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45th Symposium on Family Theory and Family Psychotherapy
November 7-8, 2008

Recordings of the Symposium are available as a complete audiotape set, an audio MP3 set, and as a DVD set. Individual DVDs are also available. See below for DVD contents and purchase information.

Distinguished Guest Lecturers: Dorothy L. Cheney, PhD and Robert M. Seyfarth, PhD

Dr. Cheney is a professor of biology and Dr. Seyfarth is a professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. They are the authors of How Monkeys See the World and the recently published Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind, the fruit of fifteen years living with baboons in their native habitat. A recent review of the book states, “In this gem of a book, Cheney and Seyfarth, two pioneers in the study of primate psychology, combine in-depth ethological research with ingenious experiments to probe the minds of wild baboons living beside Botswana’s Okavango swamp.… Baboon Metaphysics is at once innovative and profoundly thoughtful, as readable as it is rigorous.” — Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, author of The Woman That Never Evolved



Welcome and Introduction —  Michael E. Kerr, MD

What is Systems Thinking? — Daniel V. Papero, PhD, LCSW

The goal of arriving at a more specific definition and description of the elements of the process of "systems thinking" involves a careful review of Dr. Bowen's efforts to describe and define it.

Considering Fundamental Aspects of the Emotional System: Contact and Distances — LeAnn Howard, MSW, MA

The fundamental life forces of individuality and togetherness can be observed in the contact and distance behaviors in harvester ant colonies as well as in human families. Unregulated contact is one path to symptom development.

Panel Discussion


Theory, Family, and Social Neuroscience — Robert J. Noone, PhD

Bowen theory offers conceptual advantages to the burgeoning development of the field of social neuroscience. It also presents obstacles that impede its consideration.

Laughter: An Evolutionary Perspective — Keo L. Miller, MSW

Laughter can reflect and an individual's ability to bind anxiety and to evolve a self. Neuroscientists are enriching Bowen theory's perspective on laughter by viewing it in an evolutionary context.

Panel Discussion


Social Knowledge in Nonhuman Primates — Robert Seyfarth, PhD

In their natural social groups, nonhuman primates interact in predictable ways. Baboon society is organized around a core of adult females who remain in the group where they were born throughout their lives, with offspring acquiring ranks immediately below their mothers'. The result is a hierarchy of ranked, matrilineal families. But are these relationships just anthropomorphisms, or do they exist in the minds of the animals themselves?


The Evolution of Social Knowledge — Dorothy L. Cheney, PhD

Long before the evolution of tools, language, or culture, our primate ancestors relied on their ability to form and maintain close social bonds. Female baboons greatest stress comes from unpredictble events, such as predation of their infants from infanticidal males. Absent these stressors, females who experience the least stress are those with close, focused social networks. When challenged, females alleviate stress by maintaining and - if necessary - broadening their social relationships with others. Social skills are thus the key to successful survival and reproduction.

Panel Discussion


Bowen Theory in a Family Business: A Case Study — Anne S. McKnight, EdD

One family member's effort to be in contact with two conflicting sides in a family business led to an estranged brother and his family rejoining the business and reuniting with the entire family.

Differentiation, Cooperative Interaction and Work Systems — Roberta B. Holt, DSW

How does an individual act to support the mission of an organization without losing self? What are the challenges to differentiation in the workplace? When do committees, person-to-person relationships, and togetherness promote regression?

Anxiety, Relationship Intensity, and Social Intervention — Michael J. Sullivan, MSW

The same emotional forces govern families and social agencies. A well-defined agency can reduce emotional reactivity in a family, but an anxious one can impose demands that intensify the family's regression.

Panel Discussion


Relationship between Emotional Cutoff and the Adaptive Spouse — K. Blake Horne, PhD

What is the relationship between the degree of an individual's emotional cutoff from previous generations and being the adaptive spouse in the nuclear family and of the developing chronic symptoms.

A Systems View of Symptom Development in a Spouse — Linda Piontek, DMA

Development of severe symptoms in a spouse motivated this presenter to reconsider the accuracy of assumptions in Bowen theory about the impact of one family member's efforts to be more of a self.

Panel Discussion


Cancer and the Unidisease Concept — Michael E. Kerr, MD

The biological processes common to the development of most clinical symptoms, including cancer, appear to be chronic stress response-driven disturbances in cell functioning and cell relationships that impair tissue and organ functioning.


Physiological Reactivity, Anxiety, and Differentiation of Self in Nuclear Family Triangles — Victoria Harrison, MA

In comparing simultaneous physiological measures for five family members, differences in physiological reactivity between siblings and their parents were found that may reflect slightly higher and slightly lower levels of differentiation of self.

Difficulties Being Objective in Describing a Family System — David S. Hargrove, PhD

Objectivity is important in assembling and interpreting the facts about one's family as part of an effort to differentiate a self. Traditional concepts of reliability and validity may be useful in this process.

Panel Discussion

Code Name Image Price Availability  
DVD-AS 45-Set 45th Annual Symposium DVD Set   $300.00  
AS-45-08-1 45th Symposium - Disk1   $50.00  
AS-45-08-2 45th Symposium - Disk 2   $50.00  
AS-45-08-3 45th Symposium - Disk 3   $50.00  
AS-45-08-4 45th Symposium - Disk 4   $50.00  
AS-45-08-5 45th Symposium - Disk 5   $50.00  
AS-45-08-6 45th Symposium - Disk 6   $50.00  
AS-45-08-7 45th Symposium - Disk 7   $50.00  
AS-45-08-8 45th Symposium - Disk 8   $50.00  
AS-45-08-Audioset 45th Annual Symposium Audioset Tapes   $125.00  
AS-45-08-MP3 Set 45th Annual Symposium MP3 Audioset   $125.00  

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