Fact Sheet on Bowenian Therapy

One of the first comprehensive theories on how family systems work.
The primary link between psychodynamic perspectives and systems perspectives.
Abbreviations: Bowen Theory, Murray Bowen Family Systems Theory, Bowenian Family Therapy
Assumptions and Major Tenets
Families, couples, and individuals benefit from it.
Approach that is long-term and comprehensive; therapy that lasts at least four years.
Can include interventions from other theories that address Bowenian theory’s central goal.
In a nuclear family, gains in differentiation will simply translate into less anxiety and more self-responsibility.
The Creation and Maintenance of Problems Most therapists believe that intergenerational projection occur in each family but in varying levels. They may determine the child that becomes the focus of the family anxiety and at what stage.

Traumatic events are important in highlighting the family processes instead of causing them.


The fundamental goal is to reduce chronic anxiety through facilitating awareness of how emotional systems work and raising the levels of differentiation.

Solution and Therapeutic Change

Therapy allows clients to speak to one another through the therapist rather instead of talking to each other.

Individuals are thereby able to understand one another since the therapist maintain state of neutrality

Leading Proponents

Many of Bowen’s followers hold the view that the theory needs to be experienced instead of being taught.

Some of these contemporary individuals include Lemer, McGoldrick and Schnarch. They all have the theory at the core of their conceptualizations.

Critiques and Limitations

Most clients only want to deal with the signs relief in the nuclear family.

Pays too much attention to the mother’s share in development of signs in the child which is a sign of undifferentiation.

Lacks attention to feelings since it stresses on rational and objective with regards to emotional processes.

Women’s project in family insist that it pressures women to “back off” when placating and courting a distant male making it biased against women and disrespectful to men.

Works Cited

Brown, Jenny. “Bowen Family Systems Theory and Practice: Illustration and Critique.” Journal of Family Therapy (n.d): 94-103. Print.

Goldberg, Herbert, Goldberg, Irene. Family Therapy, an Overview (1996) 4th edition. Pacific Grove: Brooks/Cole Publishing Company.

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