Academic Year 2019 – 2020
October 3, 2019
A Physician’s Response to Climate Change
Dr. Mona Sarfaty, MD, MPH, FAAFP
Executive Director, Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health, Center for Climate Change Communication, George Mason University, Fairfax, VA
A family medicine physician and public health doctor who has engaged in teaching, research and advocacy for over 30 years, Dr. Sarfaty will describe her research using this background to show how climate change has affected her view of health care over the years. Her work and research were the impetus for founding the Medical Society Consortium on Climate and Health in 2016. The presentation will conclude with a discussion of options for advocacy.
Academic Year 2018 – 2019
October 4, 2018
The Special Education Process: Trying to Apply Bowen Theory Surrounded by ‘Individual Thinking’
Robert Felton, MEd
Educational Consultant, Washington, DC
Mr. Felton will describe how he attempted to use Bowen Theory as a Supervisor of Special Education in a major school system where individual thinking was pervasive. The process for defining a child’s problem for special education services was based on a medical model which tended to increase anxiety in the system and child focus. Mr. Felton will address his ability to manage self using principles of Bowen Theory in working with the triangles as the system focused on the symptomatic child, parents and educational institution.
December 13, 2018
What Are the Differences Between Attachment Theory and Family Systems Theory?
Anne S. McKnight, EdD, LCSW
Director of the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family, Washington, DC
John Bowlby and Murray Bowen were contemporaries, each basing their ideas about relationships on clinical observations influenced by evolutionary thinking. Bowlby focused on the interactions between the mother and the infant while Bowen examined the multigenerational family system. This evening will highlight the parallels and differences in their ideas.
January 17, 2019
Goal Direction and Family Functioning
Phillip Klever, MSW
Clinical Private Practice, Kansas City, MO
How much energy and attention does a family require of its members to sustain stability? How much room does the family allow for its members to pursue their individual interests and directions over time? This presentation explores variation in goal direction and its impact on the functioning of the nuclear family by examining the findings of a longitudinal family study.
Academic Year 2017 – 2018
June 7, 2018
Application of Theory: Toward Resolving Degrees of Unresolved Emotional Attachment
Selden Dunbar Illick, LCSW
Bowen Family Systems Consultant
Dr. Murray Bowen stated: “The degree of unresolved emotional attachment to the parents is equivalent to the degree of undifferentiation that must somehow be handled in a person’s own life and in future generations” (Bowen, 1978, p. 382). He observed that all people have some degree of unresolved emotional attachment from their parents. These emotional attachments in the parental triangle formed at birth are initially necessary for survival. In the process of growing up and moving toward increasing independence, individuals come up against degrees of unresolved emotional attachment, or as Bowen sometimes described it, emotional dependencies. This presentation describes one person’s effort over time to apply Bowen Family Systems Theory to resolve degrees of unresolved emotional attachment in the parental triangle.
May 17, 2018
A Partnership, a Marriage, the Search for Cures and How Bowen Theory Helped Chart the Course
Michael R. Ruff, PhD
CEO and President of Creative Bio-Peptides, Inc.
Dr. Ruff was both a partner in life through marriage and in research with Candace B. Pert, PhD., with their discovery of Peptide-T which controlled the pain and extended thousands of lives in the treatment of the HIV virus. This discovery opened the door to a non-opioid treatment for pain. Dr. Pert contributed to the founding of the field of MindBody (her term) medicine in the mid-1980’s. Her sudden death in September 2013 created a whirlpool of reactivity in the family and their business requiring significant changes for Dr. Ruff in the last 5 years. These included a successful court action to give credit to Dr. Pert for her discoveries and his creation of a new business, Creative Bio-Peptides, Inc.
April 12, 2018
How to Tame a Fox and Build a Dog
Lee Alan Dugatkin, PhD
Biologist and Historian of Science, Professor and University Scholar, Department of Biology, The University of Louisville in Kentucky
For the last six decades a dedicated team of researchers in Siberia has been domesticating silver foxes to replay the evolution of the dog in real time. Lyudmila Trut has been lead scientist on this work since 1959, and together with biologist and historian of science, Lee Dugatkin, she tells the inside story of the science, politics, adventure, and love behind it all. Together these two risked not just their careers, but to an extent their lives, to make scientific history. If you go one level deeper, you find yourself lost in the magical tale of how some hardscrabble but openhearted humans and the wild animals which they domesticated developed such deep attachments to each other that both seemed to forget the species divide between them.
