CFC Post-Graduate Training Program: Through a Lens of Leadership, Self-Care and Clinical Practice

I had little understanding of Bowen Family Systems Theory prior to attending the Winter Conference in 2012, where two faculty members presented on “Getting Ahead At Work.” They talked about managing self—not other people—and operating from a clear sense of values and principles. The ideas were simple, but also profound and they helped shift my thinking from focus on others to self. From that time on, I began to question my ideas about work (and family) that I had previously thought of as “dysfunctional or unhealthy,” (thinking I had nothing to do with it) and began instead to understand these ideas as normal functions of a system. I was intrigued by the application of Bowen Theory to a leadership approach in a faculty member’s business. I also recall my sense of wonder after watching another faculty member present about her family of origin, in which she described asking her parents to record themselves answering questions about family facts. I marveled about whether my own parents would ever be so supportive.

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Post Graduate Training in Bowen Family Systems Theory: A Must Take Opportunity for Any Clinician Working with Families, Individuals, or Children

I participated in the Center for Family Consultation’s Post-Graduate Training Program in Bowen Family Systems Theory while I was completing my doctorate degree in clinical Social Work at Aurora University. I began the program during the third year of my doctoral studies when it came time to choose two electives that would align with my distinct area of clinical interest. The timing for beginning the training program could not have been more perfect as my cohort had just completed our clinical coursework in families and family therapy.

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Reflections on Bowen Theory Post-Graduate Training at Center for Family Consultation

I thought it would be a relatively straight-forward task to describe the impact the training program has had on my life and my clinical practice, but that was foolish, considering Bowen theory requires most of us, and certainly me, to rethink much of what I had learned in my family and professional training.

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Lincoln and Leadership

I went to see Spielberg’s “Lincoln” a second time this week in order to verify whether Lincoln was really the perfect example of Systems Based Leadership I had thought he was when I first saw the movie. Even though Lincoln was born more than a hundred years before Murray Bowen, he apparently had an instinctive way of defining himself that is remarkably congruent with Bowen’s ideas about leadership.

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Anxiety Bound

Anxiety appears in our lives in many forms. Humans have been creative in using anxiety to get things done. Nervous energy can motivate us to act and accomplish much. There can be relief in the doing. There is little to worry about if we are a bit anxious about hosting a family holiday and cleaning the house or apartment makes us feel better. However, sometimes the things we do when we are anxious create more challenges for us.

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Looking at Marriage: Seeing One’s Own Part

The husband had a way of erupting emotionally that led his wife to call him “the volcano.” He pursued; she distanced; he pursued more rigorously. Her way of retreating, seemingly impervious to his needs, led him to call her “the sphinx.” At times of high stress, this pattern left this truly devoted couple in considerable distress, he feeling shut out, she feeling pressured. They found their own language—volcano, sphinx—as a step to observing their reciprocal functioning and eventually to seeing the absurdity and humor in it.

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# Church Too

Earlier this year, Bill Hybels, the founding pastor of the megachurch Willow Creek in South Barrington, IL, resigned ahead of his planned retirement. The early departure was in response to allegations of sexual misconduct. Earlier this month, it was reported that Willow Creek Church settled a separate case of sexual abuse for $3.2 million after a volunteer sexually assaulted two disabled children. And then last week, a grand jury released its findings that over 1000 children were sexually abused by over 300 priests in six Roman Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania.

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The Ups & Downs of Social Status

The “self-evident truth” that “all men are created equal” is a cornerstone of American democracy, and an ideal toward which our society strives.  We hold individuals to be equal under the law; we legislate equal rights for all to access opportunities and participate in society.  However, despite the talk of “a level playing field,” progress toward equality has come slowly and only with concerted, organized effort.

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When Process is the Outcome

It is very difficult to make changes in our behavior without focusing on the outcome. If we exercise, we hope to be stronger, faster or more flexible. If we read a challenging book, we hope to be wiser. If we pray, we hope to find an answer. Bowen theory is not oblivious to outcomes, but using this theory in your life, the process, the work itself, is the key. Focus on process becomes an outcome, which requires time and effort to observe and think about ourselves and the world we live in. It means using increased awareness and insight to guide our actions. Leaning into process requires no, or very little, attachment to the outcome.

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“Hillbilly Elegy” meets Bowen Theory

J.D. Vance, author of the memoir, Hillbilly Elegy, is, by any measure, functionally successful:  a marine who served in Iraq, graduate of Ohio State, graduate of Yale Law School, and an editor on the Yale Law Journal.  Yet, his nuclear family of origin and extended family are low in level of differentiation.  Not the lowest, but low.  Individually, he’s probably somewhat higher than the system as a whole.

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