Types of Family Therapy – Bowenian Model

What Is Family Therapy?

Family therapy usually involves a series of interventions that assist family members who want to change the maladaptive relationship patterns that they have. The whole family is the focus of the treatment and not certain individuals. Family therapy works by trying to resolve issues within the family, to try and help the individual members cope much better. A lot of approaches when it comes to family therapy, hope to alter the system so that this brings about change in each individual. By adopting this approach, family members can better understand each other, and they can also form much closer family bonds.

What Is Bowenian Family Therapy?

Bowenian family therapy was developed by Murray Bowen. He believed that patterns persist in families, and these can be traced back generations. Problematic behaviors are then passed down, and similar conflicts are created. Bowen created this approach to help facilitate healthy communication while breaking down those harmful patterns. An intergenerational lens is applied to promote healthy boundaries and to also encourage solid relationships between families.

Bowen’s Eight Concepts

1.  Differentiation of Self

This forms the foundation for Bowen’s theory. It involves a psychological separation between emotion and intellect. It involves people trying to think through the issues they are going through, rather than acting through emotional pressure. It encourages people to realize that although they are capable of strong emotions, they are also capable of possessing great self-restraint. It also tries to show members of the family that it is possible for them to decide what they believe, before acting, rather than acting emotionally and impetuously to others.

2.  Triangle of Emotion

It is entirely possible for anxiety to develop in relationships. This is especially the case if the relationships are intimate. When this happens, a third person is usually added to try and gain stability. This is known as triangulation. Tension might decrease between the couple, but the conflict bubbling under the surface may well worsen with time. If a couple have unresolved issues, then the mother may choose to spend more time with the daughter, thus removing pressure from the relationship. This does not fix the underlying issue, and it may even undermine the independence of the daughter in the long run.

3.  Nuclear Processes

This describes a lot of fusion in families. Children can become emotionally cut off from parents, and this can lead to thoughts and emotions that are not as easily distinguished from one another. The unstable fusion could easily cause emotional distance, marital problems, and more.

4.  Family Projections

Parents can also pass down their lack of differentiation to children. When two adults marry, and they have undifferentiated feelings, the generational problems are then passed down. The mother may be more attached to the child, and they would then become the object of projection. Within this same context, the child would then achieve less differentiation, and they would become much more vulnerable to issues.

5.  Multigenerational Transmission

This forms the foundation for Bowen’s theory. It involves a psychological separation between emotion and intellect. It involves people trying to think through the issues they are going through, rather than acting through emotional pressure. It encourages people to realize that although they are capable of strong emotions, they are also capable of possessing great self-restraint. It also tries to show members of the family that it is possible for them to decide what they believe, before acting, rather than acting emotionally and impetuously to others.

6.  Sibling Positioning

Research has shown that children develop characteristics in their personality that relate to their position within the family. Each child in the family has its own hierarchy. Older children tend to be leaders with more hierarchy or authority. Younger children tend to follow and are much more likely to stray and favor freedom.

7.  Emotional Shut Off

Emotional shutdown happens when people do not manage the lack of differentiation they have. There may be an emotional cut-off with parents, and this can stem from a high level of fusion. Some children seek a level of physical distance from their family, whereas others tend to avoid personal conversations.

8.  Emotional Processes

Bowen has developed this eight-step concept to try and explain the issues that a family might experience if they are not truly regulating their emotions. The last concept would be the societal emotional process. Economic hardship, natural resources being scarce, or even epidemics can all contribute to a level of regression in a society. Families who have a much higher level of differentiation are able to deal with this much better.

Goals of the Bowenian Model

With the Bowenian model, there are two basic goals. You have the reduction of anxiety, with a relief from the symptoms that are currently experienced, and you also have an increase in differentiation. Over-emotional interactions have to be changed before self-differentiation can be achieved in the nuclear members of the family. It should not be about settling old scores, reconciling differences or anything else. It should be about re-establishing contact with extended members of the family, with the goal of de-triangulating the family to allow self-differentiation to grow.

Stages of Bowenian Treatment

Stage One

Stage one attempts to reduce the amount of anxiety someone has regarding their symptoms, while also helping them to understand the patterns they use when relating to certain situations.

Stage Two

Stage two focuses on adult clients and their self-issues so that they can then increase their levels of emotional differentiation as a result. Clients who are able to resist the pull of the togetherness force have better emotional stability.

Stage Three

Stage three is the later stage of therapy. Adult clients are initially coached to try and help themselves differentiate between the origins of their family. The assumption here is that the differentiation ability will help to decrease anxiety while also teaching them a higher level of responsibility within the general nuclear system.

Techniques with the Bowenian Therapy Model

Those who practice the Bowenian method have said that there are a few interventions that are very specific to this model, including:

Genograms

A genogram is essentially a graphic of the family that details information about the history, the patterns, and the relationships. It gives the therapist the chance to explore all of the patterns and connections that may be present so that this can guide the treatment. More and more information can then be added as the treatment goes on.

Differentiating Emotions

Self-differentiation and differentiating emotions are also crucial. This method will help a psychologist to identify the emotions that are being experienced in a family unit, so people can realize when the emotions of other family members are being taken on.

I-Statements

This is a technique of communication that focuses on the speaker as opposed to the person. It communicates the emotion that is behind the statement without feelings of blame or defensiveness.

Triangles

Triangulation refers to manipulation when family members are pitted against each other. Bowenian family methods use this concept to symbolize more stable relationship networks. Families work together to create healthy balances to gain support, without this kind of emotional distress.

Intergenerational Patterning

A Bowenian therapist will use intergenerational patterns to identify the patterns that persist across generations and to also see which ones need to be broken.

Normalization

Another part of the Bowen method would be for people to try and normalize patterns. Challenges and conflict will happen, and this will certainly happen after therapy terminates. Clients will be trained when it comes to finding coping methods, to assist with this properly.

Criticisms Of The Bowenian Model

The theory suggests even further that you should not think with your emotions and that you should instead think about being a stronger version of yourself. Critics believe that the Bowen method disvalues those who are in tune with their emotions.

Learn More About Peaks Recovery’s Inpatient Treatment Family Program Today

If you want to learn more about our inpatient treatment program or if you believe that you are experiencing some family conflict that you would like to try and get resolved, then the only thing that you have to do is get in touch with us today. When you do contact us, our team can work with you to make sure that you are happy with the service you have been given, and we will also make sure that we pair you with someone who is able to give you the support you are looking for. Our team consists of some of the highest-trained professionals in the industry and we are continually doing what we can to further our understanding of families and their social structure. That is why you can trust in us to give you the emotional support you are looking for as soon as you walk through our doors.

You can call us today to find out about our family program or you can contact us here.