Bowen Family Systems Theory 101

 

Deadline is March 8th, 2023

Next Session begins March 9, 2023

Bowen Family Systems Theory (BFST) is a comprehensive theory of the family based on Dr. Murray Bowen’s view of the human as part of nature and the family as a natural system. Dr. Bowen developed a framework for describing the emotional process and identifying automatic patterns of behavior among family members.

This series of eight, one-hour lectures and discussions is conducted online using the free downloadable teleconferencing technology Zoom.us. The program is designed to provide participants …

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2023 Clinical Application of Bowen Theory

 

Deadline is February 23rd, 2023

 

Friday, February 24th, 202325th 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 …

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Opportunities for Ongoing Individual Growth: Bowen Theory in Clinical Work

The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it new alternatives for people seeking help with anxiety. Online platforms became a viable option for therapy resulting in easier access to services. While this shift toward technology has increased the number of providers available, wide variations exist among treatment modalities. For those seeking long-term modifications in their lives, finding a provider who can meet both the immediate need and a goal of lasting change can be a challenge. This dual objective is best met by a provider who has the ability to “think systems” while viewing anxiety and other problems from a broad perspective. Whether you are a social worker, a family therapist, coach, teacher, clergy, or a consultants or leader in business, you can increase your knowledge of how human systems function by participating in a Bowen theory post-graduate training program.

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Reactivity Paused: Took a Breath and a Stand

My understanding of differentiation of self after listening to Murray Bowen and reading the materials is that each person emerges from the multi-generational family organism with a certain amount of undifferentiation (or fusion) that needs to be handled using various mechanisms such as distance, conflict, over/under-functioning, and/or projection to the next generation. The more self that one has, the less intense these mechanisms will appear given a certain level of anxiety. With that same level of anxiety, a person with less self than the previous person, the mechanisms will be more intense.

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Michael Kerr, A Review and Presentation on Leonard Mlodinow’s book, “Emotional: How Feelings Shape Our Thinking”

Dr. Kerr’s presentation at the Midwest Symposium on May 6, 2022, on Leonard Mlodinow’s book, “Emotional: How Feelings Shape Our Thinking” focused on a key component of Bowen Systems Theory: developing the capacity for self-regulation and the impact of anxiety on one’s ability to self-regulate. Mlodinow discusses the impact of anxiety on brain function writing: “an anxious state leads to pessimistic cognitive bias – when an anxious brain processes ambiguous information it tends to choose the more pessimistic among the likely interpretations.” (Chapter 4, How Emotions Guide Thought). Kerr emphasized two aspects from Mlodinow’s book: Motivation and Determination.

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The Composition of the Family System and Adaptive Success

This presentation by Dr. Dan Papero focused primarily on how concepts related to adaptive success or failure apply to the family system.  Dr. Papero observes that the human family faces similar pressures to adapt to changes in the environment as all living things do.  One way that helps me to think about this concept is to relate it to the functioning of ant colonies that are discussed in Chapter 12 of “The Family Emotional System”, edited by Robert J. Noone and Daniel V. Papero.  The ant colonies clearly do not function as a collection of individuals working toward a common goal, but more as a single organism with each individual as more of an appendage.  The human family faces similar pressures from the environment, which require a response from the system if it is going to survive and thrive. 

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Searching for Nature’s Rules

“When we ponder the workings of the human body or of the life of the Serengeti National Park, the details would seem overwhelming, the parts too numerous, and their interactions too complex. The power of a small number of rules…is their ability to reduce complex phenomena to a simpler logic of life.” (10) With this thought, Sean B. Carroll introduces his book, The Serengeti Rules:  The Quest to Discover How Life Works and Why It Matters. 

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Reflections on a Presentation by James P. Curley, PhD: Power Differentials in Social Hierarchies, Why and How They Emerge and Their Consequences for Behavior and Health

This report on the keynote address given at the Midwest Symposium on May 7 2021 was prepared by Dr. Rosalyn Chrenka, a student of the CFC Post-graduate Training program. I took notes and have commented below on some things that struck me as interesting in relation to theory.

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Bowen Theory Conferences Adapt to Pandemic Conditions

For all of its tragic impacts on humanity, the coronavirus pandemic is presenting us with an opportunity and impetus to take time out for serious thinking.  Since the time of social distancing began several weeks ago, two important Bowen theory network events have taken place:  the annual Spring Conference of the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family (April 3-4) and the 37th Midwest Symposium of the Center for Family Consultation (May 1).  Both were originally planned as onsite conferences but converted to online.  In so doing, the conferences became very different experiences for all involved–planners, presenters, and audience members—and much was learned in the process.  This essay offers thoughts on what was learned, particularly in the area of human behavior and human response to threat.          

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Family, the Brain, and Differentiation of Self

The concept of differentiation of self entails two primary aspects based on the observations of Dr. Bowen. The first is that individuals vary in the degree to which they differentiate or develop emotional autonomy in relation to the family in which they grew up. The second aspect is the degree to which an individual’s higher cortical systems, referred to by Bowen as the intellectual system, differentiate over the course of development. The differentiation of this function underlies an individual’s capacity to utilize the intellectual system in self-regulation and self-direction over their life course. This presentation will describe the above and place these processes in the context of the co-evolution of the family and the brain.

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