The Family Systems Theory During The Mid 20th Century

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Murray Bowen, an American psychiatrist, began developing what would become known as the family systems theory during the mid-20th century. He believed that the family was an emotional unit and that it could be best understood by looking not just at current family interactions but the interactions of prior generations as well (Helm, 2009). His focus was on using theory, not therapy, to treat the patient and the cornerstone of that theory is that human behavior is based on a person being able to “maintain intimacy with loved ones while differentiating themselves sufficiently as individuals so as not to be swept up by what is transpiring within the family” (p. 205). At both the Menninger Clinic and the National Institute of Mental Health, Bowen became interested in schizophrenia specifically in relation to the mother and child. He soon realized that he needed to focus on the entire family rather than just mother and child to provide a more accurate picture for his research. The Bowen Family Systems theory was born of this realization. The basic premise of the family systems theory is that the therapist cannot fully understand or successfully treat the client without first grasping how that individual functions within their family system. To this end, Bowen postulated eight interlocking concepts for the family as an emotional unit and they are differentiation of self, triangles, nuclear family emotional process, family projection process, emotional cutoff, multigenerational

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