Family Systems (Bowenian) Therapy

Bowenian Family Systems Therapy was originally developed based on the psychoanalytical principles and practice, as outlined by Murray Bowen, which began in the early 1950s. Although Bowenian therapy and theory has changed over the years, the two important theoretical underpinnings or counterbalancing life forces have not.

The first one is the importance of the forces that bind individuals and their personalities leading to a sense of togetherness with those that tend to want to fight to break free towards individuality. High levels of the togetherness, can lead to issues of fusion, while too much individuality can lead to disengaged relationships.


Ultimately, the importance of Differentiation is about understanding the individual’s ability to have good functioning within a team for the team without resulting in significantly polarized positions. Ultimately, before an individual can ultimately mature and become a more healthy and in order to help differentiation occur, the unresolved emotional attachments to one’s family have to be resolved rather than accepted, or reactively rejected.

Differentiation is the core concept of Bowenian family systems therapy. Some of the common themes explored within Bowenian family therapy include de-triangulating triangulated relationships in order to help her balance relationships and address issues directly.

The idea of a nuclear family emotional process is also important in order to explore any undifferentiated family ego mass states that may occur due to high levels of emotional fusion in families. As a result of this family projection can occur when parents communicate their immaturity to their children, which then gets passed on and can lead to higher levels of marital conflict and emotional distance or over/under functioning. Interestingly, this can occur multigenerationally.

Healthy Families

Healthy family development occurs when individuals are differentiated, tend to experience low levels of anxiety, when parents have good emotional contact with their children and families of origin and have an ability to react sensitivity to the other family members without allowing their buttons to be pushed. Sometimes healthy dynamics occur when individuals reduce the contact with their parents and siblings to become more individuated, without ultimately becoming disengaged.

Ultimately, these individuals tend to be more rational, objective, and have a sense of individuality.