What is Bowenian Family Therapy: Definition and Techniques

Last Update on September 21, 2022 : Published on January 30, 2022
Bowenian Family Therapy

Initially it was believed that our society and culture has an influence on our values systems. Which is true, but it only has a small influence on us. According to Murray Bowen, a psychiatrist stated that most of our values are shaped by the history of our family.

Bowenian Family Therapy works on the same belief. The belief that with all the pleasant attributes we also inherit the unpleasant ones. Those conflicts and problematic behavior that has been persistent across generations are dealt with in this therapy.

Let’s understand Bowenian Family Therapy in detail…

What Is Bowenian Family Therapy?

What Is Bowenian Family Therapy

Bowenian Family Therapy is a treatment that focuses on family conflicts. This approach to treating problematic behavior within families has been developed by Murray Bowen, a pioneering psychiatrist in family therapy.

Bowen believed that some of the family conflicts and problematic behaviors are passed down to us by generations. These problems and issues within the family have to be sorted out so that interpersonal relationships are maintained.

The main aim for Murray Bowen for the Bowenian Family Therapy was to:

  • Reduce toxic communication
  • Foster healthy communication
  • Breaking harmful patterns
  • Developing healthy differentiation in growth and development
  • Practice health autonomy with the family members

Also Read: An Overview of Family Systems Therapy

Bowenian Family System Theory

Bowenian Family System Theory

Murray Bowen began his practice as a psychoanalyst and in the process of investigating schizophrenic patients he came across the idea of family patterns and dimensions of family systems.

Bowenian Family System Theory as known as Bowen Theory (1974) states that a perception among family members of being too close or too apart from each other in their relationship can induce chronic anxiety within the family.

Bowen believes that the intensity of anxiety depends upon the external stress and the problematic behavioral patterns that have been passed down by generations. He even stated that if the family is sensitive towards emotional stress, chronic stress is most likely to set in place within all family members.

The main aim of the bowen theory as to reduce the chronic stress within families and he aimed to do it through:

  • Making family members aware as to how emotional systems functions
  • Increasing acceptance of the individual differences among the family members
  • Focusing on changes that make the self better rather than pestering the other person to change.

The salient features of this theory are togetherness and individuality. If there is too much of closeness with the family members, the sense of self is compromised. On the other hand if you focus a lot on individuality, there’s a high chance that you’ll be distant and the family might fall apart.

Also Read: 7 Most Common Family Problems And What To Do To Resolve Those Issues

The Concepts Of Bowenian Family system Theory

There are some basic concepts that complete the bowen theory. These concepts explain family development and functioning properly.

1. Emotional fusion and differentiation of self: emotional fusion is when a family member chooses to put his/her needs aside so that there is harmony within the family. Differentiation to self is one’s inability to separate their feelings from their thoughts.

2. Triangles: triangles is basically when two members of the family are having some issues either because of individuality or togetherness, ask a third party to intervene.

3. Nuclear family Emotional system: these are the emotional patterns that are actually passed down to generations to come. For example, if a father suffers from a phobia, he will try to keep his kids away from the triggers of his phobia and eventually the children might as well grow up thinking that  the fear is not irrational. They might develop the same or similar phobia.

4. Family projection process: This is a part of the nuclear family emotional system because the family member who has the problem (father with phobia) has to stabilize the family and not transfer the anxiety and problematic behavior to the next generation.

5. Emotional cutoff: according to Bowen’s theory an emotional cutoff is when a family member decides to move away and cut himself off  from the family completely.

6. Multigenerational transmission process: Bowen theory here states that the patterns, themes and roles in the family are passed down to generations to come depending on how much traingaling has happened between the parents and the child.

7. Sibling positions: Here Bowen has focused on the position of each sibling (i.e. eldest, middle or youngest), their relationship and which sibling position triangles with the parents the most.

Also Read: The Stress Of Family Conflicts: How To Resolve

Bowenian Family Therapy Techniques

Those of practice Bowenian Family Therapy may have specific and similar approach to different intervention that have been introduced in Bowenian Family Therapy such as:

1. Differentiating emotions and self-differentiation: in this technique of Bowenian Family Therapy, each family member is taught to identify the emotions of a family unit and also identify when you are mirroring other family members’ emotions as yours.

2. Genograms: Genograms are graphs that show different patterns, relationships, history and psychology of the family. This makes it easy for you and the therapist to find the link between a particular problematic behavior.

3. I-Statements: I-statements is a technique which is used in many therapies. In Bowenian Family Therapy it is used so that whenever you are expressing your emotions you put it on you rather than projecting it onto the other family members.

4. Triangles: this is a rather weird technique of Bowenian Family Therapy but according to the practitioners, it does work. In this each family member is turned against the other. This emotional triangling is done to create balance in their relationship.

5. Intergenerational patterns: this technique of Bowenian Family Therapy uses the genogram to identify the healthy patterns which have been inherited as well as the faulty patterns so that they can be cured.

6. Normalizing challenges: it is natural for a family to have conflicts within them. Even after therapy you might face it so as to prepare the family to react in a healthy way when in conflict, they use normalizing challenges.

Also Read: How To Improve Family Relationships

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Bowenian Family Therapy is being used to resolve conflicts and problematic behaviors with family units. The Bowenian theory of family systems is being used in the techniques that help the Bowenian Family Therapy execute properly.

I hope you found this blog informative and all your doubts about Bowenian Family Therapy, Bowen theory and Bowenian Family Therapy Techniques are clear now!

Thanks for reading!

Take care and stay safe.

About The Author

Kirti Bhati
Kirti Bhati

I am an English literature (major) and psychology (minor) graduate from St. Bede’s College, Shimla. Postgraduate in Clinical psychology from IIS University, Jaipur. She has published a Research paper on Music therapy in the military population and Workplace stress in a national seminar conducted by Fortis hospital (gurugram) and international seminar conducted by St. Bede’s College, Shimla, Respectively. Authored a dissertation work on ‘effect of social media addiction on the mental and physical well-being in adolescents’ Currently working at calm sage as a writer.

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