2021 Midwest Symposium

38th Annual Midwest Symposium: Family Systems Theory and Therapy


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Friday, May 7, 2021

Lack of Solid Self Underlying Schizophrenia

Dr. Kerr

Dr. Kerr’s presentation is based on Robert Kolker’s book, Hidden Valley Road, published in 2020. The oldest of twelve children in a family that lived on Hidden Valley Road, Donald, was diagnosed in his early twenties with schizophrenia. Kolker’s careful research describes very clearly that a lack of solid self (although Kolker, not being aware of that Bowen theory concept, does not call it that) was the principal stimulus for peaks in a high level of chronic anxiety that fueled Donald’s dips into psychosis. The spikes in chronic anxiety were primarily tied to a disruption in a relationship with a female. There were 5 other sons diagnosed with schizophrenia in the family. I think Hidden Valley Road should be required reading for every mental health clinician.

Power Differentials in Social Hierarchies: Why and How They Emerge and Their Consequences for Behavior and Health

Dr. Curley

Social hierarchies are a common form of social organization for both males and females across all animal species including humans. These structures emerge when individuals compete over access to resources such as food, territory, or mates. Ultimately, the function of social hierarchies is to decrease the overall level of social conflict within a social group. In this talk, why social hierarchies emerge and how they are maintained over time will be described. How these systems vary across species but also how several fundamental features of power structures are universal to all species will be discussed along with the short-term and long-term physiological consequences of living in social hierarchies.  Dr. Curley will describe how across species as diverse as fish, birds, mammals and even humans that social status is a strong determinant of future health.  Individuals of different social status also face distinct ongoing social challenges while living in social hierarchies which require individuals to adopt specific physiological, behavioral and cognitive strategies.  Dr. Curley will discuss how subordinate individuals monitor the behavior of dominant individuals and how animals are able to rapidly take advantage of power vacuums. He will also describe recent research that demonstrates how these behavioral changes are manifested within the brain at the neuronal and genomic levels.

Michael E. Kerr, M.D.

Dr. Kerr is President of the Bowen Theory Academy in Islesboro, Maine and Director Emeritus of the Bowen Center for Study of the Family in Washington, D.C. He is the author of Family Evaluation and the recently published, Bowen Theory’s Secrets: The Hidden Life of Families.

Dr. Kerr’s research interests include cancer and family emotional process, the development of a unidisease concept, and the process of differentiation of self.   His primary research interests have been the relationship of physical, emotional and social symptoms to family emotional process, and the process of differentiation of self in clinical work.


James P. Curley, Ph.D.

Dr. Curley is currently Associate Professor, Psychology Department, University of Texas at Austin.

He received his B.A. in Human Sciences at The University of Oxford (UK) in 1999 and his PhD in Zoology from the University of Cambridge (UK). His research was conducted at the Department of Animal Behaviour, Cambridge, on the effects of imprinted genes on brain and behavioral development, particularly maternal and sexual behavior. He then completed a post-doctoral fellowship at the University of Cambridge for four years researching behavioral development, particularly how early life experiences shape individual differences in behavior. He was also the Charles & Katharine Darwin Research Fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge.

His lab at UT focuses on the neurobiological basis of social behavior in groups, as well as the long-term plastic changes in the brain and peripheral physiology that occur as a consequence of social status. Among his publications are “Genes, brains, and social behavior”, “Epigenetics, brain evolution, and behavior” and “Paternal social enrichment effects on maternal behavior and offspring growth.” Dr. Curley also co-authored with Frances Champagne, “Epigenetic effects on parental care within and across generations.” In The Family Emotional System, R. Noone and D. Papero, (Eds.)


Program Schedule



Lack of Solid Self Underlying Schizophrenia—Michael E. Kerr, M.D.


Panel discussion with Drs. Kerr, Curley, Papero, and Noone




Power Differentials in Social Hierarchies: Why and How They Emerge and Consequences for Behavior and Health—James P. Curley, Ph.D.


Panel discussion with Drs. Kerr, Curley, Papero, and Noone




Date, Time & Location

Friday, May 7, 2021

9:00am-4:00pm Central Time




6 Credit hours will be offered for full attendance.

Approved for social worker, psychologist, marriage and family therapist, and professional counselor education credits. Certificates will be e-mailed to participants following the program upon request.


The registration deadline is May 5, 2021.

General Admission: $150.00

Students: $95.00

Registration: On the website: www.thecenterforfamilyconsultation.com. (Eventbrite is the online registration system for Center for Family Consultation (CFC). Click on the “Register Now” button and it will take you to Eventbrite.com, a secure online system for registering for events. Upon registration, your credit card will be processed by Eventbrite on CFC’s behalf, and you will receive a confirmation with their logo as well as CFC’s.If you have ever purchased a ticket for another event from Eventbrite, your email address and credit card information may already be in their system. You need to make sure you use the same card that is associated with your email address, and it must not be expired.Finally, make sure you add Eventbrite to your email contacts, so that email messages from CFC regarding the program you registered for will not go to your spam or junk mail folders.)

For More Information

For additional information, please call the Center for Family Consultation at 847-868-2654.