Course Number: PSY 8999
Course Title: Systems Philosophy and Bowen Theory
Number of Units: 3
Instructor: <prof-name>, Ph.D. Email: <prof-email>.edu
Phone Number: (555) 555-5555
Office Hours: Thur., 11:30 – 12:30 p.m.
Or by appointment:
Day, Time: Mondays, 12:00-2:00 p.m. Level of Instruction: Psy.D.
Grading Options: Letter Grade only
DESCRIPTION OF COURSE CONTENT
The course is designed to extend an existing understanding of the theoretical and practical foundation of Bowen theory and its contributions to clinical psychology and a science of human behavior. The goal in terms of knowledge is to learn to “see and think systems” which means observing the interaction of multiple variables rather particular variables in isolation. The paradigm of systems philosophy will be covered beginning with its 20th century roots as a solution to problems of complexity, and contribution to the goal of uniting the natural sciences. Bowen theory as a natural systems theory will be contrasted with general systems theory, cybernetics, information theory.
The course will be organized around a review of primary theoretical sources and application of theory in one’s own family and professional context. Background for systems philosophy will be covered through historical literature published by prominent 20th century systems thinkers. Papers from Bowen’s original NIMH in-patient study and from Bowen’s subsequent publications will be reviewed to gain a historical understanding of how the theory developed and is put to use in modern therapy and organizational work. Emphasis will be placed on what sets Bowen’s research apart from other systems-oriented research and therapy occurring during the same time period. Relevance of the theory in today’s clinical world will be assessed, including a look at directions for future research.
Because systems philosophy is grounded in the assumption that patterns of organization and change repeat throughout nature, all work in this course will be conducted with a mind for universal laws and schemas found more or less persistently in the natural world. This natural systems perspective on nature will provide the most fundamental philosophical basis for a systems theory of human behavior both in and out of clinical practice.
Last Updated: March 22, 2016
As is consistent with the Bowen approach, attention will be paid to applying theory in one’s own family of origin, and how this deeply personal effort interacts with the application of theory in a professional clinical setting. Similarly, Bowen’s model of supervision and consultation will be reviewed, and how this model provides the integral component to the integration of personal, academic, and clinical work.
Summary of Educational Purpose
The course is designed to:
- Expose students to the philosophical foundations of the systems paradigm and what sets it apart from mainstream science.
- Provide an opportunity to explore a radical scientific approach to human behavior within the postpositive realm which avoids the trappings of reductionistic science and ignore-ance of the richness of human experience.
- Explore how systems thinking provides a foundation for integrative thinking, including integrative theory in a natural systems context or general systems context.
- Familiarize students with the theoretical concepts of Bowen theory, how more or less developed each concept is, and how they apply up in personal and professional contexts.
- Examine the importance of fostering a research attitude in clinical practice, and the effect of objective thinking on subjective experience.
- Expose students to the functional basis for working for the system by working on oneself.
- Enable students to gain adequate knowledge on barriers to effective family psychotherapy in specific, and systems thinking in general.
- Provide an opportunity to explore the difference between a symptom-oriented approach to therapy and a system-oriented approach to therapy, and how this difference shows up in traditional individual therapy VS systems therapy.
- Explore how applying Bowen theory points to a way of thinking as apposed to a technique for therapy and how this differs from the therapeutic models of: family therapy, group therapy, individual therapy, organizational consulting.
- Explore the difference between theory and technique, and how the traditional, individual-centric way of thinking might position “therapy” as a symptom-oriented enterprise.
- Enable students to continually engage in self-exploration, self-awareness and self- reflective process around their position in the various emotional systems in their lives.
- Explore the relationship between Bowen theory and other natural systems, especially the socio-political super-systems which constitute our locality, nation, and culture.
- Begin to formulate a personal trajectory for future research as an integral part of applying theory in one’s own life.
