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Bowen Family Systems: Model of Practice at


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Bowen Family Systems: Model of Practice at

  1. 1. Bowen Family Systems Theory: An Overview Barbara Cunningham, Psy.D., LMFT03/27/12 BFST 1
  2. 2. Objectives:s Assumptionss General Conceptss Eight Conceptss The role of the therapists Precautionss Goals of therapys Interventionss Defining a self03/27/12 BFST 2
  3. 3. Assumptions Bowen developed his theory undertwo assumptions: first, is theunderstanding that man’s emotionalfunctioning must extend beyondpsychological constructs to recognizethe human’s relatedness to all life;and the second is that an adequateunderstanding of human behaviormust rest on a foundation thatincludes a relational system. Bowenassumed that the family was a03/27/12 BFST 3naturally occurring system.
  4. 4. General Conceptss Focus on system dynamics rather than symptomss Chronic Anxietys Over and Underfunctionings Closeness and Distance as two opposing forces creating the tension in human relationshipss Emotional system (instincts) and Intellectual system (capacity to think)03/27/12 BFST 4
  5. 5. s Triangless Differentiation of Selfs Nuclear Family Emotional Systems Family Projection Processs Multigenerational Transmissions Emotional Cut-offs Sibling Positions Societal Emotional Process03/27/12 BFST 5
  6. 6. Triangles“This concept describes the way three people relate to each other and involve others in the emotional issue between them”“A two person system is basically unstable. In a tension field, the two people predictably involve a third person to make a triangle. If it involves four or more people, the system becomes a series of interlocking triangles”.03/27/12 BFST Bowen, 19786
  7. 7. Differentiation of Self s Solid Self s Pseudoself s Differentiation Scale 03/27/12 BFST 7
  8. 8. Nuclear Family Emotional SystemDescribes four basic relationshippatterns that govern where problemsdevelop in a family.4. Marital Conflict5. Dysfunction in one spouse6. Impairment of one or more children7. Emotional Distance03/27/12 BFST 8
  9. 9. Family Projection Process The family projection process describes the primary way parents transmit their emotional problems to a child.The projection process follows three steps:4. the parent focuses on a child out of fear that something is wrong with the child;5. the parent interprets the childs behavior as confirming the fear; and6. 03/27/12 parent treats the child as if the BFST 9 something is really wrong with the
  10. 10. MultigenerationalTransmission Process lDescribes how small differences in the levels of differentiation between parents and their offspring lead over many generations to marked differences in differentiation among the members of a multigenerational family.03/27/12 BFST 10
  11. 11. Emotional Cut-offDescribes people managing their unresolved emotional issues with parents, siblings, and other family members by reducing or totally cutting off emotional contact with them.2. Feels like a child to adult relationship with the parent rather than adult to adult.3. Feels guilty; must solve their conflicts or distresses.4. Feels enraged that his parents do not seem to understand or approve of him/her. 03/27/12 BFST 11
  12. 12. Sibling Positions Walter Tomans The basic idea is that people who grow up in the same sibling position predictably have important common characteristics.s Tomans research showed that sibling positions may affect relational dynamics in adult life03/27/12 BFST 12
  13. 13. Societal Emotional ProcessDescribes how the emotional system governs behavior on a societal level, promoting both progressive and regressive periods in a society.Human societies undergo periods of regression and progression in their history. The current regression seems related to factors such as the population explosion, a sense of diminishing frontiers, and the depletion of 13 03/27/12 BFST natural resources.
  14. 14. The role of the therapist s Coach s Calm and neutral while still maintaining emotional contact. s Emotionally detriangled. s Focus on facts more than feelings--objective presence. s Teaching the theory. s Defining and clarifying the relationships between family members. s Be a curious person: How, What, When and Where. 03/27/12 BFST 14
  15. 15. Precautionss Low level of self means rigorous differentiation work is indicateds Discourage others’ reactivity by guiding them toward looking for facts that explain the sensitivitys Avoid clients’ attempts to triangle in therapists Attempts to make others change must be redirected toward increased focus on03/27/12 BFST 15
  16. 16. Goals of Therapys Increase level of differentiations Reduce reactivity in the moments Decrease chronic levels of anxietys Reduce fusion of thoughts and feelingss Educate and model differentiations Detriangle BFST03/27/12 16s I messages; self-definition
  17. 17. Interventionss Work first with the person more differentiateds Focus on thinking more than feeling (ie Do not ask, “How do you feel about…,” but rather “How do you think about…”)s Detriangles Therapist = neutral presences Reduce interaction between dyad; each client speaks to the therapists I messagess Teach about the function of the emotional systems Identify triggers for reactivity03/27/12 BFST 17s Family diagram
  18. 18. Seven Steps to Defining Self1. Clarify one’s own internal goals, mission, vision and values--what is your bottom line? What are your non-negotiables (what I will and will not do, despite relationship pressure)2. What are the obstacles within self?3. What are the obstacles in the important relationship triangles?4. Can you trace your relationship sensitivity to the nuclear family emotional process?5. What are the multigenerational processes that influence your values, strengths and weaknesses?6. What are the useful new and old strategies? 03/27/12 BFST 187. How is feedback from the
  19. 19. ReferencesBowen, M. (1978). Family therapy in clinical practice. New York: Jason Aronson, Inc.Gilbert, R.M. (1994). Extraordinary relationships: A new way of thinking about human interactions. Minneapolis: Chronimed Publishing.Kerr, M. (1998, Spring). Darwin to Freud to Bowen: Toward a natural system theory of human behavior. Georgetown, 17-19, 44.Kerr, M. E., & Bowen, M. (1988). Family evaluation. New York: Norton.Papero, D.V. (1995). Bowen family systems and marriage. In N. S. Jacobson & A. S. Gurman (Eds.), Clinical handbook of couples therapy (I, pp. 11-30). New York: Guilford Publications.03/27/12 BFST 19
  20. 20. Web Sites owen.html 03/27/12 BFST 20