February 1, 2018
Bowen and Friedman: Two Systems Thinkers
Rabbi Edwin Friedman was a colleague and student of Murray Bowen’s family systems theory. As a dynamic speaker and brilliant thinker, he applied systems theory to the lives of clergy and the work of congregational life. Although he adopted some of Bowen’s concepts taken from natural systems, he added his own ideas in distinctive ways. The two speakers will address their different perspectives about their similarities and differences in their ideas.
The Rev. Dr. Carol Jeunette and Dr. McKnight will each present their ideas followed by discussion.
January 11, 2018
Operationalizing the Concept of Differentiation of Self for Family Research
Randall Frost, MDiv
Family Therapist and Pastoral Counsellor
Director of Training and Research at Living Systems, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Faculty Member at the Bowen Center, Washington, DC
The multi-faceted concept of differentiation of self includes numerous variables which, taken together, describe variation in lifestyle of individuals and families. This presentation will review and evaluate some of the ways in which the concept has been operationalized for purposes of family research. Other concepts such as resilience, coping, adaptation, and self-esteem will also be examined for their possible relevance to research on differentiation of self.
December 7, 2017
Navigating the Waters of Adolescence – Moving from Surviving to Thriving in the Education Experience
Amie Post, MA, LCMFT
Executive/Clinical Director of the Family Crisis Center, Baltimore County, MD
Administrator and Faculty Member at the Bowen Center, Washington, DC
Like a small rowboat in a big ocean, parenting an adolescent can leave adults feeling like they are far from safe harbor with no oars. Spend any time on Facebook and a parent will encounter advice, cajoling, and even criticism about how to parent. Carpool lines and soccer field sidelines are full of stories of how parents navigate the challenges of raising children. Through case study presentations and conversations with parents, grandparents, and educators (and anyone else who encounters adolescents on the loose), one can develop ways to think about their responsibilities to youth in their teen years for navigating the waters of this stage of human development.
Academic Year 2016 – 2017
June 15, 2017
An Archival Approach to Preserving Murray Bowen’s Legacy
Joanne Bowen, PhD
Retired Senior Curator Environmental Collections, The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation
Research Professor in Anthropology, The College of William and Mary
Current Director, Founder and First President, The Murray Bowen Archives Project
This presentation will describe the approach to preserve Dr. Bowen’s original letters and videotapes at the National Library of Medicine where they will be available for the ages and to also create an online digital database so that researchers can do their primary work. To enable both NLM researchers and the public to explore how Bowen developed his theory in his own words, The goal is to recreate the totality of each of his “laboratories,” including his family, genealogical records, and his professional world into a searchable, online database. Discussion will focus on how an archivist can select records that have the breadth and depth to replicate Bowen’s odyssey toward science as he documented the evolution of his thinking.
May 18, 2017
Hillbilly Elegy: Bowen Theory in Everyday Life
Anne McKnight, MSW, EdD
Director of the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family
Dr. McKnight will discuss J. D. Vance’s best-selling book in which he describes his life growing up in the Rust Bowl with his addicted mother and her ever-changing partners. His grandmother played a pivotal role in providing a connection out of the family chaos and instability. He went into the Marines, and then onto the Ohio State University and Yale Law School. The story does not end there. He still had work to do on differentiation.
April 19, 2017
A New Society in an Ancient Swamp: The Social World of the Great Dismal Swamp, 1607 to 1863
Daniel O. Sayers, PhD
Chair of the Department of Anthropology, American University
African American Maroons (people who permanently self-removed from enslavement) and indigenous Americans founded a novel society in the Great Dismal Swamp of North Carolina and Virginia beginning with the rise of colonialism in the Mid-Atlantic region. After over a decade’s work on several sites in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, archaeology is showing how these resistant and defiant people formed communities that lasted over 250 years, what their communities were like, how they dealt with the seemingly harsh swamp environment, and how their world differed from the one they left behind. This presentation will outline what we know about this very under-recognized society and why this history matters today.
