Family-of-Origin Work: The Road to Maturity

At the Family Research Conference in 1967, Murray Bowen gave a presentation that was unusual for a professional meeting.  He had been seeking a way to teach family systems theory in a way that trainees could grasp.  He had also been “working intensively in a new phase of a long-term effort to differentiate my own ‘self’ from my parental extended family.”* He had reached a “dramatic breakthrough”* shortly before the conference. He decided to present his experience in his own family to his colleagues.  It was a very different kind presentation than expected and sparked surprise and much interest from the audience.  He described it as “a practical application of the major concepts in my theoretical and therapeutic systems (page 468).”* It was premised on the concept that the family emotional system is universal in all families, including those of family therapists.  Taking responsibility for defining oneself in one’s own family translates into greater maturity in one’s life overall, and is key to one’s effectiveness as a clinician.

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How I Understand Suggestions Dr. Bowen Gave Me

On February 22, 2019, I presented some early family of origin work in my keynote address on Death and Chronic Illness at the Clinical Application of Bowen Family System Theory Conference. This blog post addresses a key question raised during the discussion that followed my presentation.

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Grandparent Deaths in an Intense Extended Family Symbiosis

In the last two months or so, I have been studying symbiosis; e.g. parent-child symbiosis. Why? When I reviewed the quantitative research on families of schizophrenics, it was striking how symbiosis as a factor in development of schizophrenia has been neglected by all the quantitative researchers. It seemed odd when you consider how strongly Murray Bowen and other schizophrenia researchers of the 1950s had emphasized it. (Hill, Lidz, Mahler, Searles, Wynne, et al.).

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Post Graduate Training in Bowen Family Systems Theory: A Must Take Opportunity for Any Clinician Working with Families, Individuals, or Children

I participated in the Center for Family Consultation’s Post-Graduate Training Program in Bowen Family Systems Theory while I was completing my doctorate degree in clinical Social Work at Aurora University. I began the program during the third year of my doctoral studies when it came time to choose two electives that would align with my distinct area of clinical interest. The timing for beginning the training program could not have been more perfect as my cohort had just completed our clinical coursework in families and family therapy.

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Reflections on Bowen Theory Post-Graduate Training at Center for Family Consultation

I thought it would be a relatively straight-forward task to describe the impact the training program has had on my life and my clinical practice, but that was foolish, considering Bowen theory requires most of us, and certainly me, to rethink much of what I had learned in my family and professional training.

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Blame and Blaming

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

One of the central ideas of Bowen Theory is differentiation of self—a concept of how one sees oneself, emotionally, as an individual and in relationship to and with others.  Often people studying Bowen Theory struggle with the idea of separation of self and other.  Of course, it is complicated.  The two, self and other, are at the same time both separate and connected.  It is exactly that paradox which makes the concept challenging for many: “Am I a separate self or …

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Fooling Self and Others: Self-Deception in the Practice of Differentiation of Self

Authored by Jim Smith, M. S.

In this presentation I did a brief review of the extensive literature on self-deception in the evolutionary biology literature, including evolutionary biologist Robert Triver’s theory of self-deception. I then discussed self-deception from the perspective of Bowen’s idea of the pseudo-self, using examples from my effort to define a self in my own family.

“Deceitful behavior has a long and storied history in the evolution of social life, and the more sophisticated the animal, it seems, the more commonplace the con games, …

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