As students acquire specific knowledge & skills directly associated with this course, they are also expected to demonstrate broader professional skills such as the ability to receive and integrate feedback, to maintain appropriate boundaries, the ability to moderate affect, to show openness to differences in perspectives, and to demonstrate collegial and respectful relationships with faculty and their peers.After completing this course, students will be able to:
A) Understand each of the eight concepts of Bowen theory, which will be interweaved through reading on the following topics:
- Basic assumptions and scientific basis of Bowen family systems theory
i. The biological basis of the family emotional system – the family as anatural system
ii. The family as an emotional unitiii. Family and the brain in evolution
iv. Counterbalancing forces for individuality and togethernessv. Differentiation of self in the emotional system
- Evaluating the family emotional system
- The family diagram
- History and functioning of nuclear and extended family
- Symptoms and problems of the family emotional system
- Case formulation and therapeutic focus based on family evaluationEmotional systems other than the family
- Stability and change in family systems
- Symptom development, maintenance and resolution
- Anxiety binding mechanisms – Conflict, distance, dominant subordinaterelationships, projection of problems to children
- Emotional Cutoff
- Chronic anxiety and emotional reactivity
- Unresolved attachment to the past
- Differentiation and fusion in the family emotional system
- Basic principles of helping relationships
- Differentiation of self and the clinician/consultant
- The triangle in addressing difference and conflict
- Reducing anxiety
- Teaching about emotional systems
- Neutrality and emotional objectivity
- Coaching the individual towards self-regulation in the family
- Operating inside vs. outside the emotional system
- The therapist/consultant’s own family
- Self-regulation and containing emotional reactivity Observing the emotional system
- Chronic Anxiety
- Differentiation of Self
B) Develop critical thinking skills related to research, theory and methods for the understanding of systems philosophy in general and therapy based on Bowen theory in particular.
LEARNING ACTIVITIES: Percent of Meeting Time
1. Discussion, review of readings and theoretical concepts. 100%
HOW CRITICAL THINKING IS ADDRESSED IN THIS COURSE
As is consistent with the natural systems perspective, all material will be engaged within the context of generalization of patterns throughout the natural world. Constructing a natural systems theory requires the ability to abstract generalizable patterns in nature at a high level, and so the portability of concepts in a science of human behavior is highly valued. As such, students in this course will be encouraged to hold a mind for comparative meta-inquiry between the concepts defining natural system in question (i.e. the human family) and other natural systems (e.g. fish shoaling, swarming insects, flocking birds), both living and non- living (e.g. the weather, flowing of the streams, natural bifurcation/unification of roots, rivers, veins/arteries, etc.). This requires the student to put forth considerable effort to observe not only the content of the specific material learned, but how this material might apply to the rest of the natural world at higher and lower taxa of organization.
PROGRAM ATTENDANCE POLICY
Attending meetings is a required element of active participation. More than two absences for any reason may affect your course grade, and/or result in additional assigned work at the option of the instructor. Please do not schedule any appointments, meetings or events during class meeting times. Sometimes students may have unavoidable or expected commitments requiring them to miss a class. Students under such circumstances should make arrangements in advance with the instructor on how the students can fulfill and/or make-up missed required course activities.
Students who miss more than two classes, for any reason may, at the discretion of the instructor, be required to repeat the class or complete compensatory work.
Late Assignments: will be penalized for lateness a minimum of 5% of the assignment grade per day. All special arrangements must be made with the instructor before the assignment is due.
Incompletes: must be discussed and applied for prior to the last meeting. Students will not be allowed to get an incomplete for reasons of convenience, poor time management etc. However, consideration will be given in cases related to illness, family or medical emergencies or special circumstances consistent with Americans with Disabilities Act. If such a circumstance arises, you are strongly encouraged to inform the instructor as soon as possible.
To obtain an incomplete, a student must complete and submit to the instructor before the end of the semester the Official Incomplete Grade Form from the registrar’s office. The incomplete grade will not be recorded in the registrar’s office if the student’s incomplete grade is submitted without the form.
CRITERIA FOR EVALUATION
The primary criteria for evaluation of a student’s performance in class will be participation in class reading assignments, meetings with the instructor, and final paper.
Class Participation and Evidence of Reading the Assigned Chapters and Readings:
- Meeting participation and evidence of reading of assigned chapters – 85%
- Meetings will occur for 2 hours once every week of the class at time agreed upon by the instructor and student.
- Writing assignments – 15%
Expectations for written assignments:
Final Paper will incorporate the themes presented in class and articulate student’s integration of the concepts presented in class in conjunction with assigned readings. Students are encouraged to draw from relevant external sources as well. (25 points).
There will be two written papers which should integrate readings assigned and researched bibliography. The first paper should cover systems philosophy and the second paper should cover Bowen’s natural systems theory of the human family. Each paper should not have less than 5 pages and should not exceed 15 pages. Each paper should follow APA 6 formatting rules, including:
- Page numbers in the upper margin on each page.
- A list of references of the articles and/or chapters used at the end of the paper.
