Bowen Family Systems Therapy Essay

September 21, 2017 History


This paper was designed to to the full depict Bowen’s Theory of Family Systems Therapy. The eight constructs that illustrate this theory will be exhaustively discussed and explained. Mentions of professionals who have worked with and studied Bowen theory will be implemented and relied on in order to adequately understand and picture this theory. And eventually. the 2nd part of this essay will include a instance survey. The instance survey will show a household profile. a intervention program and ends. intercessions and a jutting result for the family’s recovery. Through this instance analyze the reader will be able to place Bowen techniques and acquire a more kinaesthetic expression on how Bowen’s Family System Therapy is applied.


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Bowen’s Family System Theory is based on the household as an emotional unit. The theory is based on the thought that the household is so emotionally incorporate that the consequence each member has on the other members can be overpowering. Bowen’s Theory focuses on that emotional connection and assumes that the household can either advance coherence and cooperation or tenseness and anxiousness. Therefore. harmonizing to this theory. a alteration in one person’s attitude or actions will be followed by a mutual alteration in the operation of the other members. When anxiousness degrees rise within the household unit the emphasis degrees will besides rise. Therefore. when this happens one or members will stop up feeling overwhelmed. isolated or out of control and so the household unit will be shaken as a whole.

During this clip of hurt. the members who feel most out of control or stressed will work extra difficult to suit the other members. This is portion of the mutual interaction. This member who absorbs most of the tenseness is most likely the member who will stop up most susceptible to jobs such as unwellness. alcohol addiction and personal businesss.

Eight Concepts

In order to implement this theory into a therapy session Bowen created eight meshing constructs to help the healer in working with households. The constructs include trigons. distinction of ego. atomic household emotional system. household projection procedure. multigenerational transmittal procedure. sibling place. emotional cutoff and social emotional procedure. However. it is of import for any healer to maintain in head that. harmonizing to Mike Nichols ( 1988 ) . the nucleus end underlying the Bowenian theoretical account is distinction of ego. more specifically. the “ability to stay oneself in the face of group influences. particularly the intense influence of household life” ( p. 2 ) .


The eight engagement constructs are cardinal to understanding Bowenian Family Therapy. To get down. trigons are a three individual relationship system. Triangles are considered the edifice blocks of the larger emotional system. The ground being that the trigon is the smallest stable relationship system. Three people can take on much more tenseness than two people. Additionally. a trigon can incorporate a big sum of emphasis without conveying in a 4th individual because the tenseness can switch around to all three relationships. However. merely because a trigon can bear more tenseness does non do it healthier. Person is about ever left out and nil gets resolved in a trigon formation. Triangles and their unwanted effects on the household unit contribute greatly to the development of clinical jobs.

Within trigons. members are pushed from foreigner to insider places of struggle. Within this inside/ outside play members will get down steering and pull stringsing their places within the group. therefore doing battles and with that heavy strain on the relationships. Geting pushed from inside to outside places can trip depression and even a physical unwellness. For illustration. two parents concentrating on what is incorrect with a kid can trip serious rebellion within that kid. While trigons may look comfy and stable. they end up being a immense job within the household unit. Differentiation of Self

In resistance of trigons is Bowen’s thought of distinction of ego. Harmonizing to Fritzland ( 1991. p. 1 ) . the grade to which a distinction of ego occurs in an single reflects the extent to which that individual is able to separate between the rational procedure and the feeling procedure he or she is sing. Thus distinction of ego is related to the grade to which one is able to take between holding his or her actions. relationships and life guided by feelings or ideas. Persons with the most merger between their emotions and ideas and relationships are the lowest operation people. These people get to a point where they can non even state what feelings and ideas are their ain and which are those of other people.

Undifferentiated Family Ego Mass

Bowen introduced the construct of the uniform household self-importance mass. Undifferentiated household self-importance mass is the thought that there is a syndicated emotional unity that exists in all degrees of strength. Goldenberg and Goldenberg ( 1991. p. 171 ) give a great illustration of this in the relationship between female parent and kid and kid and male parent. They write. “The symbiotic relationship of mutuality between female parent and kid may stand for the most intense version of this construct ; a father’s withdrawal may be the least intense. The grade to which any one member is involved in the household from minute to minute depends on that person’s basic degree of engagement in the household self-importance mass. ” When the emotional intimacy is excessively intense and perchance overbearing this may take to an uncomfortable intimacy within the household. intimacy that will take to common rejection between members. It may take to battles that include intense shouting. slamming of doors and phone bent ups.

