Bowen Theory and Therapy

Bowen is a remedial body technique that is extremely gentle and relaxing. It empowers the body's own healing resources to achieve balance and harmony.

The Breadth of a Bowenian Perspective Bowen theory is not about families, but about life. Bowen emphasized that humans have more in common "with other forms of protoplasm … and that traditional social science to emphasize differences have … increased our denial about what really makes us tick" (p. 135).

A Perspective of Universals

Bowen theory emphasizes universal continua rather than discrete categories (i.e., nature/nurture, male/female, patient/therapist). Bowen theory embraces aspects of multiple social and behavioral sciences. The family is the unit of observation and treatment. Multigenerational forces can create symptoms at one of three locations: ● the marital relationship;
● ●

the health of one of the marital partners; children.

Implications of a "universal" perspective: ● diminishes the importance of becoming an "expert" in specific symptomatologies;

A Perspective of Universals

Bowen theory emphasizes universal continua rather than discrete categories (i.e., nature/nurture, male/female, patient/therapist). Bowen theory embraces aspects of multiple social and behavioral sciences. The family is the unit of observation and treatment. Multigenerational forces can create symptoms at one of three locations: ● the marital relationship;
● ●

the health of one of the marital partners; children.

Implications of a "universal" perspective: ● diminishes the importance of becoming an "expert" in specific symptomatologies;

The Emotional Being of the Therapist

Differentiation of therapist is emphasized: "Bowen has consistently maintained that it is hard for the patient to mature beyond the maturity level of the therapist, no matter how good his or her technique" (p. 138). Capacity to apply Bowenian theory is a function of the therapist's own differentiation. "Maintaining a non-anxious presence … is connected to the being of the therapist, not to his or her know-how" (p. 138). Bowen and Kerr (1981) have suggested that learning Bowenian theory requires an emotional chance that is only possible by apprenticing with someone who is a "master" or a disciple of a

Concepts in Bowen Theory

Four Seminal Constructs

Differentiation


● ●

Emotional System
Multigenerational Transmission

Emotional Triangle

These major constructs are interdependent.

Chronic Anxiety

Anxiety is natural. It is an emotional and physical reactivity. Chronic anxiety is an "exaggeration of a basic rhythm of life: the instinctual, nonthinking response necessary of wilderness survival as well as the habits required for playing a sport" (p. 140). Anxiety is transmitted by families

Differentiation

A "lifelong process of striving to keep one's being in balance through the reciprocal external and internal processes of definition and self-regulation" (p. 140). This refers to a process rather than a goal that can ever be achieved. It is a direction in life. Differentiation is not synonymous with
● ●

individuation, autonomy,

independence.

Differentiation includes a connectedness to

Emotional System

● ●

Emotional system refers to any group of people (or collection of animals, for that matter) that have developed emotional interdependencies. The group has an organized structure. Family emotional system includes

the members thoughts, feelings, emotions, fantasies, associations, and past connections (individual as well as group connections); the members physical makeup, genetic heritage, and current metabolic state; each individual sibling position and parents' sibling positions;

Multigenerational Transmission
● ●

This does not simply refer to the influence of the past. It is the "presence" of the past. Nature and degree of intensity of emotional responses are passed down from generation to generation. The distinction between generations is a false dichotomy because all generations are part of a continuous natural process. Family of origin work does not emphasize identifying relatives or even patterns of interactions. Rather, it is the process of connecting and re-connecting with the natural processes that go back generations. Self-differentiation is the process of getting in touch with intergenerational processes, to know

Emotional Triangle (a/k/a "triangle")
● ●

An emotional triangle is more complex than a triad. This refers to any three parts of an emotional system. It can include either three individuals or two individuals and an issue. Rules that govern emotional processes:

One person cannot change the relationship between two others or between another person and her or his habit. The more you try to relationship of another, the more likely it is that you will reinforce the aspects

Emotional Triangle (cont.) Clinical Implications:

If a clinician is recruited into a triangle with a couple and is able to refrain from overfunctioning or emotionally reactive, the clinician can help facilitate change that would not be possible if the two had the same conversation alone. A clinician inducted into a triangle is likely to experience the stress of the couple. This is positional and

Bowen Therapy

Objectivity

Objectivity does not refer to an intellectual/cerebral process. It is an emotional phenomenon. This refers to a clear headedness that is a prodict of differentiation. All procedures to maintain objectivity (differentiation) will help promote change. Procedures to foster an objective state:
– – – –

mischievous, paradoxical responses; avoiding interpretations; diagramming; telling (disguised) stories about other clients as projective techniques;

Bowen Therapy (cont.)

Proximity and Protoplasm
● ●

Lack of differentiation can be destructive. Major problem of families: not to get them closer but enable them to be clearer about where they end and others in their life begin. Therapeutic goal: encourage self-differentiation of individual members.

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Healing is a Self-Regenerative Phenomenon A Natural Systems View of Pathology

Inability to differentiate self from others causes problems. Inability to regulate self prevents maturity. Problems that persist continue because others

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Bowen Therapy (cont.) A Natural Systems View of Healing
● ●

Health is natural.
Therapeutic processes:

reduce chronic anxiety than inhibits healing by being a well-differentiated, nonanxious presence; stimulate the clients own resources.

Bowen Therapy (cont.)

Therapy Process:

Longevity in therapeutic contact promotes deeper involvement with multigenerational processes.

Change is not equated with symptom relief or feeling better but with an increase in differentiation level of the family.
Frequency of sessions is less important than time in therapy (over time, clients may have longer time between sessions). Increased time between sessions may reduce dependency.

Time frame for evaluating change:

Bowen suggested that it takes four years to help a family so that multigenerational patterns will not automatically continue to the next generation -- an four years is not a guarantee. Two criteria for evaluating fundamental change in a

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