- One-inch margins with 12-point Times New Roman or a comparable script is preferred.
Expectations of class and work in one’s own family:
Self-exploration and reflection: Assess your expectations, emotional state and feeling(s) as you engage the class material, your experiences during the class and related assignments themselves, and your characterization of the experience(s).
For each of the major themes introduced in class, explore these themes
based on your life experiences. How would you describe each one of these themes based on your experiences? List areas of differences and /or similarities.
What do you envisage as the possible areas of challenge for you as you attempt to Increase your awareness of your own emotional systems?
What was this experience like for you? What is the impact of this material, if any, as an individual and in your capacity as a psychologist.
Describe how you might restructure or reorganize the psychotherapy with the client in ways that would make it more productive within the frame of Bowen theory.
MID-SEMESTER COURSE EVALUATION – STUDENT FEEDBACK
In addition to the CIIS formal written course evaluation at the end of the semester, a mid- semester course evaluation is conducted as an informal procedure designed to provide feedback to the instructor halfway through the course, that is, around the seventh week. The instructor has the option of how to best accomplish this task. Typically, the instructor leaves the room for 10-15 minutes; students select a facilitator and discuss sources of satisfaction and areas for improvement based upon classroom experience to date, and this feedback is then shared with the instructor in a constructive and collaborative manner. Instructors usually allow one-half-hour for the process. Alternatively, the process may be accomplished in a face-to-face format where the instructor and students are together throughout the process.
Bowen, M. (1976). Family therapy in clinical practice. New York, NY: Jason Aronsen.
Kerr, M., & Bowen, M. (1988). Family Evaluation: The Role of the Family as an Emotional Unit that Governs Individual Behavior and Development. New York, NY: W. W. Norton & Company.
Titelman, P. (Ed.) (2008). Triangles: Bowen family systems theory perspectives. USA: Haworth Press.
Titelman, P. (Ed.) (1998). Clinical applications of bowen family systems theory. USA: Haworth Press.
Titelman, P. (Ed.) (2014). Differentiation of self: Bowen family systems theory perspectives. New York, NY: Taylor & Francis.
Papero, D. (1990). Bowen Family Systems Theory. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Readings are to be completed by the end of the week in which they are listed. Required readings have no order unless otherwise specified.
Week 1 (8/31-9/6): Introduction, Paradigms Required Readings (in order):
o Wylie (1991) Family Therapy’s Neglected Prophet pages 1 – 28
o Bogdanov (1996) – The historical necessity and the scientific feasibility of
Tektology pages 1 – 35
o Glasersfeld (1985) – Reconstructing the Concept of Knowledge
o Lilienfeld, R (1975) – Systems Theory as an Ideology
o Maturana (1988) – Reality – The Search for Objectivity or the Quest for a
Week 2 (9/7-9/13): System Philosophy Required Readings:
o Laszlo (1971) – Systems Philosophy pages 112-118
o Bunge (1977) – General Systems and Holism pages 103 – 109
o Hall & Fagen (1956) – Definition of a System 63 – 82
o M’Pherson (1974) – A Perspective on Systems Science pages 119-140
o Emmeche, Køppe, Stjernfelt (1997) – Explaining Emergence- Toward an Ontology of Levels
o Marchal (1975) – On the Concept of a System
o Vickers (1983) – Human Systems Are Different
Week 3 (9/14-9/20): Systems Theories 1 Required Readings:
o Bertalanffy (2015) – General System Theory pages 30 – 56 (Introduction) o Bertalanffy (2015) – General System Theory pages 57 – 79 (The Meaning of
General Systems Theory)
o Wiener (1961) – Cybernetics pages 20 – 48 (Introduction)
o Midgley (2011) – Systems thinking complexity and the philosophy of science
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Week 4 (9/21-9/27): Systems Theories 2 Required Readings:
o Gleick (2011) – Chaos- Making a New Science pages 10 – 18 (Prologue)