Bowen insists that adulthood and self-actualization demand that an single become free of unsolved emotional fond regards to his or her household of beginning. Fritzlan ( 1991. p. 4 ) notes that Bowen’s theory assumes that every homo has an natural force inside them that propels the developing kid to turn up to be an emotionally separate individual. able to believe. experience. and act as an person. At the same clip. Bowen proposes that a similar life force. besides instinctively ingrained. thrusts the kid and household to stay emotionally connected. As a consequence of these compensating forces. argues Bowen. no 1 of all time achieves complete emotional separation from the household of beginning. However. there are considerable differences in the sum of separation each of us accomplishes. every bit good as differences in the grade to which kids from the same set of parents. emotionally separate from the household.

Nuclear Family Emotional System

The 3rd construct physiques on the thought of distinction of ego and is called atomic household emotional system. The construct of the atomic household emotional system describes four basic relationship forms that govern where jobs may develop in a household. Marital struggle. disfunction in one partner. damage of one or more kids and emotional distance are the forms which will regulate where jobs will likely develop within the household. The more anxiousness one individual or one relationship sucks in. the less other people must absorb. This means that some household members maintain their operation at the disbursal of others. which ends up doing a strenuous sum of tenseness on the people who must suit. Peoples do non desire to ache each other. but when anxiousness inveterate dictates behaviour. person normally suffers because of it. The following construct that Bowen introduces gives the construct of the atomic household emotional system more ground to it’s’ rime.

Family Projection Process

The household projection procedure touches on the different type of relationships that parents have with each of their kids. When one kid is focused on more than another kid. the focused on kid will typically be more amalgamate with his or her parents than the unfocussed on kid. Goldenberg and Goldenberg ( 1990 ) say that “differences in parental behaviour make for important differences in how each kid functions” ( p. 221 ) . Furthermore. the kid who is most focussed on is most sensitive to perturbations and initial marks of instability within the household. Simply put. when the parents select the most childish kid of the household as the object of their attending. Bowen calls this the household projection procedure.

Multigenerational Transmission Procedure

The following key construct that Murray Bowen developed is multigenerational transmittal procedure. Multigenerational transmittal treating depict how the full household joins in the household projection procedure that was antecedently discussed. Bowen wrote that multigenerational transmittal procedure provides a base from which to do anticipations in the present coevals and gives an overview of what to anticipate in approaching coevalss. This procedure entails the manner household emotional procedures are transferred and maintained over the coevalss. In this theory Bowen contends that people choose couples with tantamount degrees of distinction to their ain.

Therefore. the extremely uniform individual will take a mate that is likewise undifferentiated from their household and the differentiated individual will happen a mate who is besides differentiated from their household of beginning. Goldenberg and Goldenberg ( 1990. p. 198 ) say that it is likely that these ill differentiated people. now a matrimonial twosome. will themselves go extremely amalgamate and will bring forth a household with the same features. Furthermore. Bowen believes that the ensuing atomic household emotional system will be unstable and will seek assorted ways to cut down tenseness and maintain stableness by over indulging in such things as intoxicant. drugs. and acquiring involved in codependent relationship.

This can impact a kid psychologically every bit good and it can so perpetuate and go a rhythm within the household. Goldenberg and Goldenberg ( 1990. p. 199 ) say that psychological damage in a kid is enabling to the parents as they will merely concentrate attending on the kid and ignore or deny their ain deficiency of distinction. This will merely farther suppress the child’s development of ego every bit good as support the already dysfunctional matrimonial relationship.