March 9, 2017
Now I Know Why Bishops Only Move Diagonally: Systems Leadership Lessons from the Church
The Rt. Rev. Stacy F. Sauls
Chief Executive Officer, Love Must Act
New York, NY
Twenty-eight years of leadership in the Episcopal Church has provided an opportunity to think about and practice leadership principles. Bishop Sauls says he may have learned a thing or two, some painfully, about the relationships among responsibility, authority and power; the destructiveness of secrets; and the supreme importance of the moment of asking whether you, the leader, might be the one who is crazy.
February 9, 2017
On Bridging Multiple Cutoffs: The Process of Uniting a Family Fractured by War, Family Feuds, and Mental Illness
Susan Johnson Hadler, PhD, Private Practice & The Rev. Jacques Hadler, Jr., Epsicopal Church
In her recent book, The Beauty of What Remains, Dr. Susan Hadler reveals the details of her journey to break through barriers of absence, silence and prohibitions. This effort was an opportunity to gain strength and support to persevere in the face of reactivity to find the lost, to bridge cut-offs and to bring her shattered family together. Her husband, The Rev. Jacques Hadler, journeyed with her using his awareness of Bowen theory through his learning experience with Rabbi Edwin Friedman. Dr. Hadler will talk about her journey and The Rev. Hadler will describe how Bowen Theory was an influence in this process.
January 12, 2017
Family and the Differentiation of the Intellectual System
Robert J. Noone, PhD
Co-Founder of the Center for Family Consultation, and Faculty Member, The Bowen Center for the Study of the Family
Evanston, IL & Washington, DC
The development of higher cortical systems involved in the ability to manage self is embedded in the relationship circuitry of the family. The differentiation of the intellectual system and its relationship to the family will be discussed in its developmental and evolutionary contexts.
*Please note that there were some technical difficulties in this recording of this presentation. At about 48:45 there is a period of silence where we switched to a back up recorder.
October 6, 2016
The Honey Bee: Angels of Agriculture or Canary in the Coal Mine
State Apiarist, Office of Plant Industry Services, Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Richmond, VA
Mr. Tignor has worked closely with the beekeeping industry for over twenty-five years. He is coordinator of the regulatory and assistance programs for beekeeping in the Commonwealth of Virginia. This presentation will include his recent research on the beekeeping industry that demonstrates how bees are a symptom of the environment in which they live.
Academic Year 2015 – 2016
June 2, 2016
Confronting Ocean Plastic Pollution at the Global Scale
Nicholas Mallos, MS
Director, Trash Free Seas Program, Ocean Conservancy, Washington, DC
As much as 8,000,000 tonnes of plastic enters the ocean every year and this amount is predicted to double within the next decade. This number keeps increasing in pace with global plastics production. Left unchecked, by 2025 as much as 1 tonne of plastic may be in the ocean for every 3 tonnes of fin fish. Plastic inputs are ultimately an unintended consequence of rapid development, with the most concentrated inputs currently generated from several rapidly developing economies. These plastic inputs to the ocean not only harm marine environments and fisheries, but also impose economic costs to cities in the form of public health, water contamination, and quality of life. New analyses led by Ocean Conservancy and its partners to conclude, however, that global plastics input to the ocean can be significantly reduced with a portfolio of initiatives customized to geographies where ocean plastic inputs are largest. To achieve these reductions, we need to combine an accelerated build-up of waste collection infrastructure and treatment technologies with a broader circular economy approach which represents a necessary redesign of the future, where industrial systems are restorative and regenerative by intention and design.
