Bowenian Family Therapy: Definition, Techniques & Benefits

Bowenian Family Therapy: Definition, Techniques & Benefits

In the modern day, the majority are struggling with unaddressed thoughts and emotions. Some struggle to recognize their emotions, while some face difficulty separating themselves from others. In such cases, therapy is a great tool to resolve these issues.

Apart from that, It can be highly effective in dealing with a range of issues, from childhood trauma to communication gaps. 

If you are considering family therapy, you may have already heard about Bowenian family therapy. 

If not, then it can help you deal with issues such as anxiety in a relationship,  to improve communication, coping skills, etc. 

If the above are a few areas you also want to improve in your relationship, then this article is for you. Today, we will do an in-depth discussion on Bowenian family therapy, its different techniques, and who it is for.

So keep reading. 

What Is The Concept Of Bowenian Family Systems Therapy?

What Is The Concept Of Bowenian Family Systems Therapy

Bowenian family therapy or family systems therapy is a type of psychotherapy. The core idea behind it is to view the family as a whole system rather than focusing on individual members. 

This therapy revolves around how interactions between family members can create a sense of tension and distress. This is why Bowenian family therapy is great for families that aim to understand their patterns of interaction and change it for the better.

According to this therapy, there are two types of forces in a relationship: 



There has to be a balance between the two to make the relationship function properly. 

Thus, families that either have too much togetherness struggle with individuality. Or those that have too much individuality end up distancing from each other. 

Background/ History Of Bowenian Family Therapy 

Background History Of Bowenian Family Therapy 

Bowenian family systems theory, or Bowen’s family therapy, is one of the foundational theories of how families function. 

It was developed in the late 1940s by Murray Bowen, an M.D. Psychiatrist working for the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). 

Bowen was brought up in a large family and thus developed a natural interest in the impact of family relationships and mental health. 

While he was studying adults with schizophrenia, he doubted the condition could have a relation with anxiety and unhealthy attachment since childhood. He decided to study it further and started to explore relationships between different generations of family members like grandparents, parents, and children. 

This work helped him establish that children learn problematic behaviors from earlier generations. Thus, family history forms a template that teaches children how to experience scenarios and is passed on to every generation. 

While studying different schizophrenia patients, he found the child’s and mother’s attachment is significantly stronger compared to other mentally ill patients. But with further investigation, he discovered it was not only the mother but the entire family’s norm to have unhealthy attachments. 

Based on that, he developed a concept of how families function. Here they are, in case you want to learn more about them. 

1. Triangles

2. Differentiation of self

3. Nuclear family emotional process 

4. Family projection process

5. Multigenerational transmission process

6. Emotional cutoff

7. Sibling position

8. Societal emotional processes

What Is The Primary Goal Of Bowenian Family Therapy?

What Is The Primary Goal Of Bowenian Family Therapy

Bowenian family therapy aims to improve communication between family members and help them break free from harmful behavioral patterns. It teaches individuals to reduce emotional reactivity and improve effective communication

Both help improve the understanding through factors like behavior, thoughts, and feelings and how they influence one another. 

In this type of therapy, the therapist works with the entire family as a unit. Thus, to get the result, each and every member of the family has to take an active part. 

In the process, the therapist examines how generations prior to the current one have interacted and thus influenced the present family dynamics. 

What Specific Conditions Does This Therapy Help Treat? 

What Specific Conditions Does This Therapy Help Treat 

Here are the specific issues within a family that can be treated through Bowenian Family Therapy. 

1. Communication Issues:

Bowenian family therapy can help improve communication between family members. It teaches individuals how to express their needs and feelings in a better and more respectful way.

It can also help resolve underlying issues in a family that can cause or are causing conflicts. 

2. Poor Mental Health:

Familial issues can push someone’s mental health to the bad end. Thus, with this therapy, one can also learn how to effectively cope with disorders like depression, anxiety, and PTSD.

