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Bowen Family Systems Therapy

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Alana Wilson

on 4 October 2012

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Transcript of Bowen Family Systems Therapy

By Sarah & Alana Bowen Family Systems Therapy ORIGINS
JANUARY 31, 1913- OCTOBER 6, 1990
COMPREHENSIVE VIEW OF HUMAN BEHAVIOUR Theory Origins Continued... Origins Therapy 3
Observations 1. Triangling
2. Emotional Cutoff
3. Differentiation Origins Continued Based on Darwin's Theory of Evolution Variation passed from parents to offspring
New generations closely resemble their parents Differentiation of Self:  Psychological separation of intellect and emotions and independence of self from others

Triangle:  A three-person system

I-Position:  A statement that acknowledges one’s personal opinions rather than blames other or moralizes Key Concepts & Vocabulary Triangulation  Detouring conflict between two people by involving a third person, stabilizing the relationship between the original pair

Undifferentiated family ego mass  Early term for emotional “stuck-togetherness” or fusion in the family Key Concepts & Vocabulary Fusion  A blurring of psychological boundaries between self and others and a contamination of emotional and intellectual functioning

Emotional Cutoff  Flight from an unresolved emotional attachment

Family of Origin  A person’s parents and siblings Key Concepts & Vocabulary Family Life Cycle  Stages of family life

Detriangulation  Process by which an individual removes himself or herself from the emotional field of two others

Genogram  A schematic diagram of the family system Key Concepts & Vocabulary Process Questions  Questions designed to help family members think about their own reactions to what others are doing

Relationship Experiments  Suggestions for trying new ways of responding to family stresses

Multigenerational Transmission Process  Projection of varying degrees of immaturity to different children in the same family Key Concepts & Vocabulary The Model We have less autonomy in our personal lives than we like to think. We are more dependent and reactive to one another than we realize. Family is a multigenerational network of relationships that effects the interplay of individuality and togetherness using 5 concepts. #1 Differentiation of Self The Capacity to think and reflect, to not respond automatically to emotional pressures, internal or external.
The ability to be flexible and act wisely, even in the face of anxiety. Undifferentiated Family Emotional Triangles #2 Virtually all relationships are shadowed by a 3rd person
Triangles are created as a result of anxiety
Triangles may become fixed or habitual Triangulation Multigenerational Emotional Processes #3 Emotional forces in families operate in patterns
Lack of differentiation in a family produces reactive children which may then show up as over involvement or emotional cut off.
This reactivity or FUSION will then reoccur in new relationships because people with limited emotional resources project their needs on each other. 1. Emotional Distance

2. Physical or Emotional Dysfunction in one partner

3. Over Conflict

4. Projection of Discord onto Children Unstable Fusion Produces... the child the most involved in the family's fusion moves towards a lower level of differentiation
the child the least involved in the family's fusion moves towards a higher level of differentiation
anxious parents lead to reactive children Generational Effect: Emotional Cutoff #4 Describes the way some people manage anxiety between generations.

Create physical or emotional distance Differentiation of autonomous personalities is both a description of normal family development and a prescription for therapeutic improvement (Nichols. p.79, 2011)
Behaviour symptoms arise from stress that exceeds a person's capacity to manage it. Stress management is a function of differentiation, therefore the more fully differentiated an individual may be, the better equipped they are to handle stress. Bowen believed... How well do YOU handle stress? Level of differentiation --> determined by family of origin BUT its functionality is influenced by quality of current relationships
Greater emotional fusion predisposes an individual or system to symptoms such as dependency or isolation.
Dependency or isolation contribute to marital conflict, dysfunction in of the spouses, over concern with one of the children or a combination of all three. Behavioural Disorders Anxiety Poor Differentiation
& Greater Emotional Fusion Development of Behavioural Symptoms marital conflict Dysfunction Over concern
with children Don't try to change people
Therapy as an opportunity for people to learn about themselves and their relationships
Individual assumes responsibility for their own problems THERAPY Process of ACTIVE INQUIRY during which the therapist helps the family members to explore their ROLES in family problems
Must pay attention to PROCESS and STRUCTURE Therapy Continued... Process = patterns of emotional reactivity

