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November 2-3, 2007
44th Symposium on Family Theory and Family Psychotherapy

Recordings of the Symposium are available as a complete audiotape set and as a DVD set. Individual DVDs are also available. See below for DVD contents and purchase information.

2007 Distinguished Guest Lecturer: Barbara Smuts, PhD

Barbara Smuts trained in evolutionary biology and anthropology and is now a professor in the psychology department at the University of Michigan. She has studied social relationships in chimpanzees and savanna baboons in East Africa and wild bottlenose dolphins in Western Australia. For the last few years, she has been studying the social behavior of domestic dogs. Her publications include Sex and Friendship in Baboons, Primate Societies, as well as numerous articles and chapters. She is now working on a book about the social relationships of domestic dogs. Dr. Smut’s research has focused on how non-human animals create and negotiate their social lives. Her research has documented social behaviors such as friendship formation and sexual coercion, previously studied only in humans. She was introduced to Bowen theory in the 1990s. It has played an important role in her current understanding of socio-emotional processes and the importance of a systems perspective for understanding behavior in the animals she studies.



Welcome and Introduction — Michael E. Kerr, MD

Towards a Systems Theory of the Individual and Continuous Creation of Relationship — Daniel V. Papero, PhD, LCSW

An effort to develop a systems view of the individual and to show how an individual’s interactions are both a product of the past and created anew with each relationship exchange.

Inheritance, Epigenetics, and Multigenerational Emotional Process — Robert J. Noone, PhD

Epigenetic inheritance bridges the dichotomy of genes versus behavioral or cultural inheritance. Epigenetics, combined with multigenerational emotional process, offers an understanding of the processes shaping development.

Contributing to Knowledge about the Emotional System — LeAnn Howard, MSW, MA

Seven principles can guide a study of the interconnection between the emotional functioning of human beings and other species. A key ingredient is paying careful attention to what does not fit with pre-existing models.

Panel Discussion


Social Relations And Emotional Processes Among Canines: Theory And Examples — Barbara Smuts, PhD

Wolves, the ancestors of all domestic dogs, live in cooperative, multigenerational families that share many features with human family systems. By combining perspectives from evolutionary biology and Bowen theory, we can better understand social behavior among domestic dogs and between dogs and humans. Videotapes of interactions in captive wolves and domestic dogs will illustrate commonalities in socio-emotional processes in canines and humans.


Case Studies Of Changes In Canine Social Systems Over Time — Barbara Smuts, PhD

Relationships between domestic dogs change over time, reflecting systems processes such as triangle formation, individual variations in functioning, and regressive responses to increased anxiety. Videotaped examples of these processes among dogs and some of their canine friends (and enemies!) will be shown and discussed. Audience participation in interpreting the videotapes based on Bowen theory and experience will enrich the discussion.

Panel Discussion


Outcome Research Based on Bowen Theory — Randall T. Frost, MDiv

The definition of therapy outcome must derive from theory and be assessed for the family unit, not just an individual. Also important in an assessment is the therapist’s ability to apply theory.

Mature Emotional Functioning and Positive Life Pressures — James E. Jones, PhD

A research model for Bowen theory can be expanded beyond symptoms to include many types of life pressures. The model also includes the level of maturity of emotional functioning in a system.

Efforts to Define a Self and Family Contacts — Joan Jurkowski, MS, LCPC

A twenty-year qualitative research effort documents contacts with family of origin to determine the extent to which the efforts were guided by Bowen theory and their effectiveness in defining a self.

Panel Discussion


Working with Child-Focused Families in a Child-Focused Society — John F. Butler, PhD

A key challenge in applying Bowen theory to child-focused families is that the family and society powerfully reinforce the child focus. How can a clinician effectively address this challenge?

The Educative Component in Bowen Theory Based Therapy — Chris East, MDiv

The quest for forgiveness follows a radically different path when based on Bowen theory rather than cause-and-effect thinking. Helping people recognize the difference involves a critically important educational process as part of therapy.

What Difference Does the Systems Theory You Use Make? — Kathleen B. Kerr, MSN, MA

Systems theories other than Bowen theory do not lead to an understanding of triangles as an emotional unit of the family. Recognizing this distinction has important implications for clinical practice.

Panel Discussion


Lessons from the Past: The Phenomenon of Hitler — Ann V. Nicholson, RN, MS, CS

Bowen theory provides a way to see the complex forces leading to Hitler’s rise to power, rather than simply labeling him as “evil.”

Implications of the Triangle for the Conduct of Diplomacy — Patricia A. Comella, JD

Seemingly intractable international situations cry out for deliberate and systematic intervention grounded in Bowen theory. The triangle concept can be extended to the societal level to guide effective diplomatic efforts.

Understanding Terrorism — Katharine G. Baker, PhD, LCSW

The concept of interlocking triangles can be extended to help explain terrorism. Emotional intensity moves from the family to political and religious groups, and ultimately expresses itself in violent actions.

Panel Discussion


The Contribution of the Emotional Regression Concept to Systems Biology — Michael E. Kerr, MD

Bowen theory’s conceptualization of a continuum of emotional functioning that fluctuates between periods of progression and regression depending on the level of anxiety can be extended to enhance the development of systems biology.


Bowen Theory Based Research on Adoptive Families — Laura R. Brooks, MSW

This qualitative and longitudinal study of adoptive families is providing important insights into the variable outcomes of adopted children. Attachment theory has provided limited understanding because it does not address family process.

Bowen Theory Variables Broaden the Understanding of Morbid Obesity — Beatrice Flynn, MS, APRN

Assessment of a large cohort of morbidly obese individuals is showing the value of concepts such as chronic anxiety, multigenerational transmission process, and differentiation of self for understanding and managing morbid obesity.

Overfunctioning/Underfunctioning Reciprocity: Impact on Self-Injurious Behaviors — Erik Thompson, MA

A year-long research project supported the hypothesis that reducing the overfunctioning behavior of hospital staff did not increase the risk of suicidal behavior.

Panel Discussion

Code Name Image Price Availability  
DV AS-44-DVD SET 44th Annual Symposium - DVD Set   $300.00  
DV AS-44-07-1 44th Symposium - Disk 1   $50.00  
DV AS-44-07-2 44th Symposium - Disk 2   $50.00  
DV AS-44-07-3 44th Symposium - Disk 3   $50.00  
DV AS-44-07-4 44th Symposium - Disk 4   $50.00  
DV AS-44-07-5 44th Symposium - Disk 5   $50.00  
DV AS-44-07-6 44th Symposium - Disk 6   $50.00  
DV AS-44-07-7 44th Symposium - Disk 7   $50.00  
DV AS-44-07-8 44th Symposium - Disk 8   $50.00  
AS-44-07- Audioset 44th Annual Symposium Audioset   $135.00  

For more information, please contact The Bowen Center at 202-965-4400 or