Family Systems: A Journal of Natural Systems Thinking in Psychiatry and the Sciences, is an interdisciplinary journal, published since 1994, by the Georgetown Family Center. The aim of the journal is to advance the understanding of human emotional functioning and behavior based on Bowen theory. Reflecting the assumption of Bowen theory that the human family is governed by the same natural forces that govern all life, the journal publishes articles that contribute to a better understanding of any living system.

Subscribe Today

Other Journal Resources

Purchase Past Articles
Submit a Manuscript



Robert J. Noone, PhD


Journal articles reflect natural systems thinking or are relevant to it. These may include concept papers as well as research studies.

Using Qualitative Research to Link Research and Practice
Louise Bordeaux Silverstein, PhD

The goal of the study described here was to explore whether qualitative research could provide data suggesting the effectiveness of two interventions based on Bowen family systems theory. Senior faculty at the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family supplied a total of twenty-one archival videotapes. This article presents data from the first phase of data collection, using six archival videotapes of sessions with two individual clients and one couple. The qualitative research design tested the hypothesis that interventions based on Bowen theory can lead to improvement in client functioning as defined by behavioral outcomes.

The article presents both process and outcome data in multiple relationship contexts. It documents changes in family members who participated in coaching and those who were not engaged in the coaching process.

Within-Family Variability: Case Study of an Adoptive Family
Laura R. Brooks, MSW

This article has two main goals. The first is to present the hypothesis that Bowen family systems theory provides an effective explanatory framework for understanding differential developmental outcomes of children in the same family. The second goal is to illustrate how qualitative methodology can provide data supporting that hypothesis. The article uses a grounded theory approach for coding archival data from transcripts of twelve annual interviews with one family. It closes with a discussion of how using qualitative methodology to analyze clinical data has the potential to provide an important link between research and clinical practice.


A brief report presents important ideas in development and promising research in its early stages

The Current State of Student Mental Health in Schools: The Need for Expanded Thinking
Robin S. Shultz, DSW

Both COVID-19 and an increasing focus on social justice are pushing schools to move beyond canned social/emotional curriculums and tiered intervention programs toward deeper learning which invites cognitive engagement, personal reflection, and self/other consideration. Educators are beginning to see that surface level social/emotional learning curriculums are not adequate for providing children the insight needed to become the principled thinkers we hope they’ll become.

To support needed changes in student mental health, educators must shift from individual to systems thinking and move from a focus on compromised functioning to a focus on resilient functioning when considering student problems. Literature suggests that family stress and other environmentally contextual factors (i.e. the patterned ways in which people interact with each other) can impact individual responses in a given situation. Shifts such as those described above may open doors for new ways to view and think about student mental health. The following report emerged from a small research study conducted by the author to be published at a later date. The study examined relationships between adult interaction patterns and student social/emotional functioning in schools.


Previously unpublished papers from the Bowen Archives.

Utraque Unum: Individuality and Cooperative Action
Author: Murray Bowen, MD
Introduction by: Robert J. Noone, PhD

As part of Georgetown University’s Bicentennial, a conference entitled “Utraque Unum: Individuality and Cooperative Action” was held in Washington, DC on April 4-5, 1989. A book based on the conference presentations was later published, including the presentation by Dr. Murray Bowen, “Diversity from Unity.” Following that conference Dr. Bowen wrote what he called a “supplement” to his presentation which is published here for the first time.

Given the bullet points under the heading “Outline Since 7-1-1954,” it is possible that Dr. Bowen had intended to expand the paper. (He died in October, 1990.) The paper presents some of Murray Bowen’s thinking about his “Odyssey” in the effort to contribute to the work of moving toward a science of human behavior. He had previously written at length about this process in “An Odyssey toward Science” (Kerr and Bowen 1988).

In this paper, Dr. Bowen describes his conclusion that Freud’s theory would not lead to science, his comparative study of disciplines, the inclusion of systems thinking and evolution in the theory, and the lag time likely involved in the acceptance of a new theory.


Presentation of a faculty clinical case, followed by a discussion with faculty members of the Bowen Center

Bowen Family Systems Coaching is Useful in Working with Individuals Experiencing States of Psychosis
Carrie E. Collier, PhD

This case presentation highlights the usefulness of this coach’s relationship with a client who expects her to heal and relieve his symptoms. The moves that the coach made to define what she will and won’t do for her client during meetings opened the door for her to engage the client’s mature self. This clarity in the coach and her use of Bowen theory family diagrams facilitated the client’s effort in thinking about his fantasy versus reality states and his family as a web of relationships that share emotions.


Reviews on books relevant to Bowen theory and its many applications.

This View of Life: Completing the Darwinian Revolution
by David Sloan Wilson, PhD
Reviewed by Anne S. McKnight, EdD, LCSW

Subscribe Today