Intro to Bowen Theory: Your Questions Answered

FSI faculty members Lily Mailler and Jenny Brown engage with questions posed at a live seminar overviewing Bowen’s theory. Many engaging questions were asked by the audience after listening to a lecture from Dr. Bowen where he discussed his 8 concepts: triangles, differentiation of self, nuclear family emotional process, family projection process, multigenerational transmission process, emotional cutoff, sibling position, and societal emotional process.  The lecture is available to purchase from The Bowen Center.

Episode 1: Questions about the Theory.

Questions covered include:
How would you define emotional process?’;
Bowen talked about people having different levels of choice in their own lives? Say more?

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Questions covered include:
If your family of origin is toxic and emotionally destructive to a poorly differentiated person, why try to reconnect?;
Re repairing cutoff with FOO, what if the FOO is abusive (DV, sexual abuse, emotional abuse etc)?

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How are symptoms transmitted from the parent’s generation to some children? (The Family Projection Process.) It tackles the tricky issue of mothers passing on intensity in their care of one or more of their children.
What is the influence of the father in this? While a mother may play a key part through an anxious investment in caretaking, this always sits within and is fuelled by, the whole family emotional unit.

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Questions include: How does one move to a higher level of differentiation of self?;
If the extended family is all involved in the therapy together (3 generations) that allow each member to acknowledge the impact on each other and have an opportunity to reconcile the relationship, will this be effective to resolve current issues?;
Is this also relevant to introduce to teenagers in therapy to support them to start to differentiating themselves from their troubled parents?

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In this podcast Lily and Jenny discuss Bowen theory and research. Is the theory backed up by research? The challenges of researching a broad systems theory with so many interconnecting variables, Bowen theory’s engagement with the natural sciences, and what does it look like to do personal research into one’s own family?

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The Life and Times of Dr Murray Bowen

Jenny Brown in conversation with Dan Papero reveal a fascinating historical context for the development of Bowen theory as well as the world of psychiatry and the family therapy field that emerged after World War 2.

Episode 1: Bowen’s Growing Up Years

Our first podcast explores the growing up years of Dr Murray Bowen and his family background. This is all presented from the perspective of Dan Papero PhD, MSW who worked along side Dr Bowen for several years.

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Podcast 2 looks at Bowen in the 2nd world war and his shift to psychiatry.
“Following medical training, Murray Bowen served five years of active duty with the Army during World War II, 1941-46. He served in the United States and Europe, rising from the rank of Lieutenant to Major. He had been accepted for a fellowship in surgery at the Mayo Clinic to begin after military service, but Bowen’s wartime experiences resulted in a change of interest from surgery to psychiatry.”

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Podcast 3 looks at Bowen’s psychoanalytic training and work at Menninger’s. Dan Papero explores how his time at Menninger’s has had an influence on the development of Bowen theory. (Jenny Brown in conversation with Dan Papero)

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Bowen left Menninger’s in 1954 and began a historic family research program at the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) in Bethesda, Maryland. This program, called the Family Study Program, involved hospitalizing entire families on a specialized research ward.

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This podcast explores Bowen’s research with his own family and his ‘anonymous paper’ based on his 1968 conference presentation of his many years of effort to observe emotional process in his family of origin and to differentiate himself from his parental extended family.

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This podcast looks at Bowen’s move to Georgetown University School of Medicine – plus his multiple family research project.

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This podcast looks at Bowen’s training initiatives with the Georgetown Family Centre.

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This podcast explores the end of Bowen’s life and how he managed the final years of his professional life.

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