Post Graduate Training Program in Bowen Theory

The Post Graduate Training Program is for individuals who have studied and are familiar with the concepts in Bowen Family Systems Theory.  The program is designed as a comprehensive and in depth study of Bowen Theory and its applications.  Faculty at the Center for Family Consultation present on the eight concepts, relevant scientific research, natural and work systems. Participants will have opportunities to develop a deeper understanding of differentiation of self as they apply it to their families and elsewhere, as well as making an effort to use Bowen theory as a theoretical framework for ongoing professional development.

What Makes Bowen Theory Unique?

Dr. Murray Bowen developed a theory of human behavior in the 1960’s.  Bowen theory is not a flavor of the month, a passing fad or a quick-fix. It is a framework for understanding how families and other social groups operate at the emotional level, and how the emotional system informs the thinking system, and vice versa. The ability to define a self involves the integration of the emotional, feeling and thinking systems.

Bowen theory is unique because it is grounded in biology, evolution, and neuroscience that is supported by a significant amount of research and practice conducted over the last 70 years. It offers a different way to observe and think about human relationships.  Bowen theory demonstrates an important move from individual, cause and effect thinking to systems thinking. Learning systems thinking can propel one’s on-going development, not only as a professional, but also as an individual who is part of a family in addition to many other social groups.

Another important distinction between Bowen theory and other theories of human behavior is that it is the only theory that addresses the human family as the basic unit of emotional functioning.  Recognizing how members of families are mutually interdependent offers an important broader and deeper perspective, one that encompasses more than the individual, more than the current nuclear family, and includes the multigenerational family. It leads one to a better understanding of the importance of context and process.  It captures and examines the multigenerational emotional process that is playing out today, and will continue into subsequent generations. With a wider field of vision and a framework for understanding the facts as they come to light, the insights into one’s life today, one’s family history, and one’s work systems can come forth in a way that is transformational. Such efforts help one get better at modifying their anxiety. Many of the symptoms of anxiety may be relieved, and one becomes a more valuable resource to others at home and beyond.

Plan for Self

Coming out of the pandemic, the effects of climate change, economic inflation, social unrest and polarization have contributed to a heightened level of anxiety in families, schools, businesses, faith communities and organizations.  How does one become more mature and confident during challenging times?  How does one use this time as an opportunity for personal growth?  How does one work towards being calm in the midst of the storm?  How does one prepare for the next one?

One way to do that is by studying with Bowen theory experts who have made it their life’s work to keep increasing their knowledge and understanding of human behavior from a natural systems perspective. They keep pace with the new developments in biology, evolutionary theory, and neuroscience that are revealing more and more about how the brain functions, epigenetics, and the mind-body connections that result in a variety of mental, physical and social problems.  These problems don’t develop out of thin air. They are the result of the complexities of the individual human, the human family, and the environment in which we live. Bowen theory provides a framework for greater understanding of the complexity of the human system. It is a theory that grows deeper and richer over time, evolving with the growing body of knowledge about natural systems and human biology. It is the vehicle for a journey of a lifetime.

Learning is an individual process that develops as one thoughtfully applies a theoretical framework and understanding to one’s objective observations of human functioning.  It is an ongoing process of observation, thinking systems, research and application.  The development of individual goals and learning objectives are key to effective and efficient integration of Bowen theory.

Program Description and Curriculum

Program Goals

  • Clinical theory—to understand how the 8 concepts of Bowen theory work together to provide a comprehensive view of the family system
  • Clinical consultation—to learn how Bowen theory is implemented in practice through presentation of case studies by trainees and live consultations by faculty
  • Natural systems theory—to keep pace with the growing body of scientific knowledge about natural systems
  • Family of origin consultation—to study one’s own family and the part one plays in it with consultation from a Bowen family therapist and faculty member

Program Description

This post graduate program is a continuous immersive process that helps students integrate Bowen theory into their lives. The program runs from September 2024 through June 2025.  Students meet on the first Friday of every month for study of the core curriculum from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Central Time via the teleconference program Zoom. Faculty members conduct the monthly meetings using a combination of lecture, videos, discussion, case study presentations and consultations by trainees, as well as family of origin consultation groups.

