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“When any key member of an emotional system can control his own emotional reactiveness and accurately observe the functioning of the system and his part in it, and he can avoid counterattacking when he is provoked, and when he can maintain an active relationship with the other key members without withdrawing or becoming silent, the entire system will change in predictable ways” — Murray Bowen

Purpose of the Postgraduate Program in Bowen Family Systems Theory

The Postgraduate Program is designed for individuals who want to establish a foundation in Bowen theory and learn to apply it in their personal lives and in their professions.

Individuals use the Postgraduate Program to further goals and projects and to address challenges in their family and their professional work. Alumni make significant contributions, present their work at the Annual Symposium, and participate in research seminars to work on projects.

Program Dates for 2020-2021 academic year

September 14-16, 2020
December 7-9, 2020
March 8-10, 2021
June 7-9, 2021

Program Dates for 2019-2020 academic year

September 9-11, 2019
December 9-11, 2019
March 9-11, 2020
June 1-3, 2020

History of the Program

Murray Bowen, MD, established a theory of human behavior based upon the study of family systems and knowledge from the natural sciences. Bowen family systems theory provides a conceptual framework for understanding the family, organizations, and human society as emotional systems consistent with facts from biology, evolution, and neuroscience. Knowledge and practice of theory are a foundation for understanding one’s own family, and for research and applications that address problems in human society.

Dr. Bowen established a postgraduate training program in 1969 at Georgetown University Medical Center. The special postgraduate program for individuals living outside the Washington, DC area began in 1976. The Bowen Center for the Study of the Family continues to hold this program with teaching and supervising faculty who studied and worked with Murray Bowen. The faculty bring research and applications of theory in such diverse areas as psychiatry, medicine, nursing, family therapy, biofeedback, neurofeedback, primate studies, business, international relations, work with clergy, education, community services, and public policy.


The program meets four times a year for three day sessions. It begins in September and ends in June of each year.

Each session includes:

  • Presentations and discussion with Dr. Anne McKnight, Director of the Center
  • Presentations and discussion with faculty
  • An afternoon of consultation with faculty on clinical practice, work systems, or other applications
  • Presentations by each participant to the entire group
  • Videotaped lectures by Murray Bowen
  • Videotaped presentations by scientists relevant to family systems
  • Recommended reading
  • Monthly contact with faculty for ongoing consultation.

The curriculum is designed to cover basic concepts in Bowen theory, knowledge from the sciences, and advances in research with examples from applications in family, organizations, and society. Each year is different. Learning occurs through application and practice as well as through knowledge of theory. The study of one’s own family is a training ground for learning and using Bowen family systems theory in one’s field of work.

Learning is an individual process that occurs through application and practice as well as through knowledge of theory. The study of one’s own family is a vital training ground for learning and using Bowen family systems theory in one’s field of work. It takes time to integrate the intellectually and emotionally stimulating experiences.

Each three-day session includes didactic presentations, discussion and small group consultation. Participants have the opportunity to present their own topics of interest to the larger group. Consultation consists of presentations on one’s own family and work system, as well as clinical and professional applications of theory, and theoretical questions. Consultation is conducted between sessions by webcast or telephone.

General Three-Day Schedule

Monday: 8:30AM – 6:00PM (with breaks and lunch)
Tuesday: 8:30AM – 6:00PM (with breaks and lunch)
Wednesday: 8:30AM – 4:00PM (with breaks and lunch)

Each year is different. Learning Bowen theory is an individual process that takes time to integrate intellectually and emotionally. This program provides an opportunity to focus on learning a theory about emotional systems and oneself.


The application process includes a completed application form online or by paper, an application fee of $60, and an interview with the program director, Mr. Douglas Murphy. Early acceptance is available for those who want to make their plans early.

Admission criteria include a combination of educational background and practice in one’s profession, motivation to learn and apply Bowen theory in one’s family and field of work, and specific goals to accomplish in the program.

For further information, email Mr. Douglas Murphy or reach him at 410-258-2104.

Mail paper applications to:

Douglas C. Murphy, MA, LCMFT
Director of Postgraduate Program
The Bowen Center for the Study of the Family
4400 MacArthur Boulevard, NW Suite 103
Washington, DC 20007


Paper applications can be faxed to 202-965-1765.


The tuition for 2020-2021 is $3,650.00. A deposit of $350.00 is due upon acceptance. The balance is due by August 1st.

Please Note: There is a $100 USD service fee assessed for paying with a credit card or if you choose to pay with a payment plan (please see below).

Payment Plan:

The Bowen Center offers two payment plan options: two times a year or four times a year.

Non-Refundable Service Fee:

A non-refundable service charge of $100 will be assessed. For the two times a year plan, 50% of the service fee will be charged equally across the two installments. For the four times a year plan, 25% of the service fee will be charged equally across the four installments.

To set up a payment plan, please contact

Billing Due Dates:

  • Two times a year plan: The $350 deposit is due by July 1st. The first payment of $1,700 is due the 1st of August. The second payment of $1,700 is due no later than the 1st of December.
  • Four times a year plan: The $350 deposit is due by July 1st. Payments of $850 are due by the 1st of August, October, November, and December.


Meetings are held at the Bowen Center, six blocks from the Georgetown University Medical Center campus. For a list of convenient hotels, motels, and “bed and breakfasts” see Accommodations.