Training Programs in Family Systems Theory
The Center for Family Systems Theory offers three levels of training: 1) our basic course in the eight principles of Family Systems Theory; 2) our "Thinking Systems" Lecture Series that applies the theory to a wide variety of contemporary issues; and; 3) our "tailor-made" presentations designed to demonstrate the application of Family Systems Theory to various professions and situations.
Please scroll down to read about all three options.
1) Basic Course in Family Systems Theory
Although many professionals may be familiar with the family systems movement and the notion of “systems thinking,” few have received an in-depth explanation of the theory. Therefore, the Center for Family Systems Theory has developed a 30 hour basic course that introduces students to the eight interlocking concepts known as Family Systems Theory or Bowen Theory.
Our basic training program is comprised of ten 3-hour classes. Each class is a healthy mix of didactic presentations, case studies and classroom participation.
By participating in this basic training course, students will learn to apply Family Systems Theory to the people who come to them for help as well as their own families of origin and the system in which they work.
Although the location is yet to be determined the classes are scheduled on the following Tuesdays from 6:00-9:00 PM:
September 19, 2017
September 26, 2017
October 3, 2017
October 10, 2017
October 17, 2017
October 24, 2017
October 31, 2017
November 7, 2017
November 14, 2017
November 21, 2017
*Tuesday, November 28, 2017 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
*In the event that we have to cancel one of the 10 classes due to inclement weather, please save this date for a “make-up” class.
To open a printable registration for the Basic Training Course, click here.
Our basic course in Family Systems Theory is designed for:
● Faith-Leaders (clergy, pastoral associates, chaplains, youth ministers, religious educators, campus ministers, spiritual directors, pastoral counselors, seminarians, etc.)
● Human Services Providers (social workers, psychotherapists, human resource professionals, case managers, etc.)
● Educators (teachers, school counselors, school psychologists, principals and administrators, etc.)
● Medical Personnel (physicians, nurses, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, occupational & physical therapists, etc.)
● Legal Professionals (Attorneys, Law Guardians, Attorneys for the Child, etc.)
● Leaders of family-owned businesses
● as well as parents, couples, individuals and anyone who is interested in “thinking systems.”
Basic Course Curriculum
Recommended Reading: The Eight Concepts of Bowen Theory
by Roberta Gilbert, MD
Publisher: Leading Systems Press
ISBN # 0-9763455-1-X
Recommended Reading: Extraordinary Relationships, A New Way of Thinking About Human Interactions
by Roberta Gilbert, MD
Publisher: Chronimed Publishing
ISBN #: 1-56561-008-3
Suggested Reading: The Family Crucible
by Augustus Y. Napier, PhD and Carl A. Whitaker, MD
Publisher: Harper & Row
ISBN #: 0-06-014568-4
Class One: An Introduction to Family Systems Theory
Recommended reading for this class: None.
Suggested reading for this class: The Family Crucible
The first class will introduce students to “thinking systems.” The lecture will demonstrate the differences between Bowen Family Systems Theory and traditional psychological theory which is based on the medical model. Students will learn about the history of the family systems movement and the unique contribution of Murray Bowen, MD. Since each student will be encourage to think about the content of every class as it applies to their own personal family system, all participants will be sensitized to issues of confidentiality in the classroom.
Class Two: Genograms
Recommended reading for this class: Click here to view our GenoPro Quickstart Guide. The guide provides directions to download and activate a copy of the software, and steps to begin working on your genogram.
This session will introduce students to the meaning and construction of a “genogram” (or family tree) which functions as an excellent backdrop for the eight interlocking concepts that have come to be known as Family Systems Theory or Bowen Theory. Students will construct their own genogram and be introduced to GenoPro, a software program especially designed to construct computerized genograms.
Class Three: Differentiation
Recommended reading for this class: The Eight Concepts, Chapter 2
“Differentiation” is the core concept of Bowen Family Systems Theory. Dr. Bowen describes differentiation as the ability to be in emotional contact with others yet still autonomous in one’s emotional function. Students will learn about the two different aspects of this concept namely the “differentiation of self” (i.e. the ability to distinguish between the “thinking” system and the “feeling” system) as well as “differentiation from the family of origin” (i.e. the ability of a family member to define his/her own life’s goal and values apart from the surrounding “togetherness pressures” that exist in all families). Using clinical case studies as well as their own genograms, students will begin to understand the importance of what is called “differentiating a self” as well as what Dr. Bowen called the “scale of differentiation.”
Class Four: The Emotional Triangle
Recommended reading for this class: The Eight Concepts, Chapter 3
According to Family Systems Theory, if you add tension or anxiety into a two-person relationship, a third person will automatically be pulled in or, more simply put, an “emotional triangle” will be automatically formed. Although emotional triangles are part of our daily interactions, they become troublesome when the interaction that should take place between two points of an emotional triangle (e.g. a mother and a father) is avoided, and the emotional content of that interaction is transferred to the third point of the emotional triangle (e.g. one of their children). The classic example of this concept is the case where two parents come for help because of a child who is acting out. When all three are in the room at the same time, it often becomes quite clear that the real issue exists between the mother and the father, and the child was the “identified patient,” that is, the one chosen to carry the symptom (i.e. acting out) on behalf of the family. Through lecture, clinical case studies and their own genograms, students will see how emotional triangles happen and, more importantly, how to “de-triangulate.”