Sibling Position

Sibling place is a construct that Bowen stressed. He believes that each kid has a topographic point in the household hierarchy and therefore was more or less likely to suit certain projections. For illustration. the oldest sibling is more likely to be the mature. responsible one. Whereas the youngest kid will more likely be the category buffoon. irresponsible and immature one. While this construct is good known and possibly even intrinsic to most people. Bowen believes this to be cardinal when understanding distinction and working within the household emotional system.

Emotional Cutoff

The 7th construct that Bowen developed for his theory is called emotional cutoff. Most people have experienced this construct or have at least heard of it. Goldenberg and Goldenberg ( 1990 ) write that emotional cutoff is a flight from unsolved emotional ties. and is non true emancipation from the household ( p. 225 ) . Emotional cutoffs do several things ; they reflect a job. such as underlying merger between coevalss. They solve the job by cut downing the anxiousness in the cutoff relationship. And eventually. they create a job by insulating people who might profit from closer contact. Fritzlan ( 1991 ) notes that cutoffs most frequently occur in households where there is a high degree of anxiousness and emotional dependance.

Bowen has suggested that when emotional cutoffs exist between parents and grandparents. so a cutoff between parents and kids of the undermentioned coevals additions in likeliness. It is easy to see how cutoffs can happen and how the other cardinal constructs if non understood or resolved can do an emotional cutoff in a household relationship.

Social Emotional Procedure

Finally. the 8th key construct is social emotional procedure. This procedure is in a manner like the household projection procedure except scaled to a social degree. Families that trade with favoritism. bias and persecution will go through on to their kids get bying methods and ways to which they survived these factors. Basically. these are societal outlooks about racial and category groups. the behaviours or each gender and their effects on the household. Andreas Viklund ( 2009 ) noted that the household unit and society as a whole have the undertaking of advancing the long term involvement of single members and the society as an entireness.

Evaluation and Validity of Bowen’s Theory

While Bowen is considered to be one of the most effectual theoreticians in matrimony and household sphere of therapy. there are both strengths and failings to his thoughts. His eight key constructs are great tools for healers to utilize as a usher for therapy. but it is of import to observe the cogency of his theory and to reexamine his theory in a more critical manner. The chief construct that Bowen teaches is distinction of ego.

This is the founding thought for all of his constructs.

Differentiation of ego is really of import. nevertheless Bowen did non go forth a sufficient tool as a agency to mensurate clients’ distinction of ego. Richard et Al ( 2004 ) note that Bowen suggested that clinicians could utilize a differentiation-of-self graduated table runing from 0 to 100 ; nevertheless. he provided few guidelines to assist clinicians faithfully and accurately delegate an appropriate mark. Indeed. he claimed that the construct was non quantifiable for research workers. Consequently. Bowen’s graduated table has been utile merely as a theoretical tool.

In the last decennary there have been two graduated tables. Haber’s Level of Differentiation of Self Scale and Kowron’s Differentiation of Self Inventory. that were developed as a agency to mensurate distinction. Richard et Al ( 2004 ) researched the cogency of these two graduated tables with Bowen’s theory by holding two experts in Bowen theory rate the relevancy of the points in these graduated tables. The first graduated table significantly correlated with chronic anxiousness and psychological hurt. which is consistent with Bowen theory and. thereby. demonstrates sufficient cogency. The 2nd graduated table was besides consistent with Bowen theory. the Differentiation of Self Inventory correlated significantly with chronic anxiousness. psychological hurt. and matrimonial satisfaction. In add-on. confirmatory factor analysis demonstrated psychometric support for the four subscales.

Bowen theorized that people marry harmonizing to their same degree of distinction. this is called the multigenerational transmittal procedure. Bowen merely stated. “People who marry have the same degree of distinction of ego ( Kerr & A ; Bowen. 1988. p. 225 ) . This is because each partner has the “same demand for emotional support from the relationship” ( Kerr & A ; Bowen. 1988. p. 171 ) . This construct is likely one of Bowen’s weakest. There have been legion surveies. Richter ( 1998 ) . Richards ( 1988 ) and Skowron ( 2000 ) merely to call a few. that wholly rebut this thought of Bowen’s. While this does non needfully strike hard down his full theory it does jab some holes in it and coerce the common healer to rethink their attack to working with married twosomes and their households.

