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Bowen’s family systems theory postulates that the family is essentially an emotional unit such that behavior of a member is primarily informed and inseparable from the basic functioning of that individual’s family origin (Titelman, 2014). It employs maxims of system thinking whereby the family ought to be evaluated as a unique system made of distinct parts. This theory holds that persons are attached to a network of family oriented relationships. Bowen’s theory highlights benefits if addressing behavior and structure with respect to a wider relationship system that is an integral component of character formation (Titelman, 2014). This implies that behavioral changes in a family member tend to impact on the manner the entire family functions over time.
There are eight principal theoretical concepts forming the basis of Bowen’s approach to family therapy (Titelman, 2014). They are all interconnected to the extent that there is need for an intricate comprehension of every one to critically understand their interoperability. These include the emotional triangle; self-differentiation; the process of family projection; the multigenerational transmission process; emotional cut-off; nuclear family emotional process; societal emotional process; and sibling position (Titelman, 2014).
Bowen’s family therapy is widely employed in the treatment of behavioral and mental health issues in cases where such problems are traceable to family origins. It has proven effective amongst individuals, couples and families (Titelman, 2014). Unfortunately, there is little empirical evidence as to the pronounced effectiveness of Bowen’s approach to family therapy. As the evidence base continues to grow and more data is collected, it is hoped that future research on the subject will enable confirmation of its efficacy (Titelman, 2014). It has also been criticized for its support of practitioner neutrality. This may be a shortcoming that encourages individuals, couples and families in therapy to go on exhibiting their behavioral shortcomings to other people.
Titelman, P. (2014). Clinical applications of Bowen family systems theory. Madison Ave, NY: Routledge.