Structure = interlocking networks of triangles Crucial Elements of Therapy: 1. Understanding

2. Neutral Atmosphere

3. Neutral Stance of Therapist

4. Self Reflection

5. Pointed & Individual Questions

6. Therapist's Ability to Control Their Reactivity & Avoid Triangulation

7. Encourage Individuals to Take Responsibility for THEIR Role in the Conflict

8. Process Question Step 1: Assessment
history of presenting problem including exact dates
history of nuclear family including when parents met, courtship, marriage and child rearing. Particular attention is paid to the influence or lack there of of the extended family.
history of both spouses
Step 2: Genogram
All information collected during history is included
Cover at least 3 generations
focus on including relationship conflicts and triangles
include dates of important events Therapy Continued... *** PROCESS QUESTIONS!***
- Meant to slow people down, diminish anxiety and start them thinking! Designed to explore what's going on inside people and between them.

Example: "When your daughter breaks her curfew, how do you feel?"
"I feel angry and worried"

***Relationship Experiment***
-Designed to help family members realize that it isn't what other people do, but how they respond that perpetuates their problems.

Example: The daughter in the example above usually reacts by withdrawing both physically and emotionally from her mother's angry outbursts. Instead, she is encouraged to negotiate an appropriate curfew with her parents and abide by it.

- Avoiding becoming emotionally embroiled in family triangles. Instead, therapists ask questions designed to help people figure out family processes and roles.

- Use of a calm, clear statement of personal opinion BOWENIAN TECHNIQUES Stay Connected but don't let them triangle you
Connect with each person one at a time, beginning with more motivated partner
frame questions to stimulate thinking
during heated moments, encourage couple to talk to you, not each other
concentrate on the process of interaction, not the content of the conversation
remain calm, and ask for detailed descriptions of events
remain a coach
encourage and use "I" statements Couples Therapy:
You should... Can be productive and may benefit the whole family

Employs the same techniques and processes

Learning to recognize triangles, to detriangulate oneself and avoid old patterns are key. Individual Therapy Betty Carter & Monica McGoldrick
Expanded Bowen’s theory to include attention to the family life cycle, ethnic diversity, & gender inequality

Along with vertical flow of anxiety through generations, the horizontal stress families experience when moving through the lifecycle is also taken into account

Family Life Cycle --> process of expansion, contraction and realignment of the relationship system to support the entry, exit, and development of family members Current Directions Effectiveness of Bowenian therapy has yet to be found in any clinical outcome literature

Three psychometrically sounds measures of differentiation of self have been developed

Level of Differentiation of Self Scale
Skowron’s Differentiation of Self Inventory (DSI)
Chabot’s Emotional Differentiation Scale (CED) Research Support There is support for Bowen’s notion that differentiation is related to trait anxiety (negatively), psychological and physical health problems (negatively), and marital satisfactions (positively)

Significant relationship between triangulation and marital distress & problems in intimate relationships

Parents’ and children’s beliefs are highly correlated (Multigenerational transmission process) Research Support Bowen’s Family Systems Theory is useful

Drawback – concentrating only on individuals “neglects the power of working with families in action” (p. 90) Personal Evaluation Triangle Activity
Think of a Triangle that you currently exist in or have been a part of in the past.
Draw the lines of the triangle to show how each person is affected
Quickly discuss in two groups of 4 Class Activity Brown, J. Bowen family systems theory: Illustration and critique.
Retrieved from http://www.familysystemstraining.com/
papers/bowen-illustration-and-critique.html. September 24, 2012.

Nichols, M. P. (2011). Bowen family systems therapy: In The essentials of
family therapy. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Titleman, P. E. (1998). Clinical applications of the Bowen Family Systems
Theory. Binghampton, New York, U.S.A.: The Haworth Press. Works Cited: Societal Emotional Processes #5 how the emotional system governs behavior on a societal level, promoting both progressive and regressive periods in a society. SIBLING POSITION

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