While the above construct is a reasonably weak one. there is another facet of multigenerational transmittal procedure that proves to be stronger. There is a huge sum of research back uping a specific facet of Bowen’s construct of multigenerational transmittal procedure. The facet that parents’ and children’s values and beliefs are extremely correlated seems to hold strong cogency harmonizing to surveies. Many of these surveies were conducted in the field of societal geriatrics and day of the month back to the early 1970s when research about the “generation gap” was conducted to analyze continuity between coevalss ( Troll & A ; Bengtson. 1979 ) . These surveies have systematically found that parents’ and children’s values and beliefs are extremely correlated. as assumed by Bowen.

There is besides a significant sum of literature that gives grounds that degrees of single and relationship operation are passed on from one coevals to another. For illustration. Richard et Al ( 2004 ) write that surveies have revealed that there is a multigenerational transmittal procedure for force ( Alexander. Moore. & A ; Alexander. 1991 ) . divorce ( Amato. 1996 ) . and matrimonial quality ( Feng. Giarrusso. Bengtson. & A ; Frye. 1999 ) . Richard at Al ( 2004 ) besides comments that “research has besides shown that eating upsets ( Whitehouse & A ; Harris. 1998 ) . depressed affect ( Whitbeck et al. . 1992 ) . and alcohol addiction ( Sher. Gershuny. Peterson. & A ; Raskin. 1997 ) are transmitted inter-generationally” ( p. 9 ) .

Through many surveies proving different facets of Bowen’s theory there are and will go on to be weak points exposed. However. there proves to be a huge sum of cogency to his theory every bit good. The weakest suggestion is decidedly that people marry harmonizing to their ain distinction. In my ain life Bowen’s thought proves to be untrue and while looking at different matrimonies around me I do non see any kind of form in this respect. If anything. I have observed people get marrieding antonym of their ain distinction degree instead than happening a partner who matches their degree of distinction. Even still. distinction of ego as a whole demonstrates to be the most valid and outstanding thought in Bowen theory. both Biblically and psychologically.

Biblical Integration and Evaluation

I believe God was foremost to present the thought of distinction of ego. particularly distinction of ego when come ining into matrimony. Genesis 2:24 says. “For this ground a adult male will go forth his male parent and female parent and be united to his married woman. and they will go one flesh. ” Harmonizing to this poetry it seems that distinction is shown by one’s ability to go forth their parents before they can justly split to their partner. Since Bowen emphasizes the demand for a individual to be emotionally differentiated from parents in order to keep healthy balances of individualism and togetherness in resulting relationships. this seems to be paralleled with the bid presented in Genesis. Harmonizing to Bowen and Kerr ( 1988 ) . merely a differentiated individual can be firmly attached. Furthermore. this seems to be God’s stance on distinction as good. It seems that God. being almighty and all knowing. designed matrimonies to work out best when partners are healthily differentiated from their households of beginning.

In my sentiment. distinction of ego is really of import and seeing how the Bible supports this thought I feel even stronger about its’ significance. This is the chief ground I chose to compose about Bowen’s Theory to get down with. I appreciate Bowen’s eight constructs. as I believe they are great tools for healers. The constructs help the healer to work within this theory without experiencing lost or overwhelmed by the new thoughts or different aspects they are implementing into the therapy session.

Even more personally. I think that my ain distinction of ego has been weak until the last twelvemonth or so. This is another ground I chose to work with Bowen’s Theory. When I foremost got married I was really affiliated to my household and frequently chose them over my hubby or even over myself. I know that this non merely ache my husband’s feelings. but besides the quality of our matrimony. When I eventually understood that I was passing excessively much clip with my parents and taking their events over quality clip with Elden ( my hubby ) . things drastically changed between us. Many jobs we were holding fixed themselves and he became significantly happier.

Elden emphasized to me that he felt much more respected by me when I began postponing to him instead than my parents sing issues. And in bend. I began to experience much more loved by him because he became aware of the manner he was handling me since it was obvious I was doing scruples determinations to be more affiliated to him and to my ain independency than my household. While I still spend a good sum of clip with my household. Elden is much more willing to pass clip with them along with me because he knows and feels that he ever comes foremost. Besides. I take much more clip for myself and the things I enjoy. which makes everyone happier. Looking back I wish that I would hold genuinely understood distinction of ego before acquiring married. but I am so thankful that I did larn it early on as it will merely assist us for the remainder of our lives together.

