The Gift That Never Stops Giving

Back in 2004, I was introduced to Bowen Theory by a colleague of mine who gifted me some audio tapes of Dr. Bowen’s lectures. I was sold after listening to the first hour. It was the only psychological theory that truly made sense to me and I was hungry to learn more. Much of the affinity I felt toward Bowen theory resulted from my previous studies and career. My undergraduate degree was in Biology and my first career included doing research in molecular biology in the field that helped develop the statins for circulatory high cholesterol. Because Bowen theory is rooted in the natural sciences, I understood the language and ideas perhaps a tad better than others with no science background.

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Do We Ever Resolve “Unresolved Emotional Attachment”?

Bowen Family Systems Theory often seems counter-intuitive, making it sometimes difficult to grasp, and rarely self-evident. Comprehending an emotional systems perspective of families as a way of understanding engagement between people has little to do with stated intentions, and thus provides a constant challenge. I am always so impressed by certain individuals for whom the theory’s concepts immediately make sense, and who are then able to “see” relatively clearly in their lives many of the patterns Bowen described. While the concepts are theoretically clear to me, recognizing the emotional process in my own life remains frustratingly elusive.

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The Family In Society: Navigating Through Turbulent Times

Dr. Murray Bowen originated a theory of human behavior in the 1950’s and continued to work on it until his death in 1990. Bowen Family Systems Theory is based on his view of the family as a natural system that functions as an emotional unit. Bowen described emotional process in families and how it shapes and is shaped by the responses of each family member.

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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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