2024 Clinical Application of Bowen Theory


Thank you to all who attended:
26th Annual Day of Workshops

Clinical Application of Bowen Family Systems Theory

Dr. Murray Bowen developed a comprehensive new theory of the family. Based on his view of the human as part of nature and the family as a natural system, Dr. Bowen described the emotional process and the automatic patterns of behavior among family members.  He is best known for his concept of differentiation of self and the scale of differentiation that described the broad range of variation in human emotional functioning.

Conference Schedule:

9:00 A.M. keynote address

Death is Dying to Undo Us (and How to Keep your Parents from Killing You)
Jennifer Howe, M.S.W.

Death and its anticipation elicits more emotional reactivity than any other life process. Murray Bowen asked how does the human get to an “easy come, easy go” relationship with the inevitable losses of life? Because of the intensity of the survival instinct, the humans’ reactivity to death is a unique opportunity to observe the patterns of emotional family process. Most of us are unaware of and unprepared for the deep, reverberating ripples of reactivity that death can send out in the family. How does one observe the emotional process at work and make decisions based on what is best for self and others? This presentation will use BFST to look at the way humans have adapted and struggled to define a self in a life that ends in death.

10:10 A.M. break

10:30 A.M. video presentation

Family Reaction to Death

From the Basic Series (#6) of concept presentations from Murray Bowen as organized by The Bowen Center. (https://www.thebowencenter.org/bowen-theory-vids)

This tape is on the emotional process surrounding death in a family and is considered one of the series’ most significant tapes.  Post-viewing discussion will be moderated by Sydney Reed, MSW. co-editer of the book “Death and Chronic Illness in the Family” (2018, Routledge)

12:00 P.M. lunch

1:30 P.M. afternoon presentations

Discerning One’s Principles
Stephanie Ferrera, MSW

Our families and the social environment are rich with guidance as we grow up and discern principles for life. Religious traditions, teachers, philosophers, laws, and leaders put forward the wisdom of many generations. The task for self is to define the principles that will guide our own thinking, decisions, and actions. This workshop will look at the concept of differentiation of self as a guide to the process of discerning principles, managing emotional reactivity, and translating the idealism of principles into the reality of solving problems, making decisions, and taking action in our lives and in clinical practice.

Stephanie Ferrera, MSW encountered Bowen Family Systems Theory in 1975 during graduate studies at the Jane Addams School of Social Work. She pursued her interest by studying with Dr. Bowen in the Post-Graduate Training Program in Family Systems Theory at Georgetown University Family Center from 1978 to 1980. Since then, she has continued to deepen her knowledge of family emotional process through research, writing, teaching, and clinical practice. She has published book chapters and journal articles, and is on the editorial board of Family Systems, the journal of The Bowen Center for the Study of the Family.

Bowen Theory Development and Psychotherapy
Robert J. Noone, Ph.D.

Murray Bowen developed a new formal theory of the family and human behavior. The theory was based on his observations, experiments, and conceptualizations along with a survey of the scientific literature while he was at the Menninger Foundation, NIMH, and Georgetown University. His research went hand-in-glove with the practice of psychotherapy. In this presentation the effort to move toward science and a theory-based family systems psychotherapy will be discussed. A brief description of one of Bowen’s experiments will be included.

Robert J. Noone, Ph.D. is on the faculty of the Center for Family Consultation and the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family. He is the editor of the journal Family Systems and author of the recently published book, Family and Self: Bowen Theory and the Shaping of Adaptive Capacity.

2:40 P.M. break

2:50 P.M.

What Can Bowen Family Systems Do & What It Can’t
Cecilia Guzman, M.S.

In this presentation a brief review of three central concepts in Bowen Family Systems Theory will be provided: Differentiation of Self, the Multigenerational Transmission Process & the Family Projection Process. This will be followed by an analysis of severe symptom development in a family and how these concepts from BFST can be applied and understood in that context.

Cecilia Guman, L.C.P.C has been in private practice since 2002 where she was introduced to Bowen Theory by a colleague early in her new career. That fortunate event led Cecilia to begin attending conferences, symposia and family of origin groups until she entered the post-graduate training program at CFC and completed the program in 2010. She became a faculty member in 2013. Cecilia has presented on various topics within Bowen theory to audiences in Chicago and Pittsburgh.

From Family Research to Organizational Leadership: The Transferability of Theory and its Application
John Bell, M.Div.

Dr. Murray Bowen pioneered a theory of human behavior and expanded his theory and concepts using a scientific approach. As practitioners of the theory zoom out to include multiple families, institutions and environmental factors, the number of variables increases exponentially. Despite these challenges, leaders in business, nonprofits and faith communities have benefited from Bowen theory. Dr. Bowen noticed that when therapists focused on researching, observing emotional process and working on differentiation of self in their family they became more effective therapists. This presentation seeks to examine how organizational leaders who research their families also benefit from the work of differentiation of self.

John Bell, M.Div. is an ordained elder in the United Methodist Church where he has served for 24 years and is a faculty member for the Center for Family Consultation. He has been teaching and applying the principles of Bowen Family System Theory for more than 17 years. John finished a three-year post-graduate program in Bowen Family Systems Theory and Its Applications at the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family at the Georgetown Family Center in Washington, DC.


Date: Friday March 1, 2024 Time: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Location: In-Person conference held at
First Presbyterian Church of Evanston
1427 Chicago Ave. Evanston IL (directions)

Continuing Education Credits: 5.5 credit hours for full-day attendees approved for Social Workers Professional Counselors/Clinical Counselors Marriage and Family Therapists Clinical Psychologists


Deadline to register: Thursday, February 29th, 2024
Fees: $140.00 general, $85.00 for students with current I.D.

Registration: (link)
For additional information, call the Center for Family Consultation 847-868-2654