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Bowen Family Systems Therapy

Murray Bowen is the major originator of Bowen Family Systems Therapy.    The idea behind these concepts is to help the client understand their past more and learn how to change the present and future.  They are taught that they are free to make their own decisions in their life. The main element consists of anxiety following family patterns.  Every family has this anxiety and it is the observation of how past family members have handled the anxiety that shapes how the client handles situations as well.  Traditionally, family patterns, traditions, and actions are hereditary however, implementation of Bowen Family Therapy will allow the client to understand that they are in control of their actions and it is their decision on whether or not they repeat the family patterns.   Bowen Family Therapy teaches families how to communicate without the cloudiness of past emotions.

Bowen Family Therapy has much strength.  The goals are in place to help families understand how their past lead them to who they are and at the same time, teaching clients that the cycle can be broken and the bad behaviors do not have to be repeated.  Another strength in this theory is the use of a genogram.  The genogram is a powerful tool used in family therapy that provides a clearer representation of the family history.  With this tool the client and professional are able to talk about and fully understand the client’s past.  Bowen also created a center for educating mental health professionals on his approach which is how this theory will continue and practiced throughout the world.  Professionals are taught how to deal with family situations by reflecting on their own family pasts.  During this time, professionals learn how to deal with family conditions which include observing family patterns and learning how to interpret the family genogram.

Some critics believe that Bowen Family Therapy lacks action.  Although digging through the past may help the client understand their situation better, it doesn’t always provide the tools they need to deal with present and future situations.   Because of the time it takes to reflect on the past, not many clients are able to stick it out through the end as life situations happen such as financial hardship, time, or a move could affect the process.  In therapy there should be a balance and some believe this approach is a little off as it spends too much time trying to figure out the past.