Presented to Dr. Oliver McMahan in partial fulfillment of the requirements for CO702 Counseling Theories and Techniques
The Basic Tenants of the Theory 3-12
The Model in Clinical Practice 12-19
Current Developments 20-22
Critique of Bowen’s Model 22-24
Case Study 24-29
Murray Bowen's family systems theory (shortened to 'Bowen theory' from 1974) was one of the very first comprehensive theories of family systems functioning (Bowen, 1966, 1978, Kerr and Bowen, 1988). While it has received limited attention in Australia and New Zealand, it has continued to be a central influence in the practice of family therapy in North America. It is possible that the majority of family therapists have been influenced by many of Bowen's ideas without even recognizing the connection.
There is a pervasive view amongst many proponents of Bowen's work that his theory is meant to be experienced rather than taught (Kerr, 1991). While this may be possible if one can be immersed in the atmosphere of a Bowenian training institute, this may not be a realistic option for every therapist. Bowen's own writings have also been charged with being tedious and difficult to read (Carter, 1991). This makes it extremely pertinent to present this influential theory in an accessible format.
The Basic Tenants of the Theory
Bowen focused on patterns that develop in families in order to defuse anxiety. A key generator of anxiety in families is the when family members develop a perception of either too much closeness or too great a distance in a relationship. This degree of familial anxiety will be determined by the current levels of external stress and the sensitivities to particular themes that have been transmitted down the generations. If family members lack the capacity to think through their responses to relationship dilemmas, but rather react anxiously to perceived emotional...