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Faculty Case Conference: The Difference Bowen Theory Makes in Clinical Practice
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Code: DJ 13.2(6)FCC
Price: $9.50
  This article is for individual use. For volume pricing or permission to distribute for educational purposes, please email The Bowen Center or call (202) 965-4400.
The Difference Bowen Theory Makes in Clinical Practice: Challenges and Choices
Victoria Harrison, MA

This clinical case was presented at a faculty case conference in October 2017 after two months of family systems psychotherapy with a couple. It is an example of the difference it makes for a therapist to draw upon Bowen family systems theory to define for herself decisions and directions involved in the challenges of therapy practice.

This presentation illustrates ways that family history and a family diagram help to understand and interrupt a common e motional process that persists in individual therapy—focus on the other as the problem. Defining the focus of therapy as “working on self” offers an alternative perspective that facilitates a shift from blaming each other toward understanding patterns of reacting that each brings to problems in the marriage. It is a responsibility of the therapist to raise questions in the sessions that direct thinking toward differentiation of self in all family relationships, rather than continue to support the emotional process of focus on the other. This is one of the biggest differences between therapy based in Bowen theory and the more common relationship therapy approaches.

It is possible in the early months of therapy to hypothesize the difference it can make if either spouse is able to recognize his or her own reactions and their impact. Both husband and wife in this example show some ability to begin to make changes, based initially upon the clarity of the theoretical focus of the therapist.

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