the cause, your accustomed routine is disrupted, and you have to do something different. Your available choices may seem unpalatable. Should you head into the deep woods, or wade through the swamps? The desire to turn around and go back to the way things were is very strong, even if impossible.

At this point you may be tempted to turn back to the remains of your old status quo, no matter how uncomfortable that might be. Camping next to your charred house? That could seem preferable to pushing ahead into the unknown, even if it’s sure to lead to a depressing future.

Transforming Idea

If you continue to push forward through the chaos, crossing the river into new territory and climbing up the steep ridge, you’re likely to reach the Transforming Idea and lets you see the situation in a different light. In this map, the Transforming Idea is represented as a ridge line that lets you see further than you have been, and perhaps see new possibilities for the future. With a vision of a New Status Quo, you can focus on moving forward rather than back to your lost past.

Practice and Integration

You’re not completely out of the woods, yet. There’s still work to do before reaching that vision. You may have to learn new skills and techniques to make it possible. You need to practice those skills and integrate them into your sense of normal life. The Transforming Idea may have shown you that you need to detour to reach the place you desire.

New Status Quo

Finally you reach a place where your rate of change slows down and you can settle into a New Status Quo. The Practice and Integration has made this a more comfortable place to rest until the next Foreign Element propels you onward. The New Status Quo is not guaranteed to be better than the Late Status Quo, but it is different.

Note that smaller changes are generally easier to accommodate. Also, more frequent changes tend to be smaller. And foreign elements that you’ve chosen are more likely to lead to an improved status quo than are externally imposed ones, if only because conscious choice tends to prefer better over worse.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.