Sing how this really little facet of a deficiency of self-differentiation played out on my ain life drew me to Bowen’s Theory. I wanted to understand how great of a function this theory could play in mundane life. I see now that distinction of ego has a much larger function in familial success than I had thought. And I believe Bowen’s eight facets merely farther do the point of this theory’s significance in household systems therapy.

Case Study

Looking at my ain life would be a perfect instance survey for Bowen Theory. However. since Elden and I did non acquire any therapy for our issues it would be hard to utilize. Keeping my old narrative in head. here is the profile of the instance I have chosen to exemplify: The client household consists of three male childs and a female parent and male parent. Stan. the male parent. called in to do an assignment because his married woman. Jen who is in her late 40’s. is holding anxiousness onslaughts and is overwhelmed by her three boies. She tends to shout at the male childs and feels like she has non patience for them any longer. Stan says he has been out of a occupation for three old ages and Jen ‘s parents have been back uping their household for the last 6 months. The male childs. Joel. Derek and Steve scope in ages from pre stripling to late teens. the eldest being Steve who is graduating from high school shortly. Stan studies that they are really high energy. but good behaved and successful in their school and athleticss activities. Stan emphasizes that he is most disquieted about “mom” . Jen. and thinks the male childs are managing things merely very well. as is he.

After seeing the household as a whole once it is obvious that Jen is non the chief job. it is Stan. However. since Stan is out of work Jen is taking on the emphasis of the household and it is more than she can bear. The three male childs are really near to their parents and the youngest 1. Joel. is wholly fused with Jen. Joel sat on Jen’s lap during the session and acted really much like a babe when she was non able gives him her full attending. Stan seems to hold come to footings with non holding a occupation and the fact that Jen’s parents are back uping them. nevertheless he continues to name Jen “mom” and speak about how sensitive and delicate she is. There seems to be a deficiency of familiarity between Stan and Jen along with a deficiency of regard for one another. And eventually. the lone one of the kids who does non name Jen “mommy” is Derek. the in-between kid.

Goals. Treatment Plan and Interventions

Before showing the family’s intervention program and forecast it is of import to understand what the end of Bowen household systems therapy is. The end is to increase the capacity of one or more members to accommodate to and cover with the changeless alteration and development of household life. Graefe ( 1955 ) describes the distinction attempt by utilizing a metaphor from sailing: “you can non alter the speed of the air currents. but you can alter the way of the sales” ( p. 2 ) . It is with this end in head that the intervention program can be created. To get down. this family’s intervention program will be to finish a genogram so that I can to the full understand their households of beginning. It is easy to see that in this household there is a batch of triangulation. largely between the parents and Steve. the oldest boy. At times Derek takes Steve’s topographic point in the triangulation between Stan and Jen.

However. he is largely in an confederation with Stan and has picked up much of his father’s male chauvinist attitudes. The genogram will let me to see if there was any domestic force or maltreatment in the family’s history and will besides let me to acquire a better thought of the attitudes work forces had towards adult females in Stan’s household of beginning. Furthermore. the genogram will assist bespeak how differentiated Stan and Jen are from their ain parents and how self-differentiation expressions in their family’s yesteryear. The genogram will uncover many facets of Jen and Stan’s household history. some more of import than others. but all utile in understanding this twosome.

Once the genogram is completed I will be able to concentrate on generational issues. However. in order to assist the household more instantly. diminishing the anxiousness that Jen is experiencing will be perfectly necessary. When anxiousness is decreased showing symptoms will get down tomodify or diminish. However. this will intend that Stan. Steve and Joel will necessitate to larn to be more differentiated from Jen. Stan is interesting. because he has a really sexist attitude toward Jen. but wholly relies on her and her parents for most things in life. He needs to acknowledge this in order to assist Jen decrease her anxiousness. One manner in which I will assist the male childs become more differentiated from Jen is by. first of all. inquiring Stan to halt naming Jen “mom” . Since Stan sets the tone and attitude for his kids. holding him interrupt this wont will be helpful. It might besides make a more intimate attitude toward the twosome. Furthermore. Joel will necessitate to sit at least two chairs off from Jen for all future Sessionss. And eventually. Jen will be asked to let Joel to talk for himself so that he can happen his ain voice.