Between monthly sessions, students are expected to complete reading and/or video assignments in preparation for upcoming meetings, and to complete writing assignments that provide an opportunity for reflection on topics covered in prior months’ meetings. Second year students are expected to also prepare and present a final paper on a topic of their choosing demonstrating their understanding of Bowen theory. Students continuing beyond two years are encouraged to define their own assignments, areas of study, and styles of presentations. The program also includes two hybrid conferences and one in-person conference in Evanston, IL. The conference fees are included in the annual tuition and post graduate trainees are required to attend. Travel expenses are not included. Housing arrangements are possible with faculty members who live in the Greater Chicago Area. These conferences include:

Fall Conference, includes four presentations on research, science and Bowen Theory.  Presentations will include an overview of Dr. Murray Bowen’s research at Menningers and NIMH,  examples of current research and a potential model that can be adopted by practitioners.

Clinical Applications of Bowen Theory, includes a morning keynote presentation by a CFC faculty member, a video tape of one of Dr. Bowen’s presentations with discussion facilitated by CFC faculty. In the afternoon, conference attendees have the opportunity to select from workshops on clinical applications of theory presented by faculty and other experienced Bowen practitioners. It is a one-day conference held on a Friday in February.

Midwest Symposium. This conference is usually in early May. Daniel Papero, PhD. a Bowen theory scholar, faculty member at the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family in Washington, D.C. and noted author of several books and many articles on Bowen theory has been a regular keynote speaker.   The other keynote is given by a guest scientist, following in the tradition started in the mid 1970’s by Dr. Bowen, of inviting scientists to annual symposiums to make sure the theory stays grounded in the natural sciences. In 2023 Judith Burkart, senior post-doc at the Anthropological Institute and Museum at the University of Zurich was the guest scientist. In 2024 Gregory E. Miller PhD., a Louis W. Menk Professor from the Institute for Policy Research and Department of Psychology at Northwestern University was the guest scientist.

What People are Saying

“The CFC training program has been one of the most important decisions I’ve made in my post-graduate education. The opportunity to study and learn Bowen theory with the faculty has accelerated my competencies as a mental health professional and has had an immeasurable healing impact on me personally. The CFC training program has revolutionized how I see mental health and addiction challenges in individuals, the effectiveness of my work with clients and families, and has certainly brought great interpersonal peace in my own life.” 

-Alana C. Smith, LCSW, LCDC

Before I knew much about Bowen theory, I knew intuitively from my first introduction that it held a level of knowledge of families that would be different from anything I had learned before. For many who discover this theory, the first thing that captures interest is how well the theory describes one’s own family experience.  How could Bowen know that much about my family when he has never met them?

-Stephanie Ferrera, MSW


Faculty provide a rich immersion into Bowen theory using the latest scientific research with years of hands-on experience in several fields.  Faculty represent a broad range of experience including family therapy, addiction counseling, school social work, doctoral research, leadership and management, faith communities, community organizing, and nonprofits. Many of the faculty present internationally on a regular basis, write books, book chapters, and articles for publication, and contribute to research projects. See faculty biographies on the CFC website.


The tuition for academic year 2024 – 2025 is $2400.  There is a $50.00 non-refundable application fee.

Payment Options

Payment in full is due upon acceptance into the program and must be made before the first session in September.  A payment plan is available with one payment due in August and a second due in January for a limited number of applicants.  Tuition is nonrefundable. 

Steps to Register

Interested persons can contact John Bell, program director, for an initial interview and to request an application. Applications for the Training program are currently being accepted, beginning April 1 through August 1, 2024.  Space is limited. 

Continuing Education

Completion of each full year program is required for earning a total of 72 CEU’s.  Any modification of credits awarded or any makeup of CEU’s would be at the sole discretion of the program director and only under special circumstances. 

For further information, contact John Bell.