A Recursive Frame Analysis of Virginia Satir’s “Of Rocks and Flowers” Session

  • Lauren Fix University of Louisiana at Monroe
  • Jana P. Sutton University of Louisiana at Monroe


Utilizing both the transcript and video, this article tracks the analysis of the 1970s Virginia Satir therapy session “Of Rocks and Flowers” in which Satir is working with a family whose children have been physically abused. Readers can access the full transcript, video, and partial video of the session at (AVANTA, 1998; Golden Triad Films, 1986; PsychotherapyNet, 2014) respectively. The session depicts a family consisting of a husband, a wife who is expecting a child, and two young boys, who are the biological children of the husband. The wife fears that her husband’s biological children will harm her unborn child if she remains in the home. She would rather leave the family than risk this danger (AVANTA, 1998). Given Satir’s success with this common presenting family complaint, the authors utilized Recursive Frame Analysis (RFA) (Keeney, 1990) to analyze her systemic participation in assisting the family from moving from an impoverished problem-saturated context to a resourceful context. RFA was selected due to its lineal and circular focuses of analysis. It is lineal in the sense that it can assist in tracking lineal movement during a session by dissecting the session into frames, galleries, and/or acts (or therapeutic contexts). It is circular in that all elements of the interaction can be analyzed and dissected as a whole (Keeney, 1990; Keeney & Keeney, 2012). The readers will then be introduced to Satir’s therapeutic approach, RFA, and to utilizing both to enhance awareness of their own therapeutic behaviors and impact on clinical outcomes.