Class Five: Nuclear Family Emotional Process
Recommended reading for this class: The Eight Concepts, Chapter 1
Each of us enters into a relation (e.g. marriage) with a specific level of emotional maturity or what Family Systems Theory calls “differentiation.” Depending on their level of differentiation (Family Systems Theory suggest that marital partners have similar levels of differentiation) and the amount of anxiety in their nuclear family (parents and children), couples will use mechanisms similar to those they learned in relationship to their parents. These mechanisms include: 1) emotional distance, 2) marital conflict, 3) transmission of the problem to a child, and 4) dysfunction in a spouse [also called “overfunctioning/underfunctioning reciprocity”]. By using the genogram students will see how these four mechanisms play out in four different nuclear families.
Class Six: Family Projection Process and the Multi-generational Transmission Process
Recommended reading for this class: The Eight Concepts, Chapter 5 & 6
According to Family Systems Theory, the dysfunction found in the relationship between two parents can trickle down onto one or more of the children. When parents don’t solve their relationship problems one of their children will get pulled up into the world of adult relationships. Because mothers often have more responsibility for nurturing their children, the emotional attachment appears to be only between the mother and the child. But, when we think systemically, we see that the father’s support of his wife’s emotional attachment to the child or his withdrawal from the nuclear family means he is equally involved in the “family projection process.” Students will have the opportunity to see this concept as it plays itself out in a clinical case and to discuss how it may play itself out in their own nuclear families.
Once the students understand how issues are projected within the nuclear family (father, mother and children), they will be able to take a step back and see how those same issues can move from generation (grandparents) to generation (parents) to generation (children).
The genogram and the triangle will illustrate the wisdom of the old saying, “The apple never falls far from the tree.” Family Systems Theory recommends that we study at least three generations of a family in order to understand how that family works.
Class Seven: Sibling Position
Recommended reading for this class: The Eight Concepts, Chapter 7
The concept of Sibling position in Family Systems Theory is based on the research of Dr. Walter Toman. In 1961 Toman published Family Constellations: A Psychological Game based on the data he collected from several hundred families. While his conclusions are not etched in stone, they do indicate trends and patterns of behavior that generally characterize person occupying one of ten different sibling positions: 1) the oldest brother of brothers, 2) the youngest brother of brothers, 3) the oldest brother of sisters, 4) the youngest brother of sisters, 5) the male only child, 6) the oldest sister of sisters, 7) the youngest sister of sisters, 8) the oldest sister of brothers, 9) the youngest sister of brothers, 10) the female only child plus the middle child and twins. Understanding a person’s sibling position is an important part of the inheritance that we all receive from our multi-generational families. Brief genograms of these sibling positions, as well as a survey of each student’s sibling position, will bring this concept to life.
Class Eight: Emotional Cutoff
Recommended reading for this class: The Eight Concepts, Chapter 4
One person can live on the opposite coast as their parents and still be emotionally “enmeshed” with them, while another person can live next door to their folks and be emotionally “cutoff.” Enmeshed and cutoff are really not opposites because it takes about the same amount of emotional energy to be enmeshed as it takes to be cutoff. Enmeshed and cutoff are more like the same sock turned inside out. How people manage their emotional attachment to their parents and other important individuals in their lives can be an indicator of how they build other relationships in their lives. A better differentiated person stays connected to his/her family without getting enmeshed or cutoff. Through lecture, a clinical case presentation and studying their own families of origin, students will learn about emotional cutoff and the antidotes to it: a person-to-person relationship.
Class Nine: Emotional Process in Society
Recommended reading for this class: The Eight Concepts, Chapter 8
The eighth concept in Family Systems Theory takes the notion of the emotional process that is seen in multi-generational families (c.f. Lesson Five) and applies it to society in general. As in the family, the critical factor for the emotional process to have a negative impact on society is the degree of anxiety in society at a give point in history. And a higher level of anxiety in the general population results in societal regression marked by: 1) an erosion of individuation in large groups of people, 2) the increase in togetherness forces in society, and 3) scapegoating. Examples of societal regression might be: extreme political movements, fundamentalism, riots and cults.
Class Ten: Researching One’s Own Family of Origin
Recommended reading for this class: None
This session will bring us full circle as students consider the importance of “researching” their family of origin for the purpose of differentiating a self. In this light, the end of the course means that each student now has knowledge of a theory that will help them begin the journey to become a more emotionally mature person! During this time will students will also have the opportunity to evaluate the course and to celebrate their “graduation.”
© 2015 The Center for Family Systems Theory of Western New York, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
1088 Delaware Ave., Suite 9G, Buffalo NY 14209 (716) 886-4594