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Bowen Family Systems Theory

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Jo Napo

on 8 October 2012

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Transcript of Bowen Family Systems Theory

The family is a system that effects each individual across generations, development, sibling order and those dynamic, corresponds to key patterns of relating. Bowen has created 8 interlocking concepts that he uses with core therapeutic techniques to change, alter and transform the way individuals relate, interact, and resolve conflicts. by Heather and Johannil Family Therapy
Concept Key Theoretical Constructs
and Definitions Societal Emotional Process Emotional Cutoff Multi-generational
Transmission Process Emotional Fusion & Differentiation Self The smallest stable relationship unit. Founder: Murray Bowen 1913-1990
born in Tennessee Founders/ Influences Key Techniques : Core Problem
Dynamic: Triangles Nuclear Family
Emotional System 1. Couple Conflict:
"Permission to disagree is one of the most important contracts between individuals in an intimate relationship" (p. 96).
In a fused relationship both partners interpret their emotion as their responsibility and disagreements as a personal affront to them.

2. Symptoms in a Spouse
Where each partner looks to
the other's qualities to fit his/her
learned manner of relating to
significant others.

3. Symptoms in a Child
When a child develops behavioral or emotional problems. Family Project Process Sibling Positions Bowen's focus was on patterns that develop in families in order to lower anxiety.

*What generates anxiety? Too much closeness or too great a distance in a relationship.

* “The degree of anxiety is determined by the current external stress and the sensitivities to particular themes that have been transmitted down the generations.”
(Bowen, 1999, p. 95)
1. Facilitating awareness of how the emotional system functions
2. Increasing levels of differentiation, where the focus is on making changes for
the self rather than on trying to change others.

Bowen constructed 8 interlocking concepts that outline emotional thinking and processes:

Emotional Fusion and Differentiation of Self
Triangles
Nuclear Family Emotional System
-Couple Conflict
-Symptoms in a Spouse
-Symptoms in a Child
Family Projection Process
Emotional Cutoff
Multigenerational
Sibling Positions
Societal Emotional Process is...“fusion” or “lack of differentiation” where individual choices are put aside in order to make harmony within the system.
Fusion is a sense of intense responsibility for another’s reactions, or by emotional “cutoff” from the tension within a relationship.
Differentiation is the ability for the individual to function autonomously by making self-directed choices. Depends on stress levels, how you respond to stress, and the degree of contact with extended family. It’s a lifelong process and completely differentiation is impossible. Triangaling is central to his theory. Emerges under stress, closely related to the first concept.
The greater the degree of fusion the more heighten is the pull to preserve emotional stability by creating a triangle.
Not a dysfunction. It's being aware that the original anxiety/tension was placed somewhere else.
May cause more anxiety/ tension Bowen Family Systems Theory:“Was one of the first comprehensive theories of family system functioning” (Brown, 1999, p. 94). It is a central theory used in North American in family therapy. Training: Psychiatrist and practiced within in the psychoanalytic model
Menninger Clinic in the late 1940s-Involved mothers in the investigation and treatment of patients with schizophrenia.
1954 started working at National Institute of Mental Health- Psychoanalytic training was put aside to focus on family systems. He began to include family members in his research of patients with schizophrenia.
1959 move to Georgetown University and established the Georgetown Family Center – Director until his death 1959-1962.
Conducted detailed research into families across many generations“
Instead of "developing a theory of pathology, Bowen focused on what he saw as the common patterns of all ‘human emotional systems’… Bowen was known to say frequently, ‘ there is a little schizophrenia in all of us’.” (Brown, 1999, p. 94).
1966- Bowen published the first ‘orderly presentation’ of his ideas. Around the same time he used his theory on his own family when a minor emotional crisis came up. Bowen described the intervention as a “ spectacular breakthrough for him in theory and practice.”
1967- In a family therapy conference, when talking about his ideas, he spoke about his own family and encouraged students to study there own family by creating triangles and inter-generational patterns rather than undergoing individual psychotherapy.
Bowen saw himself as a scientist who aimed to develop a theory for the entire range of human behavior and its origins (Brown, 1999). Michael Kerr- Georgetown Family Center
Philip Guerin- Center for Family Learning
Betty Carter- Family Institute of Westchester
Monica McGoldrick- Family Institute of New Jersey
Minuchin-contends that pathology rests not in the individual, but within the family system. Influences Leaders of Bowenian Theory Focus: A mutual emotional force that happens when a family's identity has been fused. General Overview Focus: Reduce Chronic Anxiety By: How children develop symptoms from the anxieties of the previous generation's relationships. Bowen Family Systems
Theory Examining the couple's relationship to understand how the child's problems are a result of the way the couple is relating to each other. For example, Melissa's Case Study. An unhealthy way of dealing with family members growing up or building their own independent identity. Physical distance
Emotional withdrawal Growing away versus Cutoff:
Identity +Family
Identity-Family (decision) How patterns, themes and positions (roles) in a triangle are passed drown from generation to generation through the projection from parent to child.

The family Projection process is repeated across generations.

The impact would be different for each child.

Cultural dimension? "That which is created in a relationship, can be fixed in a relationship" Murray Bowen Sibling position could provide useful information in understanding the roles individuals tend to take in relationships. (Brown, 1999. p. 97) Oldest child- Responsibility and leadership
Middle child-Flexible in shifting responsibility ans dependence
Youngest child- Dependent and decisions made by others
Only child- Responsible and greater access to the adult world

A parent may be closer to a child in the same sibling position as their own or a previous generational triangle may manifest and repeat in a parent child relationship.

* This idea is not universal* Therapeutic Triangle- Using the Therapist as the “translator,” the couple tries to work out their differences through compromise.

Genogram- Graph with symbols expressing important family information.

Questioning- The goal of this technique is that by asking questions about the dynamics of their family, the focus is shifted from grief and anger to seeing what they are doing to contribute to their families problems.

Detriangulation- The therapist refuses to take sides, and helps parents take responsibility for their part of the family’s difficulties.

Coaching- The therapist helps the client through every step of the process to make sure they know what they are doing. family systems therapy The concept of societal emotional process describes how the emotional system governs behavior on a societal level, promoting both progressive and regressive periods in a society. Work:
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