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52nd Symposium on Family Theory and Family Psychotherapy

November 13-14th, 2015

Recordings of the Symposium are available as an audio MP3 set. Please order online or contact the Center at or 202-965-4400 to reserve your DVD set.

Distinguished Guest Lecturer: Steven W. Cole, PhD
University of California, Los Angeles

This year’s Distinguished Guest Lecturer is Steven W. Cole, PhD. Steven Cole is a Professor of Medicine in the Division of Hematology-Oncology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA. His research analyzes the pathways by which social and environmental factors influence the activity of the human genome, as well as viral and tumor genomes. He pioneered the field of human social genomics and serves as Director of the UCLA Social Genomics Core Laboratory.

Dr. Cole’s current research uses computational modeling and bioinformatics to integrate information from epidemiologic studies, clinical natural history studies, laboratory animal models, biochemical analyses, and molecular genetic studies to identify the physiologic signaling pathways that mediate social-environmental influences on gene expression dynamics involved in inflammation, infectious diseases, and cancer. His studies have mapped the pathways by which social factors enhance replication of viruses, such as HIV, alter expression of key immune response genes, and up-regulate cancer progression and metastasis in breast and ovarian cancers. His studies pioneered the use of functional genomics approaches in social and behavioral research, and he provides strategic consulting in this area to the Institute of Medicine, the National Cancer Institute, the National Institute on Aging, the Santa Fe Institute, and the MacArthur Foundation, among others.



Welcome and Introduction —  Anne S. McKnight, EdD

I Love You – Let’s Have a Baby: The Evolution of Bi-Parental Care and the Primary Triangle — Margaret Donley, MSW
Perspectives that examine male-female interaction as a key ingredient for understanding parental care have recently gained traction. The involvement of the father in the care of the young sets the stage for the establishment of the mother-father-child triangle, often referred to in Bowen theory as the primary triangle.

Family and the Intermix of Emotional and Intellectual Functioning —  Robert J. Noone, PhD
Bowen theory posits that the development of emotional autonomy and the differentiation of the intellectual system are shaped by the family emotional system. Evidence and some speculation based on primate evolution will be presented which lends support to how the co-evolution of the family and the brain might have led to the integration of brain and family functioning found in the human.

A System’s View of Trauma —  Daniel V. Papero, PhD, MSSW
Currently mental health practice in the industrialized world displays an inordinate focus on the topic of trauma. Most of this, as far as I can tell, reflects a focus on the individual.


Viable Emotional Contact with the Extended Family and Family Functioning —  Phillip G. Klever, MSW
This presentation describes a longitudinal study that has examined the influence of extended family relationships on nuclear family functioning.

Observations of Change —  Victoria Harrison, MA and Priscilla J. Friesen, MSW
Harrison and Friesen report changes in physiological reactivity, cortisol, and Differentiation of Self Inventory (Skowron) accompanying work on differentiation of self over two years in different learning settings. Facts about symptoms and functioning for participants and their families demonstrate the complexity present in change.

Panel Discussion


Social Regulation of Human Gene Expression – Part I  —  Steven W. Cole, PhD
This talk explores how external social and cultural processes can interact with the human genome to shape individual trajectories of health, development, and behavior.

Social Regulation of Human Gene Expression – Part II  —  Steven W. Cole, PhD

Panel Discussion


Principles of Leadership: The Challenges of Differentiation — Anne S. McKnight, EdD
This presentation explores the concept of leadership through the lens of Bowen theory. In what ways does the concept of differentiation of self inform a leader on management of self, the nature of collaboration, and the challenges of engaging Bowen theory as a defined, but open, set of ideas?

Differentiating a Self: Glimpses of Theory in the Letters of Dr. Murray Bowen —  Carol P. Jeunnette, MA, MDiv, PhD
Relatively little of what Dr. Bowen wrote was published. Drawing on a treasure trove of letters and documents – the Williamsburg Collection – this presentation offers glimpses of Dr. Bowen working simultaneously on theory development and differentiation.

What Does It Mean to Be a Team Player? —  Laurie Lassiter, PhD, MSW
Mammals’ special friendships within their social group and support of the status quo raise questions about the limitations and potential of Homo sapiens as a team player.


Microbes and Me: Toward an Understanding of the Human Microbe Relationship System  — Amie Post, MA
Microbes and humans form a relationship system in which a mutually influencing reciprocity exists. This presentation will provide a brief overview of some of the current knowledge of the human microbe relationship system and how, if at all, it informs Bowen theory.

A View of the Emotional System: Man’s Relationship with Planet Earth  — Ann V. Nicholson, RN, MS
This presentation will present an overview of the literature on climate change and society’s response to it and an overview of the emotional system as defined by Bowen theory. The challenges man is now facing are unprecedented in human history.

Panel Discussion


Symptoms and Shift in the Family System — Laura J. Havstad, PhD
Four different relationship patterns in family units are systematic pathways that can stress specific family members into symptomatic states. Driven by undifferentiation, relationship patterns alter symptomatic states and the course of clinical disorders as they shift and change.

Stress and Alzheimer’s Disease from a Systems Perspective —  Mignonette N. Keller, PhD
A growing number of animal and human studies suggest that stress affects the memory and cognitive functioning of the brain, increasing the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. Family systems theory expands the discussion from the physiology of the stress response to an understanding of its variability. This presentation extends the focus to include emotional factors within the family relationship system mechanisms that influence the vulnerability to Alzheimer’s disease.

A Systems View of Chronic Illness —  Eileen Gottlieb, MEd
Understanding the family emotional process as a fundamental part of chronic illness may be a way through the enormous challenge it poses for the family.


Within-Family Variability: The Adoptive Family Study — Laura Brooks, MSW
This presentation provides an update of the Adoptive Family Study, a study of the impact of functional interdependence and of the family projection process on individual family members.

Guide Dogs and Inmates: Bowen Theory in Action — Kathleen Cotter Cauley, MEd
This presentation will describe the establishment of the IMPACT program (Inmates Practicing Animal Care and Training) in a federal prison. Bowen theory was used in the decision making of one of the leaders of the program.

Panel Discussion

Code Name Image Price Availability  
DVD-AS-52-Set 52nd Annual Symposium DVD Set   $300.00  
AS-52-15-MP3 52nd Annual Symposium MP3   $125.00  

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