What Is Bowenian Household and {Couples} Remedy? 5 Methods

Bowenian TherapyOur household of origin distinctly shapes who we’re.

From our character and conduct to our selections in life, household performs a big position.

And that is true whether or not we really feel near our beginning household or distant from them.

In Bowenian household techniques concept, the household is seen as a posh system inside which the person is formed. Battle and dysfunction come from the lack of people to separate from their households. In accordance with Bowen’s concept, differentiation of the self is the important thing to emotional independence and in the end battle decision.

This text will describe use the ideas and methods of Bowenian Remedy to assist a household resolve battle and support particular person members of the family in reaching emotional independence.

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What Is Bowenian Household and {Couples} Remedy?

Murray Bowen started his work as a psychotherapist on the Menninger Clinic in 1946, finding out people with schizophrenia (Nichols & Schwartz, 1984).

The favored concept on the time was that the connection between mom and little one performed a task within the growth of the sickness. Though the reason for schizophrenia remains to be not effectively understood, researchers now consider it’s a mixture of genetic, organic, and environmental components (DeLisi, 2021).

In his work with moms and youngsters, Bowen started to develop his concept of differentiation of self, which might develop into a cornerstone of his household techniques concept.

Differentiation is outlined as autonomy, the flexibility to work together with others with out getting enmeshed. A person who has differentiation will be capable of have a powerful sense of self that isn’t depending on the opinion of others. They’ll make choices with out being overly swayed by feelings.

Conversely, a person who has a poorly differentiated sense of self overly will depend on the opinions of others. They’ve a chameleon-like capacity to adapt and alter primarily based on the acceptance of others.

Bowen acknowledged that the household system might both promote independence and differentiation or create an setting of enmeshment, the place independence is thwarted. One of many essential objectives of Bowenian Remedy is to assist foster self-differentiation.

6 Ideas of Bowenian Remedy

Bowen Family TherapyThere are three core ideas in Bowen’s household techniques concept (The Bowen Middle, n.d.):

  1. Differentiation of self
  2. Triangulation/triangles
  3. Emotional cutoff

And three essential processes:

  1. Household projection course of
  2. Multi-generational transmission course of
  3. Societal emotional course of

Differentiation of self

The overarching objective of Bowenian Remedy is to realize differentiation (The Bowen Middle, n.d.).

Bowen believed that this was an essential marker of psychological well being. A person who has differentiated from their household can work together with them with out emotional reactivity (Charles, 2001). They’ll steadiness their feelings and ideas and resist the pull of a dysfunctional system.


When there may be issue inside a relationship between two individuals, there may be typically a want to contain others. When a 3rd particular person is pulled into the fray, that is outlined as triangulation (The Bowen Middle, n.d.).

Nervousness is believed to trigger triangulation. Resulting from rising nervousness with each other, a member of the couple will pull in a 3rd particular person. If the third particular person is a profitable mediator, the triangle is not going to develop into everlasting. However typically in dysfunctional techniques, the third particular person has been pulled into the battle and can’t depart (Brown, 1999).

A typical instance of triangulation is a baby who’s being pulled into their dad and mom’ dispute. One or each of the dad and mom might complain about one another to the kid. The triangulation undermines the connection and doesn’t permit for the couple to work issues out.

In a wholesome triangulation, every twosome can work together independently. They aren’t working collectively to alter the third member of the triangle (The Bowen Middle, n.d.). In a household dynamic with battle, triangulation will type in an effort to cut back the nervousness. There could also be a number of overlapping triangles.

Emotional cutoff

Emotional cutoff is a method used to handle nervousness inside a relationship. People might take away themselves totally from the connection, both by not talking to family members or by creating geographical distance. They might additionally keep involved however merely keep away from speaking about sure emotional subjects (Brown, 1999).

Typically, it’s wholesome to take away your self from a dysfunctional scenario. However Bowen believed emotional cutoff led to issues in relationships exterior of the household. An individual who has an unresolved battle with their household is vulnerable to making their exterior relationships too essential and creating substitute households inside their work or present relationships (The Bowen Middle, n.d.).


The idea of processes inside a Bowenian household system illustrates how these issues of nondifferentiation play out within the small household unit, throughout generations, and even in society at giant.

Inside a household unit, dad and mom might challenge their points onto their kids. Bowen named this the household projection course of. On this scenario, dad and mom are overly anxious about their kids’s conduct.