o Gleick (2011) – Chaos- Making a New Science pages 19 – 42 (The Butterfly
o Wilson (1998) – Consilience – The Unity of Knowledge pages 13 – 18 (The Ionian
o Wilson (1998) – Consilience – The Unity of Knowledge pages 20 – 27 (The Great
Branches of Learning)
o Wilson (1998) – Consilience – The Unity of Knowledge pages 29 – 69 (The
o Bertalanffy (2015) – General System Theory pages 212 – 230 (The Systems Concept in the Sciences of Man)
o Gleick (2011) – Chaos- Making a New Science pages 43 – 68 (Revolution)
o Gleick (2011) – Chaos- Making a New Science pages 191 – 225 (Universality)
Week 5 (9/28-10/4): Natural System Theory of the Human Family Required Readings:
o Kerr & Bowen (1988) – Family Evaluation pages 387 – 440 (Epilogue – An Odyssey Toward Science)
o Kerr & Bowen (1988) – Family Evaluation pages 12 – 38 (Toward a Natural Systems Theory)
o Bowen (1978) – Family Therapy in Clinical Practice pages 320 – 360 (Family Therapy after Twenty Years)
o Wilson (1998) – Consilience – The Unity of Knowledge pages 71 – 97 (The Natural Sciences)
Week 6 (10/5-10/11): The Emotional System Required Readings:
o Kerr & Bowen (1988) – Family Evaluation pages 39 – 74 (The Emotional System) o Kerr & Bowen (1988) – Family Evaluation pages 190 – 254 (Nuclear Family
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o Bowen (1978) – Family Therapy in Clinical Practice pages 124 – 137 (Intrafamily Dynamics in Emotional Illness)
o Kerr & Bowen (1988) – Family Evaluation pages 75 – 107 (Individuality and Togetherness)
Week 7 (10/12-10/18): Differentiation of Self Required Readings:
o Kerr & Bowen (1988) – Family Evaluation pages 108 – 133 (Differentiation of Self)
o Titelman (2014) – Differentiation of Self pages 70 – 84 (Emotion and Intellect in Bowen Theory)
o Titelman (2014) – Differentiation of Self pages 100 – 114 (Ancient Roots of Differentiation of Self)
o Titelman (2014) – Differentiation of Self pages 22 – 69 (The Concept of Differentiation of Self in Bowen Theory)
Week 8 (10/19-10/25): Triangles Required Readings:
o Bowen (1978) – Family Therapy in Clinical Practice pages 32 – 38 (The Role of the Father in Families with a Schizophrenic Patient)
o Kerr & Bowen (1988) – Family Evaluation pages 158 – 189 (Triangles)
o Titelman (2008) – Triangles_ Bowen Family Systems Theory Perspectives pages
61 – 87 (The Regulatory Function of the Triangle)
o Titelman (2008) – Triangles_ Bowen Family Systems Theory Perspectives pages 23 – 60 (The Concept of the Triangle in Bowen Thoery – An Overview)
o Titelman (2008) – Triangles_ Bowen Family Systems Theory Perspectives pages 188 – 216 (Child Focus – Triangles that Come and Stay)
Week 9 (10/26-11/1): Multigenerational Transmission Required Readings:
o Kerr & Bowen (1988) – Family Evaluation pages 255 – 293 (Multigenerational Emotional Process)
o Titelman (2014) – Differentiation of Self pages 85 – 99 (Differentiation of Self as a Multigenerational Process)
o Titelman (2014) – Differentiation of Self pages 115 – 131 (Evolution of Helping) 10 of 13
o Klever 2005 – The Multigenerational Transmission of Family Unit Functioning o Titelman (2008) – Triangles_ Bowen Family Systems Theory Perspectives pages
102 – 118 (Exploring Emotional Triangles in Past Generations of a Family)
Week 10 (11/2-11/8): Emotional Process in Society Required Readings:
o Bowen (1978) – Family Therapy in Clinical Practice pages 305 – 319 (Societal Regression as Viewed Through Family Systems Theory)
o Bowen (1978) – Family Therapy in Clinical Practice pages 460 – 502 (Society, Crisis, and Systems Theory)
o Titelman (2008) – Triangles_ Bowen Family Systems Theory Perspectives pages 306 – 321 (The Triangle as the Cornerstone of US Government)
o Titelman (2008) – Triangles_ Bowen Family Systems Theory Perspectives pages 288 – 305 (Triangles in Societal Emotional Process with an Example from the Russian Revolution)
o Titelman (2008) – Triangles_ Bowen Family Systems Theory Perspectives pages 322 – 337 (Triangles, Leadership and the US Supreme Court)
o Titelman (2008) – Triangles_ Bowen Family Systems Theory Perspectives pages 338 – 349 (Societal Emotional Process and Interlocking Triangles)
Week 11 (11/9-11/15): Defining a Self Required Readings:
