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.

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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.

The Reciprocity Between Parents and Their Child’s Mental Health Treatment Systems
Jenny Brown, MSW, PhD

This paper explores ways the reciprocity between mental health clinicians and parents may reinforce the family projection process. Dr. Murray Bowen observed that mental health treatment programs and interventions, even if psychologically sound, can add to the impairment of a child through perpetuating a “fix the child” project. Nuances of this process are revealed in data from a qualitative research project with a sample of fourteen sets of parents who had an adolescent in a day hospital treatment program in Sydney, Australia. Bowen theory is used as a lens for analyzing the parent reports about their experiences in the adolescent mental health system. The data indicates how an investment in external medical treatment fuels the anxious processes in the family that maintain the child’s vulnerability to symptoms. Conversely, those parents who are encouraged to explore their interactions and discover their own capacity to be a leader for their child report a sustained hopefulness six months after treatment.

How Emotions Are Made: Implications for Bowen Theory
Dave Galloway

Lisa Barrett’s book, “How Emotions are Made,” describes her decades long work in the field of emotion research and presents her theory of constructed emotion. Bowen theory places particular importance on the role emotions and feelings play in human functioning. The theory of constructed emotion posits that if one changes their concepts about a subject that this would lead to constructing different emotions/feelings regarding that subject. Bowen theory provides an individual with a rich set of new concepts for how one can think about their relationships and their own functioning. While Barrett’s work is not consistent with Bowen theory and the use of the term emotion, it does provide a different way of thinking about the feeling system.


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

The Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) Initiative
Daniel V. Papero, PhD, MSSW, Robert J. Noone, PhD, and Randall T. Frost, MDiv

In May, 2019, the Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) program of NIMH sent out a Request for Information (RFI) regarding expanding the domains it had developed for the assessment of mental illness. NIMH initiated an effort to move away from the categorical model of mental illness (DSM) to a model reflecting the more dynamical interplay of internal systems of the individual that lead to the emergence of a symptom. The current RDoC model consists of six domains or continua of interacting biological systems. In response to an RFI to increase the domains to include developmental and environmental factors, the authors submitted their response to the RDoC project.


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

When and How Does a Family Engage Around a Problem?
Barbara Laymon, PhD, MPH

From a Bowen theory perspective, the family diagram over several generations will reflect predictable patterns of human behavior. Over the course of time, some branches of a family will increase their functional capacity while other branches will decrease in functioning. This case presentation explores the challenges of case conceptualization and the importance of a neutral, comprehensive gathering of facts. The participation of several family members in family consultations and the emergence of family leaders is also discussed.


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

The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump: 27 Psychiatrists and Mental Health Experts Assess a President
by Bandy Lee, MD, MDiv
Reviewed by Lorna Hecht-Zablow, MA

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