The Systems Thinker - Center for Family Consultation's blog

Symposia, Science: Why it Matters

Authored by Cecilia Guzman, M.S.

It is clear that one of Dr. Bowen’s primary goals in developing his Family Systems Theory was to merge the understanding of human behavior and functioning from simply a “soft science” or one that has little objectivity towards a more “hard science”, one that incorporates and is consistent with research in biology, evolution, biochemistry, neuroscience, genetics, etc. Indeed, his theory was developed on the assumption “that an understanding of man’s emotional functioning must extend beyond psychological constructs to recognize the human’s relatedness to all life, …” (Kerr, Bowen; Family Evaluation, pg. 23)

Beginning in 1965 Dr. Bowen and a group of graduating residents began conducting the Symposium and Family Psychotherapy. A special feature of the Symposium was a presentation by a Distinguished Guest Lecturer. Dr. Bowen began inviting scientists from a wide range of disciplines to present. Since its inception 50 years ago, scientists such as Paul MacLean, Jack Calhoun, Stephen Jay Gould, E.O. Wilson, Stephen Suomi, Robert Sapolsky and others have participated. Indeed, many Bowen centers across the U.S. and abroad have incorporated the Symposium as part of their educational offerings.

The goal in organizing such events is self-evident to students of Bowen theory. If one wishes to understand human behavior, one must attempt to understand how all life is interrelated; what we share in common with other species from the eusocial ants to our closest cousins the Bonobos & Chimpanzees; and also, the multitude of research that has informed our understanding of how the brain and body function as a whole and interacts with the environment. However, many clinicians who have been trained under other paradigms sometimes find it difficult to appreciate how important these studies are to understanding human behavior— why Homo Sapiens enjoy such incredible evolutionary success to their propensity for intense suffering and translating that knowledge to the “clinician’s couch”.

The Center for Family Consultation has been conducting Symposia since 1984 in an ongoing effort to bridge that chasm and invite all interested people to our party. For indeed, it is fun and inspiring. This year our Distinguished Guest Lecturer is Dr. Sonia Lupien. Her presentation entitled, “From Neurotoxicity to Vulnerability: A Developmental Perspective on the Effects of Stress on the Brain”, promises to deliver fascinating information about the effects of acute and chronic stress on the brain and even more fascinating her research on the spillover effects on other members of a family. I cannot think of a more timely, important and applicable subject for helping us help others and ourselves.  Dr. Lupien’s presentation provides a clear example of how important the merging of objective science is to the understanding of human behavior and how relevant and useful it promises to be.

I encourage you to check out our website and join us at the 34th Annual Midwest Symposium!


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