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START WITH WHO LEARNING SERIES: Deeply Understanding WHO Using the Satir Change Model

Virginia Satir, a pioneer of family therapy, developed a model of how individuals experience change. She defined change as "an internal shift that in turn brings about external change". The Satir Change Model says that as we cope with unexpected or significant change, we predictably move through five stages: Late Status Quo, Resistance, Chaos, Practice and Integration, and New Status Quo. Although developed in the context of family therapy, the model has been widely adopted to describe systems and organisational change.

The Satir Model describes the changes we go through as we experience significant change. It helps people improve lives by transforming the way we see and express ourselves.

The 5 Stages:

Late Status Quo

This is a state of familiarity. Here you can see that there are bare fluctuations in the day to day activities and considered to be the comfort zone.

Foreign Element

In Satir’s model, the Foreign Element, is the thing that disturbs the equilibrium and triggers chaos. It can be almost anything: a birth, a retirement, death in the family, moving to a new place. The foreign element stirs a person’s state of familiarity and challenges one’s comfort zone. The foreign element plunges people to chaos.


In the Chaos stage, you are suddenly in unfamiliar territory where your life is unpredictable, and your usual ways of doing and being do not work. Chaos is a very creative time of exploration and trying out different ways. People come up with lots of new ideas when in Chaos. Eventually, one will be a Transforming Idea, an idea that helps you make sense of the Foreign Element.

Practice and Integration

Once we have a Transforming Idea, we start on the road out of Chaos and toward practicing and integrating new ways of knowing, doing and being. The purpose of this stage is to embody our new skill, mindsets and knowledge, and integrate them into our daily lives.

New Status Quo

There is now some degree of familiarity with new ways of working. New vocabulary, mental models and belief systems have emerged and are part of the daily practice. Eventually, these new skills become second nature, and with time, the newness fades and the person settles into a sense of familiarity. The New Status Quo then becomes a Late Status Quo.

And the change cycle begins again. I see this as an expanding spiral where we are never back to where we were before.

🔥CHECK-IN POINT: Looking at the Satir change model,

Where are the people you want to serve or are serving in the change model?

What is going on with their lives and their current experiences?

What strengths do they bring in this specific phase?

What challenges can you identify?

What have they tried in solving these challenges?

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