Bowen Family Systems Theory Summary

Topics: Family therapy, Systems theory, Cybernetics Pages: 7 (1633 words) Published: March 3, 2015


Bowen’s Family Systems Theory

Bowen’s Family Systems Theory Overview
This adaptation of systems theory was coined by Dr. Murray Bowen and is referred to as Bowen’s Family Systems Theory. According to Murdock (2013), this particular adaptation of systems theory is considered one of the most reputable and well constructed compared to that of its counterparts. The author states that family systems theories can be utilized with individuals as well as with specific relationships within the family unit, however the majority of therapy is done with individual clients utilizing the context of the family unit. According to Murdock (2013), it is the family system therapist’s belief that the client can best be understood through the context of his entire family unit in that the therapist will examine the relationships within the family system. It is the family systems therapist’s belief that there is somewhat of a cyclical dominoes effect in family systems that are referred to as circular causality. This term refers to the notion that influences on one subdivision of the family unit will inevitably influence other parts (Murdock, 2013). Although the entire family context is realized in the therapy room, the family member that is presenting the most challenges to the family system is labeled as the identified patient. Because of the notion that influences on one member of the family will inevitably have an effect on the rest of the family, it is not the comportment of the presenting challenge or issue that is analyzed; it is the process or the function of how things happen in the system that the individual is implored to address. According to Murdock (2013), “systems can be open or closed” (p. 409). An open system refers to the ease of fluidity in the relationships within the family system. A closed system refers to the lack of fluidity in the relationships within the family system, which usually is exhibited by rigidity, and lack of assimilation within the ever-changing environment. According to the author, family systems theorists put emphasis on the concept of homeostasis within the family system. Family System’s theorists believe that families typically resist change and depend on the maintenance of sameness and familiarity within the family unit. It is believed that treatment must fully encompass the family as a whole because individual change will not last in a family due to the need to maintain homeostasis (Murdock, 2013).

Bowen’s Family Systems Theory Main Concepts
According to Murdock (2013), Bowen is commonly known for furthering the practice of systems theory by introducing two new schools of practice. First, he introduced the concept of family group therapy in that he began to experiment with hospitalizing the entire family unit who had an identified patient with schizophrenia. Second, he used himself as the client in his family unit and analyzed his system in order to exhibit his experience and his level of differentiation from his family of origin through his own theoretical lens. According to Murdock (2013), the main goal of BFST is to increase differentiation of self from the family origin. According to the author, differentiation of self is a process of balancing “togetherness and separateness” (Murdock, 2013, p. 442), over the lifespan. Each member in a family unit exhibits an individual level of differentiation. According to the author, it should be understood that differentiation is measured on a spectrum beginning with very low differentiation of self to very high differentiation of self. Bowen’s family systems theorists believes that, in relationships, individuals should share a similar level of differentiation to each other and this is believed to be the case across generations which is referred to as the multigenerational transmission process (Murdock, 2013). According to Murdock, chronic Anxiety is conceptualized as dysfunction in Bowen’s Family Systems Theory and...

References: Murdock, N. (2013). Family Systems Theory. In Theories of Counseling and Psychotherapy (Third ed., pp. 406-459). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education.
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