The method follows three steps (Nichols & Schwartz, 1984):

  1. The mum or dad focuses on a baby out of concern that one thing is fallacious with the kid.
  2. The mum or dad interprets the kid’s conduct as confirming the concern.
  3. The mum or dad treats the kid as if one thing is basically fallacious with them.

The processes inside a household additionally lengthen exterior of the quick household and may have generational impacts. When an undifferentiated particular person leaves their household and begins their very own, they might select a companion with an analogous stage of differentiation (Nichols & Schwartz, 1984).

They start the household projection course of, and the subsequent technology continues the patterns of the earlier technology. That is what Bowen named the multi-generational transmission course of.

Lastly, these processes play out in society. As a result of we work together intently with others in our work and communities, comparable processes come up there as effectively.

Bowen believed that crime, violence, and polarization between teams have been a results of a societal emotional course of. Undifferentiated people contributed to a disharmonious system and in the end created societies that have been in battle (Nichols & Schwartz, 1984).

How Does It Work? A Case Examine

Think about a married couple with a 9-year-old little one. We are going to name them Rose, Frank, and Michael. Rose and Frank are having difficulties. Frank want to have one other little one, however Rose is concentrated on her profession and worries that having one other little one will disrupt her promotion course of.

Triangulation happens when Frank asks Michael, “Wouldn’t you like to have a child sister? Isn’t it laborious to be an solely little one? Your mother doesn’t wish to have a child, however we should always attempt to persuade her that one other little one could be enjoyable!

As a substitute of getting conversations with Rose about his emotions and dealing on this battle collectively, Frank is bringing Michael into the battle. When Michael expresses these ideas to Rose, she turns into distressed and worries that she will not be a superb mom.

Though Rose is working towards differentiation by pursuing her profession, these ideas are additionally bolstered by her personal mom, who pressures her to have extra kids.

In a household remedy intervention, the therapist would establish triangulation and see how the dynamic is enjoying out between Michael, Rose, and Frank. A Bowenian therapist will not be essentially within the particular drawback (on this instance, having extra kids). They’re extra within the processes the household is utilizing to speak.

On this instance, the method is certainly one of oblique communication. The objective is to start the method of detriangulation. The therapist would do that by inviting Frank to debate his issues with Rose extra immediately.

A Bowenian household therapist might initially have Frank solely communicate to them whereas Rose is current and ultimately invite Frank to talk on to Rose. The couple might uncover that Frank felt nearer to Rose when Michael was younger, and as he’s grown older and Rose has been working extra, he feels a distance forming.

5 Methods for Your Classes

Bowenian techniquesStrive any of those methods in your subsequent Bowenian remedy session.

Course of questions

An essential method utilized in Bowenian Household Remedy is the usage of course of questions (The Bowen Middle, n.d.).

These remedy questions decelerate the emotional reactivity and intention to disclose how the circle of relatives system is working. Reasonably than asking questions concerning the content material of the dispute, the therapist asks questions concerning the course of.

Utilizing the instance above, a content material query may ask Frank why he needs one other child. A course of query will ask Frank what occurs when he tries to carry this matter up with Rose. One other course of query could also be to ask Rose how she is creating distance between herself and her household.

Neutralizing triangulation

These questions even have the objective of neutralizing triangulation. It will be significant that in the course of the session, the therapist doesn’t develop into triangulated themselves. They need to stay impartial and concentrate on the method. Turning into too ensnared in attempting to settle a dispute is a hazard in household remedy, and the therapist should make clear that their job is to not decide sides.

Relationship experiments

One other method utilized by Bowenian therapists is relationship experiments. These experiments are designed to encourage the household to strive new methods of processing and speaking.

They might work on breaking free from their typical patterns and attempting one thing new. The objective will not be essentially to ‘clear up the issue’ however to get the members of the family to see how they course of issues and check out new interventions.

“I” place

A fourth method utilized by Bowenian therapists is the “I place.” Typically, when households are arguing, they take stances that start with the phrase “you.” For instance, “You by no means do the dishes.”

Statements like this may create defensiveness and escalate emotion. To assist cut back emotional reactivity, the therapist teaches the household reframe the assertion into an I assertion, similar to, “I would love so that you can assist out extra with the dishes.” Saying what you’re feeling as an alternative of what others are doing is a robust strategy to break the cycle of reactivity.


A last method utilized in Bowenian Household Remedy is teaching. Every of those methods above is an instance of teaching. When taking the position of a coach, a therapist is working alongside the purchasers and serving to them establish their very own roles within the dispute.

The therapist avoids taking on for the consumer and sees their position as help, fairly than one who holds the solutions (Nichols & Schwartz, 1984).