May 5, 2016
The Murray Bowen Archives Project: Past, Present, and Future
The Rev. Carol Jeunnette, PhD
Executive Director, The Murray Bowen Archives Project, Williamsburg, VA
When Dr. Murray Bowen died in 1990, he left a vast collection of materials, (including audio and videotapes, professional and “Dear Family” letters, original research records, drafts of papers, and presentations) that documents the thinking and research that led to Bowen theory. The Murray Bowen Archives Project is dedicated to making these materials available to scientists, scholars, historians, clinicians, and the interested public. An overview of the project will be offered, with emphasis on future plans. Dr. Joanne Bowen, President of The Murray Bowen Archives Project, will be present during the discussion following the presentation to answer questions.
April 13, 2016 (Wednesday)
Nature’s Family Health Plan: Neurobiological Benefits in Primate and Rodent Parental Models
Kelly Lambert, PhD
Faculty, Macon and Joan Brock Professor of Psychology, Department Chair, Randolph-Macon College, Ashland, VA
As the parental brain extends its attention from self to offspring, neural and physiological adaptations enhance emotional resilience and cognitive flexibility. Stress responsivity – associated with susceptibility to psychiatric illness and chronic disease – is dampened in males from both bi-parental and uni-parental primate models (e.g. owl monkeys and long-tailed macaques, respectively). Recent investigation of maternal rat brains suggests that potential mechanisms of this effect are related to reduced responsiveness of stress hormone receptors and enhanced neuroplasticity markers in the hippocampus, a brain area known for integrative emotional functions and learning ability.
March 10, 2016
Emotional Process in Society
Katharine G. Baker, PhD
Private Practice, Northampton, MA
Can Bowen theory give us a way to understand the enormous complexity of societal events that we observe or experience personally? Are these events, which have occurred throughout human history, enhanced through media bombardment? This presentation will apply concepts from Bowen theory such as differentiation, triangles, projection process, reciprocal functioning, and cutoff to a number of turning points in history in an attempt to develop a model for analyzing and understanding these events.
February 4, 2016
Clinical Public Health Integration into Medical Education: Teaching an Enhanced Medical Model That Includes Families, Communities and Populations
Lawrence Deyton, MSPH, MD
Senior Associate Dean for Clinical Public Health, George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, Washington, DC
Clinical Public Health is the enhancement of health care by providers’ use of the principles of epidemiology and population health, health policy, health systems management, and community health. Changes in the structure, financing, and performance expectations of health care systems are creating unparalleled opportunities for improved individual and community health while drastically altering the roles of individual providers and the health systems in which they practice. Accordingly, medical professional education should provide the requisite knowledge and skill-building, so tomorrows’ providers will be equipped to provide excellent care to individual patients. This enhances their ability to understand and perform their role as community health leaders to identify and mitigate community-level determinants of health.
December 10, 2015
A Family’s Reaction to Death: What Difference Does a Family Systems View Offer?
Anne S. McKnight, EdD
Director, The Bowen Center
This talk will address the predominant theories of grief work in Western culture and in the world of grief therapy as well as the new research on bereavement based on the concept of resilience. These ideas will be contrasted with those in family systems theory in which the level of differentiation across generations is the framework for understanding a family’s response to the death of a loved one. The emotional shock wave – or the aftershocks in a family to a death – will be illustrated through a case study.
October 8, 2015
The Many Ways that Murray Bowen Influenced People to Think Systems
Andrea Schara, LCSWA
Private Practice, Darien, CT and Washington, DC
One of Dr. Murray Bowen’s challenges in developing a science of human behavior was to seek effective ways to engage people to think theoretically about social systems. What difference would learning family systems theory make in their lives? Ms. Schara is affiliated with Leaders for Tomorrow, where she was founder and president and began the Oral History Project. She will present the scope of this ongoing project to date and its effectiveness in documenting the many ways people have used Bowen theory and benefitted through efforts to define a self.
Academic Year 2014 – 2015
May 7, 2015
Defining Self in Family, Profession, and Society
Peter Titelman, PhD
Private Practice, Northampton, MA
Defining a self in one’s family is a foundation for raising one’s level of differentiation. To be robust, this work includes defining or differentiating a self not only in one’s family but also within one’s profession, work system, and within the community and larger society. In this presentation Dr. Titelman will focus on defining a self in a significant professional relationship and his effort to define a self in two societal arenas: the Civil Rights Movement and the Palestinian/Israeli quagmire.
