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Essay on Bowens Family System Theory (BFST)

7 pages
1738 words
Wesleyan University
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The BFST approach was developed by Dr. Murray Bowen who was a researcher with interests in the field of psychology. Initially, Bowen served in the capacity of U.S army physician during the World War II but later developed interests in psychology after witnessing the various effects of trauma on soldiers. The advent of Bowens theory has proven to be invaluable in assisting to contemplate how different individuals manage stressful circumstances (Murdock, 2017). Dr. Bowen was professionally trained on the constructs of Freuds psychoanalysis, but he later abandoned this ideology as he asserted that personal difficulties do not only emanate from unresolved issues in the persons psyche but instead they were rooted in an individuals family system. This observation led to the development of the fundamental concept of differentiation of self which defines the various levels of maturity in relationships (Titelman, 2014). Moreover, the BFST approach has been supported by empirical research where studies indicate that the concept of differentiation of self may be associated with essential areas of human well-being such as the capacity to handle stress, marital satisfaction, manage social anxiety and come up with rational decisions.

Standard Interventions for BFST

According to Gurman (2014), the BFST framework presents a fundamental principle which sensitizes on the presumption that family may be considered as the basic unit upon which emotional interconnectedness occurs. In such an environment, the fabrics of fostered thoughts and feelings ensure the cohesiveness and support of each member and the inauguration of tense moments present strenuous relations. When a member of the family assumes an accommodating role, he is bound to be overwhelmed and isolated throughout the process. Subsequently, such an individual is prone to anxiety, depression, addictions and eating disorders (Jankowski & Hooper, 2012). In-Depth scrutiny of the above concept comprises of other principles such as employment of a three-pronged approach to dealing with individuals; the evaluation of the diversity of the susceptibility to pressures to conform to group norms; the utilization of the family projection and emotional system and the use of multigenerational transmission methodologies.

Concepts of BFST

The differentiation of self is the central concept in Bowens approach which fundamentally denotes the manner in which an individual can separate feelings and thoughts, cope with challenges while pursuing personal objectives and developing mechanisms of dealing with anxiety. Consequently, an individual with a high level of differentiation is in a more significant position to maintain individuality while also maintaining emotional contact within the group. On the other hand, an individual with a low level of differentiation is likely to experience emotional fusion by being in tune with the feelings of the group due to inadequacies in interpersonal boundaries between members of the family (Goldenberg & Goldenberg, 2012). Research indicates the highly differentiated individual has a higher likelihood of expressing contentment through without relying on external help while those who portray a less-developed self may seek out validations from members who are closely associated. The emotional triangle is another BFST concept which represents the basic stable network that comprises human relationship systems. Researchers argue that a two-person dyad may only exist for a limited period due to its susceptibility to becoming unstable once anxiety is introduced. Nevertheless, a three-person system is bound to endure turbulent times when anxiety is introduced owing to the presence additional resources insofar as anxiety reduction, and management strategies are concerned. Emotional cut off is another conceptual mechanism within the BFST approach where a person decides to distance themselves from other family members as a seemingly ideal measure of managing emotional difficulties (Dallos & Vetere, 2012). Some perceive severing emotional connection serves as a solution to handling unresolved interpersonal issues and diminishing levels of stress and tensions in relations, but the result only serves to compound on the problem of anxiety. In essence, Bowen believed that the concept of emotional cut-off compelled individuals to pay close attention to new relationships which would, in turn, add stress to the newly found relationships.

Cognitive Behavior Theory

Cognitive Behavioral Theory (CBT) draws its philosophies from the widely acclaimed work of Albert Ellis and Aaron Beck where the former developed the Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) whose primary focus was to deal with issues related to behavioral and emotional problems. The underlying goal of the therapeutic intervention was to aid a client to desist irrational beliefs and progressively adopt more rational ones. In essence, REBT encourages an individual to distinguish general from irrational ideology and successively persuades the client to challenge the emerging false beliefs through the process of reality testing (Kennerley, Kirk & Westbrook, 2016). Furthermore, Ellis posits that every person possesses an exceptional collection of assumptions concerning themselves and their surrounding which serve offer guidance throughout the journey of life including the determination on a persons reactions when exposed to different situations. Regrettably, some people tend to possess assumptions which are mostly irrational and ultimately leads them to act in inappropriate ways which jeopardize their chances of success and happiness.

