The Systems Thinker - Center for Family Consultation's blog

Reflections on the 3rd International Conference on Bowen Family Systems Theory

Authored by John Bell, M. Div.

The Lapland of northern Sweden proved to be an idyllic location for the 3rd International Conference.  Like the waters, reindeer and midnight sun intrinsic to the land, observations of differentiation of self were integral to the many excellent presentations I attended.

Participants gathered from all over the world.  Attendees represented Sweden, Norway, Finland, Estonia, Australia, Chile, Canada and the United States.  One of the unique aspects of an intentional conference is the opportunity to see and hear how theory, research and application of the theory are being carried out in various countries and communities.  Attendees from Estonia commented that, even though their training in theory was based solely on Bowen’s original book, they were delighted to see that the presentations were consistent with their understanding of the theory.  They, like myself, appreciated the opportunity to hear presentations on clinical application.

The conference was a good reminder that Bowen’s original observations of the emotional process are still accurate today.  The theory, grounded in science, continues to be developed and has not been disproven.  It remains relevant for practitioners in many disciplines including clinical therapy and organizational leadership.  New research and facts continue to enrich the theory and its application towards a scientifically accepted theory of human behavior.

The presentations and discussions were rich with many opportunities for thinking and learning.  CFC’s Dr. Bob Noone and myself were among the many presenters. While the conference was not online or hybrid, Ms. Victoria Harrison, who was unable to attend the conference, did present via Zoom to the conference from her home in Houston, TX.  It was significant that this would be Dr. Michael Kerr’s last official presentation before transitioning into retirement.  Dr. Kerr made clear that he and Dr. Bowen’s process for assessing individuals and families, what is often referred to as the collection of functional facts (dates, marital status, level of education, vocation, overall health, etc.), was still a viable and accurate tool for assessment with families.  Many participants in conferences through the Center for Family Consultation have benefited from the presentations and writings of Dr. Kerr.  He leaves behind a rich legacy for us all.

Robert Noone, Ph. D. presenting at the Key Note Session, June 14th, 2022

John Bell, M.Div. presenting June 21st, 2022

The next international conference is scheduled for February 23 & 24, 2024 in Miami, FL.  The location of Miami was chosen to appeal to those in Central and South American countries who are learning and applying Bowen theory.  With the location conveniently located in the United States, a wonderful opportunity awaits anyone who wishes to have this international experience in Bowen theory.

It is unclear how long it will take for the concept of differentiation of self, and Bowen theory overall, to become an adaptive advantage to the current human evolutional process.  The 3rd International Conference did prove conclusively that Bowen’s initial observations and culminating theory is migrating around the world.  And for that, I’m grateful.

John Bell, M.Div.

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