Part of this family’s intervention program will trust on my usage of intercessions. It will be really of import that I am able to pattern to them what healthy rearing relationships may look like. I besides will necessitate to develop a operation healthy trigon between Stan. Jen and myself. I believe that one time the parent’s relationship is put into a more healthful topographic point. the kids will get down to distinguish themselves from their parents. A constituent of working on Jen and Stan’s relationship will include Stan holding more communicating with his ain female parent and with Jen’s parents. It will besides include Jen and Stan taking some clip out to research their ain household history which will hopefully edify both of them on a few different degrees.

Finally. Jen’s major prep will be to take an hr out of each twenty-four hours where she is non available to her household in any capacity and she must journal about this procedure three times a hebdomad. This “homework” will expectantly let her household to larn to distinguish themselves from her and cut down some anxiousness in her immediate phase of life. Besides. I believe this exercising will be really oculus gap for Stan to see how much he really relies on Jen.

Stan and Jen’s household should go on therapy for a lower limit of one twelvemonth. as Bowen believes four old ages is a more sensible forecast agenda. If the kids do non go on. Stan and Jen should follow through with couple therapy. I would conceive of that couple therapy will be more good in the long tally and that their boies will merely necessitate to be in household therapy ab initio. In fact. if I have done my occupation decently the kids will desire to stop therapy on their ain agreement. This will be a great indicant of the distinction they are accomplishing. However. one time Joel. Derek and Steve terminate their function in therapy the ground why Stan and Jen will necessitate to go on is so they can to the full appreciate the generational transmittal procedure and understand how their emotional projection onto their kids is forbiding growing and distinction in their circle of five.


Bowen Family Systems Therapy is a therapy that focuses on emotional procedure instead than content. Murray Bowen’s eight constructs outline this thought of emotional procedure really clearly and do following a system and intercession program easier for a healer. While some of Bowen’s Theory and constructs are based on his ain secular point of view. God shines through this theory in His ain manner. Biblically. many aspects of Bowen’s theory are sound which merely make a better instance for the cognition that the Bible has to offer the universe. Since God is the Ultimate Counselor. it makes sense that distinction would be mentioned in His Word foremost.

In decision. looking at the instance survey. along with the intervention program. intercessions and forecast one can acquire a much better thought of how Bowen Theory can be implemented into household therapy. The household depicted in the instance survey thought that the job was the female parent. Jen. But it turned out that she was non the lone job. In the intervention program it was of import to concentrate on the family’s emotional procedure instead than “fixing” Jen. All of the members of the household needed to larn to believe on their ain two pess and unrecorded parts of their lives without Jen’s blessing. Once this happens. Jen should experience well less dying and angry. Therefore. this instance was authoritative for using Bowenian Therapy. However. Bowen Family Systems Therapy can be applied to any instance and will ever accomplish satisfactory consequences as Bowen is a maestro at household therapy.

Fritzlan. L. ( 1991 ) . How to Get Your Own Life and Not Get Overwhelmed by Your Family. Pacific Grove. Brooks/Cole Printing Company.

Goldenberg. I. . Goldenberg. H. ( 1990 ) . Family Therapy: An Overview. Pacific Grove. CA. Brooks/Cole Printing Company

Kerr. M. . Bowen. M. ( 1988 ) . Family Evaluation: An Approach Based on Bowen Theory. New York. NY. W. W. Norton & A ; Company.

Miller. Richard B. . et Al. ( 2004 ) . Journal of Marital and Family Therapy. Family Systems Therapy: Is Bowen Theory Valid? A Review of Basic Research. Blackwell Publishing.

hypertext transfer protocol: //www. intercessions. net/BowenTheoryUpdated. pdf


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