CFC Post-Graduate Training Program: Through a Lens of Leadership, Self-Care and Clinical Practice

I had little understanding of Bowen Family Systems Theory prior to attending the Winter Conference in 2012, where two faculty members presented on “Getting Ahead At Work.” They talked about managing self—not other people—and operating from a clear sense of values and principles. The ideas were simple, but also profound and they helped shift my thinking from focus on others to self. From that time on, I began to question my ideas about work (and family) that I had previously thought of as “dysfunctional or unhealthy,” (thinking I had nothing to do with it) and began instead to understand these ideas as normal functions of a system. I was intrigued by the application of Bowen Theory to a leadership approach in a faculty member’s business. I also recall my sense of wonder after watching another faculty member present about her family of origin, in which she described asking her parents to record themselves answering questions about family facts. I marveled about whether my own parents would ever be so supportive.

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The Family Emotional System and the Functioning of Slave Owners, Slaves and their Descendants

Authored by Mignonette N. Keller, Ph. D.

(Abstract of paper to be presented at the 35th Midwest Symposium May 4th, 2018)

This study applies Bowen family systems theory to investigate the factors influencing the functioning of slave owners, slaves and their descendants from a systems perspective.  The findings in this investigation reveal the extent to which there is a direct correlation between the quality of a person’s family relationships and how that person functions.  In effect it is an attempt to answer a basic research question asked …

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Bowen Family Systems Theory

Authored by Jim Smith, M. S., Executive Director of the Western Pennsylvania Family Center in Pittsburgh, PA  

Dr. Murray Bowen (b. 1913 – d. 1990) was a psychiatrist and professor of psychiatry at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.  He was one of the pioneers of family systems theory.

A Search for Scientific Understanding

Early in his career as a psychoanalyst, Bowen sought to understand human behavior and functioning in a way that would be more scientific and objective than the prevailing views of his time.  He thought …

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Cutoff: The challenge of the parent/child relationship

Authored by John Bell, M. Div.

“The more a nuclear family maintains some kind of viable emotional contact with the past generations, the more orderly and asymptomatic the life process in both generations” Murray Bowen, Family Therapy in Clinical Practice, 383.

Phillip Klever, LCSW, LMFT recently published the results of a fifteen-year research project on cutoff in the family.  He studied the most extreme cases in his family of high symptomatology and low symptomatology.  He found five couples on either end of the continuum of symptomatology (high …

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Diagnosis is not Destiny

Authored by Sydney Reed, L.C.S.W.

Three months ago after having been diagnosed with cancer, I sat in my living room and marveled at all the beautiful bouquets, orchids, plants and lovely thoughtful cards that surrounded me.    It brought to mind the article I had read some eight years earlier by Elyn Saks in American Prospect.  She commented that she was in the hospital for cancer surgery and was surrounded by flowers and observed,

“When you are in the hospital for cancer everyone sends you flowers, when you …

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How do people work out their differences?

Authored by Kelly Matthews-Pluta, M.S.W.

In his book on Bowen Family Systems Theory, Mike Kerr stated “The main problem is not differences in points of view; it is the emotional reaction to those differences.  When people can listen without reacting emotionally, communication is wide open and differences are an asset, not a liability”.

This applies when working clinically with an individual, couple or family.  The effort is best focused on probing and questioning individuals to elicit their best thinking.  We know that when the pre frontal cortex …

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Understanding Triangles is Key to Conflict Resolution

Authored by John Bell, M.Div.

The concept of the triangle was one of the first concepts added to Bowen Family Systems Theory in 1955.  Dr. Murray Bowen wrote that the triangle, “a three-person emotional configuration, is the molecule or the basic building block of any emotional system, whether it is in the family or any other group.” (Family Therapy in Clinical Practice, 373)

Three examples of triangles

Let’s say you are the chair of the trustees for your congregation.  You’re about to walk into a worship service and …

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Highlights from The 53rd Symposium on Family Theory and Family Psychotherapy

Authored by Kelly Mathews-Pluta, M.S.W., and Robert Noone, PhD.

The 53rd Symposium on Family Theory and Family Psychotherapy offered by the Bowen Center for the Study of Family in Washington, DC was held November 4th and 5th, 2016. This Annual Symposium brings together the liveliest minds in the Bowen network to present, question, and discuss the latest research and ideas about Bowen theory. As always, the Symposium also features a Distinguished Guest Lecturer from another discipline whose research is relevant to Bowen theory. Bowen theory is …

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Back to the beginning of life on earth with Dr. Jan Sapp

Authored by Stephanie Ferrera

Dr. Jan Sapp, Professor of biology at York University in Toronto, was the guest scientist at the Center for Family Consultation’s 2015 Midwest Symposium. He kept the audience wide awake with his presentation, “Symbiotic Nature: The Ecology of Self.” Dr. Sapp is an authority on symbiosis as a force in evolution and also an authority on the history of symbiosis theory. Along with his presentation of the science of symbiosis, he told the fascinating story of the scientists who pioneered this work …

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Dr. Raison’s Invitation to Bowen Theory Researchers for Collaboration

Authored by Sydney K. Reed, M.S.W.

In the previous blog post, Leslie Fox highlighted interesting points from Dr. Raison’s talk.    He warned us that he might be entertaining, an adaptation useful in a career of teaching undergraduates.  In deed, he had us laughing frequently.  It made me think about the notions of the origins of laughter.  Some think that laughter evolved as a signal mechanism to tell the group that they were out of danger and could relax and connect socially, thus building community.

Dr.. Raison’s talk …

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