Volume 10, Number 1
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FROM THE EDITOR
Michael E. Kerr, MD
Beliefs as Products of the Family Unit
FACULTY CASE CONFERENCE
Robert L. Williamson, MDiv
An important shift shaping the early research of family therapist Dr. Murray Bowen was the conceptual change from thinking of a symptom “as a process confined within the patient to thinking of it as the manifestation of an active process involving the entire family.” This paper applies this conceptual change to understanding the emergence of beliefs which, though appearing in an individual brain, can be the product of the family unit. The function of religious beliefs in the marriage of poet Robert Lowell and writer Jean Stafford will be used as a case example.
Family Psychotherapy: The First Evolutionary Stage during the NIMH Family Study Project
John F. Butler, PhD
The most interesting activity for visitors to the NIMH Family Study Project was the daily staff-family groups later known as family psychotherapy. This article reviews the background and analysis of six unpublished and published papers clarifying the creation and development of the practice of family psychotherapy during the project. These papers highlight the development of a new therapeutic role for the family psychotherapist significantly different from traditional psychotherapy. The differences were based on theory, especially the concept of the family as an emotional unit. Family psychotherapy was closely related to this theoretical concept and was developed as a method to work with family units. In this new role, the family psychotherapist worked to prevent over-involvement with individual family members and did not attempt to psychologically replace parents. In addition, treating family units helped reduce the intensity of transferences and counter-transferences. The goal of family psychotherapy became the analysis of intense family relationships rather than the interpretation of transference relationships. Family psychotherapy, as developed during the Family Study Project, resulted in a significant alteration of the traditional patient-therapist relationship.
Use of the Term Solid Self in Bowen Theory
(Note: This article also contains commentaries and a response by the author.)
Randall T. Frost, MDiv
In setting forth his theory of human relationship systems, Murray Bowen made a consistent practice of giving ordinary words a more specialized meaning. The fuller meaning of important terms emerges only in relation to other key terms used in the theory and to the phenomenon being described. This article attempts to explicate how one important term, solid self, informs and is informed by other key terms used in the theory. Solid self has a specific relationship to such other terms as pseudo self, basic and functional levels of differentiation, the intellectual, emotional and feeling systems, reality, unresolved emotional attachment, the stress response, and basic self. Several terms are mapped on the scale of differentiation to illustrate ways in which they relate to one another.
With Commentaries by: James E. Jones, PhD, Michael E. Kerr, MD, and Robert J. Noone, PhD
Response to Commentaries by: Randall T. Frost, MDiv
Bridging Emotional Cutoff: Towards Becoming a Self
BOOK REVIEW and BOOK COMMENTARY
Presenter: Laura Brooks, MSW
Often people are motivated to seek help when their anxiety becomes overwhelming and they have run out of options and strategies to manage it. This case is of a person who was unemployed, nearly out of money, and perceived herself as having no family. A pattern of job losses, unemployment, financial stress, a severe chronic illness, and social isolation led to her calling a local crisis hotline and obtaining a referral for psychotherapy services. While she has not become a student of Bowen Theory, she found the consultations to be helpful in reducing her anxiety and becoming more objective about her family as well as her own functioning. Her life course provides a good example of how the absence of family contact contributes to a lack of emotional stability. Conversely, her effort to renew family relationships and begin to define herself demonstrates a positive impact on overall functioning, socially, physiologically, and emotionally.