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Bowenian Family Systems Theory

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Ryan Stocker

on 28 February 2012

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Transcript of Bowenian Family Systems Theory

Following the Path of Bowenian Family Systems Theory Differentiation of Self
Cornerstone of Bowenian Theory
Both Intrapsychic and Interpersonal Concept
As cited in Nichols (p. 115, 2010) "The capacity to think and reflect, to not respond automatically to emotional pressures, internal or external (Kerr & Bowen, 1988).
Undifferentiated people
emotional, reactive, impetuous, submissive or defiant
Differentiated people
balances thoughts and feelings, have self-restraint A Little History Core Concepts Applications In Therapy -Murray Bowen
Born in 1913 Waverly, Tennessee
Bowen got his B.S. at the University of Tennessee (1934)
Received his MD at the Medical School of the University of Tennessee Medical School (1937)
Internships at:
Bellevue Hospital in New York City (1938)
Grasslands Hospital, Valhalla, New York (1939 to 1941)
Military Experience
Five years of active duty with Army in the United States and Europe (1941 to 1946)
After his military service, accepted for fellowship in surgery at Mayo Clinic.
Started at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas as fellow in psychiatry and personal psychoanalysis (1946-1954)
This is where he began his ideas of working with family systems with patients diagnosed with schizophrenia.
Worked in the National Institute of Mental Health, Bethesda, Maryland (1954-1959)
Developed the theory that is now known as Bowen Theory.
Initial research on parents who lived with one adult schizophrenic child
Worked at the Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington DC (1959-1990)
Pofessor at the department of Psychiatry
Director of Family Programs
Founder of a Family Center
Also had faculty positions at:
The University of Maryland (1956 -1963)
The Medical College of Virginia of Richmond (1964 - 1978)
First president at the American Family Therapy Association.
Died in October 1990 Students of Bowen
Philip Guerin
Formed Center for Family Leraning
Thomas Fogarty
Formed Center for Family Leraning
Betty Carter
Monica McGoldrick
Michael Kerr
Director of training at the Georgetown Family Center since 1977
Wrote "Family Evaluation" (Kerr & Bowen, 1988) A Few Key Names Emotional Triangles Major Influence on traingles is Anxiety, acting as a reactive force from which people either seek closeness and comfort, or they seek distance

Although responding to the anxiety can reduce it, the underpinning conflict remains in place Multigenerational Emotional Processes Originally termed "undifferentiated family ego mass"
used to describe fusion (excess of emotional reactivity) in families
Unstable family fusion leads to:
emotional distance
marital conflict
dysfunction in one partner
projection of dysfunction onto child
According to Bowen, the child in a family who is involved most in the entire families fusion will have the lowest level of differentiation
Sibling Position Children act in accordance to what is projected upon them by parents.
First borns identify with authority
Later borns indentify as oppressed
The entire family environment should not be considered a shared system. Although they may share a larger family environment, there are far too many micro environments from which everyone individually takes a vantage point, experiencing the same event in different ways Emotional Cutoff Describes how anxiety is handled between generations
The more fusion-the more cutoff
Has been referred to as "emotional divorce" Societal Emotional Process Bowen anticipated that there is an impact on the function of a family due to social factors
Thought that sexism, class, and prejudice (ethnic and racial) poisoned the families emotional processes.
Also thought that if a family was more differentiated, they could better handle negative social elements. The primary goal of therapy is to provide the family with the chance to gain knowledge of themselves, as well as their relationships within the family system.
This will allow the family members to take responsiblity for themselves and their own issues
Active Inquiry Process
Move past blaming
Discover individual family roles Bowenian therapist focus on both process and structure
focusing on patterns of fusion
focusing on the triangles within the family system

What do you you all think is the most important triangle that Bowenian therapists focus on??? The marital couple!!! This is done by forming a new triangle, referred to as the therapeutic triangle.
The goal of the therapist is to stay emotionally neutral
Leads to:
Ability of parents to manage own issues, which ultimately can lead to better ability to handle children
Also strengthens marital relationship
However, some Bowenian therapists tend to focus on repairing parental relationships with the most troubled child Guiding Principle
Increase the family members' ability to understand the difference between thoughts and feelings
This new ability will allow for the family to resolve dysfunctional relationships Therapy "Techniques"
Process questions
What's going on inside and between couples
Relationship Experiments
Less emotionally involved
Taking "I" positions
Saying what you feel vs. what the other is doing
Displacement Stories
Stories about other couples Let's think about this theory.... http://quizlet.com/451121/scatter/
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