o Bowen (1978) – Family Therapy in Clinical Practice pages 516 – 584 (On the Differentiation of Self)
o Bowen (1978) – Family Therapy in Clinical Practice pages 585 – 610 (Toward the Differentiation of Self in One’s Family of Origin)
o Titelman (2008) – Triangles_ Bowen Family Systems Theory Perspectives pages 88 – 101 (Triangles and the Therapists Own Family)
o Titelman (2014) – Differentiation of Self pages 133 – 156 (Defining a Self in Family, Profession, and Society)
o Titelman (2014) – Differentiation of Self pages 157 – 173 (Applying Differentiation of Self in One’s Own Family)
o Titelman (2014) – Differentiation of Self pages 192 – 206 (Differentiation as a Guide to Defining a Self over the Life Cycle)
o Titelman (2014) – Differentiation of Self pages 264 – 280 (Defining A Self in the Presence of Chronic Family Symptoms)
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Week 12 (11/16-11/22): Clinical 1 – Family Evaluation Required Readings:
o Kerr & Bowen (1988) – Family Evaluation pages 323 – 386 (Family Evaluation) o Titelman (1998) – Clinical Applications of Bowen Family Systems Theory pages
54 – 70 (Family Systems Assessment Based on Bowen Theory)
o Drake et al (2015) – Differentiation of Self Inventory—Short Form/ Development and Preliminary Validation
o Isik & Bulduk 2015 – Psychometric properties of the differentiation fo self inventory-revised in turkish adults
o Jankowski & Hooper (2012) – Differentiation of Self – A Validation Study of the Bowen Theory Construct
o Skowron (1998) – The Differentiation of Self Inventory/ Development and Initial Validation
o Skowron (2009) – A Longitudinal Perspective on Differentiation of Self, Interpersonal and Psychological Well-Being in Young Adulthood
o Titelman (1998) – Clinical Applications of Bowen Family Systems Theory pages 146 – 163 (Treatment of a Family Whos Child has a Serious Medical Problem)
o Titelman (1998) – Clinical Applications of Bowen Family Systems Theory pages 164 – 179 (Treating College Students from a Bowen Family Theory Perspective)
Week 13 (11/23-11/29; Thanksgiving): Clinical 2 – Psychotherapy Required Readings:
o Bowen (1978) – Family Therapy in Clinical Practice pages 378 – 434 (Theory and Practice of Psychotherapy)
o Kerr & Bowen (1988) – Family Evaluation pages 294 – 322 (Symptom Development)
o Bowen (1978) – Family Therapy in Clinical Practice pages 18 – 31 (Treatment of Family Groups with a Schizophrenic Member)
o Bowen (1978) – Family Therapy in Clinical Practice pages 39 – 62 (Family Relationships in Schizophrenia)
o Bowen (1978) – Family Therapy in Clinical Practice pages 63 – 90 (A Family Concept of Schizophrenia)
o Bowen (1978) – Family Therapy in Clinical Practice pages 91 – 112 (Family Psychotherapy)
o Bowen (1978) – Family Therapy in Clinical Practice pages 113 – 122 (Outpatient Family Psychotherapy)
o Papero (2014) – Assisting the Two-person System/ An Approach Based on the Bowen Theory
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o Titelman (1998) – Clinical Applications of Bowen Family Systems Theory pages 197 – 213 (Family Systems Treatment of Depression)
o Titelman (1998) – Clinical Applications of Bowen Family Systems Theory Peter Titelman pages 226 – 253 (Family Systems with Alcoholism – A Case Study)
Week 14 (11/30-12/6): Barriers to Systems Thinking Required Readings:
o Bowen (1978) – Family Therapy in Clinical Practice pages 138 – 170 (Family Psychotherapy with Schizophrenia in the Hospital and Private Practice)
o Bowen (1978) – Family Therapy in Clinical Practice pages 210 – 274 (Family
Therapy and Family Group Therapy)
o Bowen (1978) – Family Therapy in Clinical Practice pages 275 – 293 (Principles and Techniques of Multiple Family Therapy)
o Bowen (1978) – Family Therapy in Clinical Practice pages 504 – 510 (Problems of Medical Practice of Families with a Schizophrenic Member)
Week 15 (12/7-12/13): Natural Systems Research Required Readings:
o Titelman (2014) – Differentiation of Self pages 282 – 302 (Challenges in Conducting Bowen Family Systems Research on Differentiation of Self)
o Titelman (2014) – Differentiation of Self pages 325 – 349 (Toward a Greater Understanding of Differentiation of Self in Bowen Family Systems Theory)