The 36th Annual Midwest Symposium on Family Systems Theory & Therapy

Register Now
Deadline: April 26, 2019

May 3 & 4, 2019

The Family Emotional System:
Its Influence on Behavior, Relationships, and Symptom Development

Michael E. Kerr, M.D.
Tony W. Buchanan, Ph.D.


Friday, May 4
9am – noon

Michael Kerr

Michael E. Kerr, M.D.
President, The Bowen Theory Academy, Islesboro, ME

“TOFT (Tissue Organization Field Theory): Relevance to Cancer and to Bowen Theory”

Part One—Relevance to Cancer and to Bowen Theory

Part Two—Family Patterns and Chronic Anxiety: The Exasperation and Remission of Chronic Symptoms

Tissue Organization Field Theory (TOFT) has emerged from mainstream oncology research to challenge the long accepted Somatic Mutation Theory (SMT) as an understanding of how cancers develop and progress. TOFT and SMT are incompatible views in that the former is organicism and the latter is reductionism. In TOFT, carcinogenesis is a problem of tissue organization. The TOFT way of thinking is very similar to Bowen family systems theory in that the cause of aberrant cell behavior does not reside within the confines of the cancer cell but the explanation resides at the tissue level of biological organization. Bowen Theory holds that aberrant behavior manifested by one family member is not caused by something within the confines of the individual, but reflects a larger family system disturbance.

One presentation will be about a TOFT explanation of carcinogenesis. The other presentation will explain how the ebb and flow of chronic anxiety in the family and relationship patterns for adapting to the anxiety affect the exacerbation and remission of the symptoms of a chronic clinical condition, in this case, schizophrenia.

About Michael E. Kerr, M.D. Dr. Kerr is President of the Bowen Theory Academy in Islesboro, Maine and Emeritus Director of the Bowen Center for Study of the Family in Washington, D.C. He is the author of Family Evaluation and the recently published book, Bowen Theory’s Secrets: Revealing 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 in clinical work.


Interpersonal Stress and the Behavior of the Family System
Daniel V. Papero, Ph.D.

Bowen Theory in the Study of Physiological Reactions and Family Emotional Systems
Victoria Harrison, MA, LMFT

Panel Discussion with Drs. Buchanan and Kerr


The Developmental Lifespan of the Child: What Are the Differences between Bowlby’s Attachment Theory and Bowen Family Systems Theory
Anne McKnight, Ed.D.

Family and Individual Differentiation
Robert J. Noone, Ph.D.

Anxious Leaders in Anxious Organization
Marie Simonsson, A.B.

Panel Discussion with Drs. Buchanan and Kerr



Saturday, May 5
9am – noon

Tony W. Buchanan, Ph.D.
Professor of Psychology and Director of Neuroscience Program, Saint Louis University

Part One—The Upside of Stress: How Stress Affects the Way we Learn, Remember, and Connect with Others

Part Two—Stress and Social Connection: The Co-regulation of Stress in Couples

Stress is rightly described as a negative force in many people’s lives, often leading to fractured families and poor health. This description, however, misses the positive impact that stress may have on aspects of our cognitive and social lives. My research focuses on the varied effects of stress, both for good and for ill. I will review research on the history of stress research, followed by presentation of my own work on the impact of stress on learning and memory.

In my second presentation I will present findings on how stress affects the social connections between us and include my research on the co-regulation of stress in couples.

About Tony W. Buchanan, Ph.D. Dr. Tony Buchanan is the Director of the Neuroscience Program at St. Louis University. In Social Neuroscience, 2012, Dr. Buchanan wrote, “Physiological resonance between individuals is considered fundamental to the biological capacity for empathy. Physiological stress is particularly important to examine since it commonly occurs chronically, with known negative effects on health. (This study)… indicates that we can indeed catch another’s physiological stress, suggesting specific health risk for those in the social network of stressed individuals.


The Place of Doubt in Bowen Theory
Robert Williamson, M. Div.

Individuality and Togetherness: A Bowen Theory View
Barbara Laymon, Ph.D.

Does Bowen Theory Need/Have an Ethic?
Robert P. Price, M. Div.

Panel Discussion with Drs. Buchanan and Kerr


The Family as an Economic Unit and an Emotional Unit
Stephanie Ferrera, MSW

Kelly Matthews-Pluta, MSW

Bowen Theory and the Other
Peter Titelman, Ph.D.

Panel Discussion with Drs. Buchanan and Kerr



Date, Time & Location

Friday & Saturday, May 3 & 4 2019

8:30 am: Registration
9:00 am–4:30 pm: Friday Conference Hours
9:00 am–4:15 pm: Saturday Conference Hours


The Lakeview Center
Gilson Park, Wilmette, Illinois



The registration deadline is Friday, April 26, 2019. Please arrive at 8:30 am on the day of the event.

Registration Fees

Both Days
Individual: $295
Organizational (3 or more): $250 per person
Student with valid ID: $190

Single Day (Friday or Saturday)
Individual: $195
Organizational (3 or more): $180 (per person)
Student with valid ID: $125

Fee includes CEUs and lunch
12 credit hours will be offered for the 2 days. Approved for social worker, psychologist, marriage and family therapist, and professional counselor education credits.

For More Information

Please call: (847) 868-2654