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

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

From our persona and habits to our selections in life, household performs a big position.

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

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

This text will describe methods to use the ideas and strategies of Bowenian Remedy to assist a household resolve battle and help 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, learning people with schizophrenia (Nichols & Schwartz, 1984).

The favored concept on the time was that the connection between mom and youngster performed a task within the improvement of the sickness. Though the reason for schizophrenia continues to be not nicely understood, researchers now imagine 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 change 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 robust sense of self that isn’t depending on the opinion of others. They will make choices with out being overly swayed by feelings.

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

Bowen acknowledged that the household system could both promote independence and differentiation or create an setting of enmeshment, the place independence is thwarted. One of many primary targets 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 Heart, n.d.):

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

And three primary processes:

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

Differentiation of self

The overarching purpose of Bowenian Remedy is to attain differentiation (The Bowen Heart, n.d.).

Bowen believed that this was an necessary 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 will 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 usually a need to contain others. When a 3rd individual is pulled into the fray, that is outlined as triangulation (The Bowen Heart, n.d.).

Anxiousness is believed to trigger triangulation. Because of rising nervousness with each other, a member of the couple will pull in a 3rd individual. If the third individual is a profitable mediator, the triangle is not going to change into everlasting. However usually in dysfunctional techniques, the third individual has been pulled into the battle and can’t depart (Brown, 1999).

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

In a wholesome triangulation, every twosome can work together independently. They don’t seem to be working collectively to vary the third member of the triangle (The Bowen Heart, n.d.). In a household dynamic with battle, triangulation will kind 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 could take away themselves totally from the connection, both by not chatting with family members or by creating geographical distance. They might additionally keep involved however merely keep away from speaking about sure emotional subjects (Brown, 1999).

Usually, it’s wholesome to take away your self from a dysfunctional scenario. However Bowen believed emotional cutoff led to issues in relationships outdoors of the household. An individual who has an unresolved battle with their household is prone to making their outdoors relationships too necessary and creating substitute households inside their work or present relationships (The Bowen Heart, 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 massive.

Inside a household unit, dad and mom could undertaking 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 habits.

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

  1. The dad or mum focuses on a toddler out of concern that one thing is mistaken with the kid.
  2. The dad or mum interprets the kid’s habits as confirming the concern.
  3. The dad or mum treats the kid as if one thing is actually mistaken with them.

The processes inside a household additionally lengthen outdoors of the quick household and might have generational impacts. When an undifferentiated particular person leaves their household and begins their very own, they could select a associate with the same degree of differentiation (Nichols & Schwartz, 1984).

They start the household projection course of, and the following 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, related processes come up there as nicely.

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

How Does It Work? A Case Examine

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

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

As an alternative 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 just isn’t a great mom.

Though Rose is working towards differentiation by way of 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 just isn’t essentially within the particular downside (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 purpose is to start the method of detriangulation. The therapist would do that by inviting Frank to debate his considerations with Rose extra instantly.

A Bowenian household therapist could initially have Frank solely converse to them whereas Rose is current and finally invite Frank to talk on to Rose. The couple could 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 Strategies for Your Periods

Bowenian techniquesAttempt any of those strategies in your subsequent Bowenian remedy session.

Course of questions

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

These remedy questions decelerate the emotional reactivity and intention to disclose how the circle of relatives system is working. Somewhat 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 deliver this subject 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 purpose of neutralizing triangulation. It will be significant that throughout the session, the therapist doesn’t change into triangulated themselves. They have to stay impartial and give attention to 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 purpose just isn’t essentially to ‘remedy 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.” Usually, 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 could create defensiveness and escalate emotion. To assist cut back emotional reactivity, the therapist teaches the household methods to reframe the assertion into an I assertion, similar to, “I would really like so that you can assist out extra with the dishes.” Saying what you’re feeling as a substitute of what others are doing is a robust method to break the cycle of reactivity.


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

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

The Genogram: A Bowenian Intervention to Attempt

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

A genogram is a household tree-like construction that exhibits relational patterns between members of the family. It may also be used for instance 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 here are two examples of genograms from the web site Genogram Analytics. You may see from the instance beneath {that a} genogram exhibits generational relationships. You may embody details about every individual. Relying on the kind of genogram and the aim, there are lots of completely different attributes you’ll be able to 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 reduce off. Marriages, divorce, and separations will be represented as nicely.

The genogram is a great tool to assist the therapist perceive the consumer, but additionally to assist the consumer perceive themselves. With a household, it could assist illustrate relationships they didn’t learn about. For kids, it could assist them higher perceive the place they arrive from.

Snapshot 1998

Sources From PositivePsychology.com

We have now many remedy assets, and counsel a few of the following to make use of along with your shoppers.

Worksheets for communication

One necessary software in Bowenian Household Remedy is instructing shoppers methods to use “I” statements when speaking. Our Turning You Into I worksheet helps shoppers observe utilizing this system by writing out other ways they’ll state their requests.

In households, there could also be a need for a specific change, however that need 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 house can change. By reflecting on wants and the way they might be higher met, the household can think about new methods of interacting.

The Meeting Our Family’s Needs worksheet makes use of nonviolent communication to assist members of the family title their very own wants and the way they could 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 could view these tales in a different way. Utilizing the Recognizing Family Narratives worksheet, the therapist may ask course of questions from this wonderful checklist.

Case Conceptualization and Action Plan: Family Counseling is a precious worksheet to test in with the household after a number of periods. 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 a terrific dialogue software.

Working with emotionally cutoff members of the family

One method 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 shoppers begin to envision how and why making a stronger relationship will help.

A Take-House 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 battle with battle, and Bowenian Remedy will help.

By studying wholesome communication strategies 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 boldness to create wholesome bonds with these outdoors of the household.

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

We hope you loved studying this text. Don’t overlook to obtain our three Constructive Relationships Workouts without cost.

  • The Bowen Heart 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 way of 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.