Standard Interventions of CBT

Becks perception of CBT is similar to Ellis with the only exception his constructs are applied in cases of depression. The role of a therapist, in this case, would be to assist the client in recognizing that a negative stream of thoughts and errors in logic leads to depression. Moreover, the therapist helps the client question and challenge apparent dysfunctional beliefs and instead focus on applying alternative ways of contemplating their daily lives (Kahl, Winter & Schweiger, 2012). Equally important is the fact that CBT has two specific tasks which comprise of cognitive restructuring where the therapist works in collaboration with the with the client with the objective of altering the thinking patterns alongside behavioral activation where clients are taught how to overcome life challenges by participating in enjoyable activities. Essentially, CBT is more concerned with the condition, that is, the focus is on how and what a person thinks more than why a client takes a particular line of thought.

Similarities and Differences between CBT and BSFT

Perhaps the most significant similarity that exists between CBT and the BFST approach is the fact that both interventions are objective-oriented which implies that the emphasis is created on the need to address specific problems that touch on cognition and behavioral patterns. Moreover, the success of the interventions hinges on the establishment of a reliable client-therapist relationship where the psychologist employs the use of structured learning experiences to teach and monitor progress, while the client is expected to be an active participant throughout the sessions (Sharf, 2015). Nonetheless, NBSR and CBT differ regarding perception, where the former employs an individual psychology approach while the latter views the behavior to be corrected as a family issue that influences their beliefs and cognition. For instance, substance abuse may cause a surge in emotionality and anxiety levels, and thus the therapist has the task of understanding how a maladaptive behavior may influence the needs, reactions, and behavioral patterns of family members.

Solution-focused Theory

According to Lee (2011) the Solution-Focused Theory (SFT) was instituted by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg in collaboration with other colleagues who were based in Wisconsin. The intervention denotes a future-focused form of therapy whose objective is to focus on solutions rather than concentrating on the issues that compelled the client to seek therapeutic services. The solution-focused intervention was developed inductively in an outpatient psychiatric health facility where the participants were admitted without prior screening. The developers of SFT spent a considerable amount of time observing the progress of therapeutic sessions as they meticulously collected data on the behavior, emotions, nature of interview questions, how activities of the counselors affected the clients and the outcomes of the therapeutic session. Consequently, the all the actions and questions that were embedded in the clients report of progress were well-kept and later integrated into the SFT approach.

Standard Interventions for SFT

The SFT model employs various techniques that are used by therapists to offer clarity on the ideal solutions and equipping the client with necessary coping mechanisms. In essence, the set of questions are customized to suit the individual and his specific circumstances. One such question is dubbed the miracle question which serves as an instrument that encourages a client to avoid thinking about why they cannot achieve something and instead imagine the impact on their lives if a miracle were to occur (Macdonald, 2011). Consequently, an individual can view life from a different perspective as evidenced by a comprehensive solution that covers information in behavioral terms highlighting the need to do things differently.

Similarities and Differences between SFT and BSFT

The BSFT and SFT present evidence-based approaches that are favorable to people with goal-oriented mind-sets as such individuals are likely to be more responsive to the therapy techniques that are used. Additionally, both interventions may be applied in the context of families as similar outcomes are expected from the participating clients. Nevertheless, a stark contrast exists between the two theories whereby Bowenian therapists believe that behavior disorders are a culmination of an individuals inability to cope with stress effectively. On the other hand, SFT therapist has no theory about the development of behavior disorder (Bitter, 2013). If any theory existed, it would be that no individual ought to be categorized based on their actions or behavior since there are the anticipated exceptions to how people behave. Furthermore, classifying a person would be deviating attention from the fundamental purpose of finding solutions.


Psychoanalysis refers to the conceptualization of personality development theory as perceived by Sigmund Freud which provided insights on how to understand human behavior. Despite the fact that Freud came from an ordinary family, the parents sensitized on the need to harness and optimize their sons mental capabilities. Naturally, Freud developed an interest in the science of neurology where he comprehensively developed a theory on psychotherapy on human behavior with a focus on philosophies the mind (Elliott, 2015). In his diagnosis, Freud focused on the illnesses that resulted from anxiety and nervousness although his specialty was the concepts of hysteria. Freud conducted a self-analysis where the work captured in his journals was inspired by his male ego where his notions have gained traction amongst enthusiasts more so researchers.

Standard Interventions for Psychoanalysis

According to the psychoanalytical theory denotes two separate components of the mind namely the conscious and unconscious mind. Freud argued that the unconscious mind has the role of directing the course of our behavior without our cognizance. In essence, this part attribute of the mind has been highlighted ass the storage unit and locality for the stuff that we are n...

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