The Genogram: A Bowenian Intervention to Strive

Bowen invented the idea of a genogram within the Seventies, and the observe was expanded on and popularized by Drs. Monica McGoldrick, Randy Gerson, and Sueli Petry (2020) by their publication of the e-book Genograms: Assessment and Intervention, now in its fourth version.

A genogram is a household tree-like construction that reveals relational patterns between members of the family. It can be used for example psychological or bodily sickness. It’s a highly effective software to make use of in remedy as a result of the therapist and consumer can collaborate, constructing the genogram collectively. Then the consumer can see any familial patterns that will have contributed to their present difficulties.

Listed below are two examples of genograms from the web site Genogram Analytics. You’ll be able to see from the instance beneath {that a} genogram reveals generational relationships. You’ll be able to embody details about every particular person. Relying on the kind of genogram and the aim, there are a variety of totally different attributes you possibly can embody.


Within the genogram beneath, the qualities of the relationships are additionally represented. The shapes of the strains can present if family members are shut, hostile, or lower off. Marriages, divorce, and separations might be represented as effectively.

The genogram is a great tool to assist the therapist perceive the consumer, but in addition to assist the consumer perceive themselves. With a household, it might assist illustrate relationships they didn’t find out about. For youngsters, it might assist them higher perceive the place they arrive from.

Snapshot 1998

Sources From PositivePsychology.com

We’ve many remedy sources, and counsel a few of the following to make use of together with your purchasers.

Worksheets for communication

One essential software in Bowenian Household Remedy is educating purchasers use “I” statements when speaking. Our Turning You Into I worksheet helps purchasers observe utilizing this method by writing out other ways they’ll state their requests.

In households, there could also be a want for a specific change, however that want could also be unstated or unheard. Our Mind the Gap worksheet helps members of the family establish the place there could also be a breakdown in communication.

Relationship experiments

In Bowenian Remedy, the household makes an attempt to develop new processes to see how the dynamics at dwelling can change. By reflecting on wants and the way they might be higher met, the household can take into account new methods of interacting.

The Meeting Our Family’s Needs worksheet makes use of nonviolent communication to assist members of the family identify their very own wants and the way they might be met. The worksheet is an efficient software to foster dialogue round relationship experiments.

Course of questions

Every household has its personal tradition and tales, however every member of the family might view these tales in a different way. Utilizing the Recognizing Family Narratives worksheet, the therapist may ask course of questions from this glorious listing.

Case Conceptualization and Action Plan: Family Counseling is a priceless worksheet to examine in with the household after a number of classes. This worksheet asks concerning the strengths and challenges throughout the household and displays on what has been realized in remedy in addition to what nonetheless wants work. It could be an ideal dialogue software.

Working with emotionally cutoff members of the family

One strategy to enhance self-differentiation and cut back triangulation is to foster extra direct communication between sure members of the family. The Consider Your Intentions worksheet will assist purchasers begin to envision how and why making a stronger relationship might help.

A Take-Residence Message

To foster wholesome relationships in life, wholesome relationships in our household of origin are optimum. However, it’s regular and customary for households to wrestle with battle, and Bowenian Remedy might help.

Via studying wholesome communication methods and emotional maturity, every member of the household can strengthen their bonds with each other. These strengthened relationships will give members of the family the arrogance to create wholesome bonds with these exterior of the household.

By working to cut back battle in households, our work then has the potential to positively impression the neighborhood at giant.

We hope you loved studying this text. Don’t overlook to obtain our three Optimistic Relationships Workout routines totally free.

  • The Bowen Middle for the Examine of the Household. (n.d.). Introduction to the eight ideas. https://www.thebowencenter.org/introduction-eight-concepts
  • Brown, J. (1999). Bowen household techniques concept and observe: Illustration and critique. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Household Remedy, 20(2), 94–103.
  • Charles, R. (2001). Is there any empirical help for Bowen’s ideas of differentiation of self, triangulation, and fusion? American Journal of household remedy, 29(4), 279–292.
  • DeLisi, L. E. (2021). Redefining schizophrenia by genetics: A commentary on 50 years looking for organic causes. Schizophrenia Analysis. Advance on-line publication.
  • McGoldrick, M., Gerson, R., & Petry, S. (2020). Genograms: Evaluation and remedy (4th ed.). W. W. Norton.
  • Nichols, M. P., & Schwartz, R. C. (1984). Household remedy: Ideas and strategies. Gardner Press.