April 15, 2015
Attachment and Differentiation in Rhesus Monkey Infants
Stephen J. Suomi, PhD
Chief of the Laboratory of Comparative Ethology at the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD), National Institutes of Health (NIH), Bethesda, MD
Recent research has demonstrated that — like some human newborn infants — newborn rhesus monkey infants are capable of engaging in extensive face-to-face interactions with their mothers throughout their initial days and weeks of life. These face-to-face interactions are thought to facilitate establishing attachment bonds between the infants and their mothers. However, unlike the case for human infants, such interactions largely disappear during the monkeys’ second month of life and seldom reappear. Possible factors underlying this dramatic difference between these two species will be presented and discussed, including the likely need for the monkey infants to begin to differentiate their own social activities from those of their mothers as their locomotive and other physical capabilities rapidly mature.
February 5, 2015
Applications of Bowen Theory in the Public Policy Arena
Patricia Comella, JD
Faculty Member, The Bowen Center, Washington, DC
The formation of public policy almost always involves issues about which interested parties hold differing views of varying intensity about their resolution. Within the framework of Bowen Theory, those parties form a three-person emotional relationship system, the basic building block which is known as a triangle. The concept of the triangle in Bowen Theory describes the functioning of emotional systems, as well as the principles for managing such systems, particularly as the intensity of emotional process within the system increases around the presenting issues. Applying this knowledge to manage the resolution process will be the subject of this presentation.
January 8, 2015
Love and the Primary Triangle: An Evolutionary Perspective on Gender and Stress Reactivity
Margaret Donley, LSCSW
Private Practice, Prairie Village, KS
Observations from clinical work with couples who have children reveal certain gender based relationship patterns consistent with other mammals that form pair bonds. Stress affects males and females differently, and they often show different patterns of behavior regarding social bonding. The psycho/behavioral systems involved in this intricate interplay between males, females, and offspring are rooted partly in the neurobiology of social affiliation and pair bonding, which is similar among mammalian species. The differences in how males and females manage stress reactivity and affiliation lead to predictable ways that triangles take shape as tension arises within families. The concept of the triangle theoretically grounds the predictable patterns that emerge within the family unit involving parents.
Academic Year 2013 – 2014
June 12, 2014
Dr. Murray Bowen’s Legacy as Written in Letters to His Family
Judith M. Bowen, MD
Psychiatrist in Private Practice, Birmingham, AL
Murray Bowen’s “Dear Family” letters contain numerous examples of his theoretical thinking about the concepts of Bowen family systems theory and its applications. Dr. Bowen will present some of these letters that comprise one distinctive component of the Murray Bowen Archives. Many of these writings illustrate theory but also reveal Dr. Bowen’s keen sense of humor and powers of observation.
September 26, 2013
What is Family Emotional Process?
Daniel V. Papero, PhD, MSSW
Faculty Member, The Bowen Center, Washington, DC
The family emotional system presents the combination of emotion and relationship. Emotion provides the energy and relationships provide the arena for the expression of emotion in behavior. The combination produces the dynamic ebb and flow of family life across time. Family emotional process lies at the heart of the family, an ever-present phenomenon shaping, shifting, and guiding the response of individuals and the family unit to the challenges of daily living. Dr. Papero will describe family emotional process more fully, attempting to define more clearly what it is and how it works.
Academic Year 2012 – 2013
June 13, 2013
A Systems View of Anti-Semitism
Eileen B. Gottlieb, MEd
Director, Florida Family Research Network, Delray Beach, Florida
The differences in Christian and Judaic theology and practices have been considered the root of anti-Semitic behavior for generations. This cause and effect, narrow view of a complex, persistent, and widespread phenomenon is less than helpful and more than inaccurate in explaining the fundamental emotional process that has driven anti-Semitism throughout history. This presentation attempts to integrate the facts of biology, Bowen family systems theory, and history in an effort to bring greater clarity to a difficult and troubling aspect of human behavior. A broader, more factual view provides more options for addressing its presence to the benefit of all humankind.