Not only that but being an entire family therapy, it can also educate other family members on how to better understand each other’s emotions in such situations and support them. 

3. Substance Abuse:

This therapy can also help address the issue of substance abuse by understanding the underlying reason. In most cases, it is related to family and related stress.

Besides, it can guide family members on how to help individuals develop healthier ways of coping and communicating with each other. 

4. Relationship Conflict Resolution:

Many people struggle to resolve family conflicts in the right manner. They either end up suppressing their thoughts and emotions or get buried under them.

Or burst out in the wrong manner that puts them in a negative light. Bowenian family therapy can be very useful for people like these to put across their emotions effectively. 

5. Collective Relationship Problem:

Finally, even if a family doesn’t have many serious issues, it can still consider this therapy to improve their relationship. This therapy can teach them how to better express their feelings and how to work through issues in a constructive way. 

Families with arranged marriages can use this to improve their bonding with in-laws. 

Different Techniques Of Bowenian Family Therapy 

Based on the situation and needs, there are a couple of techniques that can be used in Bowenian Family therapy. Let’s take a look at them. 

1. Practicing differentiation of self

As mentioned before, too much togetherness or individuality can disturb the balance of a family’s functionality. So, this practice is for those families who struggle to separate from their family ties and live like individuals. 

This technique helps one identify their true potential, values, beliefs, and goals that may be different from their family’s wants. 

2. Increasing family communications

One of the primary goals of Bowen’s family therapy is to help families communicate better. So, under this technique, the family is taught skills such as active listening, giving feedback, and expressing feelings non-offensively. 

The technique also teaches them how to set or express expectations from the family without crossing boundaries. 

3. Exploring family dynamics

This important technique can either be stand-alone or clubbed with other techniques. Under this, the therapist will help the family members explore what role each of them plays and how they can cause tension. 

The therapist will also help identify the negative or dysfunctional parts of the family dynamics that may have persisted through generations and caused the underlying tension. 

4. Growing self-awareness

Self-awareness is extremely important for any family to get positive results from this therapy. This is why every therapist will definitely add this technique in their mentoring period. 

In this, the therapist will sit with each individual in the family and help them become more aware of their own feelings and thoughts, and then the others in the family. 

This not only helps in better conflict resolution but also solve issues like unhealthy attachment and PTSD.  

5. Working through difficult situations 

If a family is experiencing loss and grief, Bowenian family therapy can help them work through that. The therapist will sit with each member and help them process, accept, and move forward with the situation. 

Does This Technique Work?- Research and Results

To establish the effectiveness of Bowen’s family therapy, we need evidence. So here is some scientific evidence that talks about the effectiveness of this technique in different scenarios. 

The study by Mofassali and Hassan (2016) discusses how Bownian family therapy has helped a couple in aspects like boredom and forgiveness in the background of extramarital affairs. 

Another research by Koranian et al. (2019) sheds light on how Bowenian family therapy can be used to help mothers with one child refrain from unhealthy attachment. The results showed that the therapy helped the mothers to regulate their emotions to a great extent.

It helped them in cases like emotional rejection, making difficult decisions, impulse control, and gaining emotional awareness. 

Ajidahun’s paper on the effectiveness of the family system approach in promoting family security (2018) showed positive results as well. The research showed how Bowen’s therapy helps family members find their individuality and become more secure as a whole. 

All of the studies mentioned here are quite recent and published. So, there is very little room to doubt their relevance and credibility.

Therefore, there are enough studies and evidence to support the effectiveness of this therapy approach, meaning it does work!

Final Thoughts 

Each family is unique, with their own set of problems. So, whatever learning you get online or through books might not be practically helpful. 

Bowenian family therapy can be a great tool for individuals and families to resolve familial conflicts and problematic behaviors. Behaviors that are present through several generations and affect relationships. 

So, if you are dealing with family situations that are affecting your or others’ mental health, you can definitely give it a try.