Academic Year 2011 – 2012
May 10, 2012
Anxiety, Addiction, and the Family
Anne S. McKnight, EdD, MSW
Director, The Bowen Center
Dr. McKnight will discuss addiction as an outcome of an emotional process through which family anxiety is both generated and managed. She will address the reciprocal interactions of the family that lead to the progression of the addiction as well as the anxiety that is unleashed when an addicted member stops using drugs or alcohol. Some ideas about the multigenerational nature of addiction will be explored.
March 15, 2012
The Relevance of Language Choices Negotiated by Parents and Children for the Survival of an Endangered Language
Gabriela Perez-Baez, PhD
Curator, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institute
San Lucas Quiaviní is a Zapotec Community in Oaxaca, Mexico. Since the 1970s San Lucas has seen large scale migration to Los Angeles where about half the community resides. This presentation centers on the factors influencing parental language choices among migrants. With a substantial number of families settling or being raised in Los Angeles, family language planning is of relevance to the survival prospects of San Lucas Quiaviní Zapotec in the diaspora and the home community.
January 12, 2012
The Structure of Bowen Theory
Randall T. Frost, MDiv
Director of Training and Research, Living Systems
Dr. Bowen defined eight concepts, two main variables, two counterbalancing life forces, numerous subvariables and one key assumption that make up the structure of Bowen theory. This presentation will examine how the parts fit together to make a coherent whole and how developments in the life sciences — such as research on the stress response and epigenetics — fit into the structure of the theory.
September 29, 2011
What is Resilience?
Louise Rauseo, MS, RN
Most people recognize resilience when they see it — the ability to “bounce back” from adversity or hardship. Is resilience “hardwired” into a person or is it a relationship process? What factors increase resilience in a person or a family? This presentation will pose some questions about the research on resilience over the last thirty to forty years and suggest new ways of thinking about resilience in a person and in a family in light of Bowen theory.
Werner, Emmy E. and Ruth S. Smith. 1992. Overcoming the Odds: High Risk Children from Birth to Adulthood. New York: Cornell University Press.
Rutter, Michael. “Psychosocial Resilience and Protective Mechanisms.” 1987. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry 57(3): 316-331. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1939-0025.1987.tb03541.x.
Academic Year 2010 – 2011
April 7, 2011
Anxiety Disorders: What is the Emotion and What is Disordered?
Dr. Bruce N. Cuthbert
National Institute of Mental Health
Anxiety disorders are the most common mental disorders and result in considerable impairment across many areas of functioning. Dr. Cuthbert will present a perspective on studying emotions, particularly anxiety, empirically. This view will be exemplified by recent findings comparing emotional responses in patients with differing primary diagnoses of anxiety. Patients with greater levels of chronicity consistently show diminished fear. This apparently counter-intuitive finding will be discussed in the context of the new NIMH Research Domain Criteria (RDoC) project.
March 17, 2011
Literary Study from the Perspective of Bowen Theory
David S. Hargrove, PhD
Professor of Psychology, Appalachian State University
Authors like Richard Russo and Anne Tyler tell stories we want to hear because they resonate with our own experience. They give us their best writing and, in return, our best reading recognizes that our own stories affect what we see and hear in the narrative. Bowen family systems theory offers the reader a way to define oneself in relationship to the emotional field of the narrative, which strengthens the self and enhances appreciation of the literature.
February 10, 2011
The Altruism Equation: Blood Kinship and the Evolution of Goodness
Dr. Lee Alan Dugatkin
Professor of Biology, University of Louisville
Can science tell us whether blood is thicker than water? Are we particularly nice to our blood kin and, if so, why? In The Altruism Equation, Dr. Dugatkin tells the story of the fierce debate about altruism and kinship among evolutionary biologists, Before the debate was over, politics, philosophy, even religion, would enter the fray, complicating for close to a century attempts to find and settle on a scientific answer to a scientific question. Today that answer is known as “Hamilton’s Rule,” which states that relatives are worth helping in direct proportion to their genetic relatedness. The engine of goodness, Hamilton’s Rule suggests, lies in the family unit. This rule has been as influential on evolutionary biology as Newton’s Laws of Motion have been on physics.