Bumisuka.com – Bowenian Family Therapy Can Help Overcome Family Conflicts. Bowenian family therapy (BFT) is a treatment approach developed by a psychiatrist from the United States (US), Dr. Murray Bowen. This therapy originates from patterns of survival across generations and problematic behaviors that have been hereditary in the family.
BFT includes treatment options that focus on family conflict. The originators of this therapy believe that family problems must be resolved so that the relationship between members is maintained.
The main goals of BFT are reducing toxic communication, developing positive differentiation, and practicing health autonomy with family members.
1. Basic theory
Bowenian family system theory (Bowen theory) emerged around the 1970s. The root of this theory is the perception among family members that being too close or too separated can lead to chronic anxiety.
Dr. Murray Bowen believes that the intensity of anxiety depends on external stress and problematic behavior patterns that are passed down from generation to generation. Thus, the goal in Bowen’s theory is to reduce chronic stress in the family.
The goals to be achieved in Bowen’s theory are carried out through various efforts, including:
- Making each family member more aware to optimize their emotional system.
- Increasing acceptance of individual differences among family members.
- Focus on changing for the better rather than forcing others to change.
There are several basic concepts that complement Bowen’s theory. These concepts describe the development of the family and its functions, which include:
- Emotional fusion and self-differentiation: Emotional fusion occurs when a family member chooses to set aside his or her needs in order to maintain family harmony. Meanwhile, self-differentiation is the inability of a person to separate feelings from thoughts.
- Triangle: The point of the triangle is when two family members are having problems, either individually or in a group context, asking a third party to get involved.
- Nuclear family emotional systems: These are the emotional patterns that are passed on to future generations in a family.
- Family projection process: Part of the nuclear family emotional system.
- Emotional separation: When a family member decides to move away and separates himself from the family completely.
- Multigenerational transmission process: Patterns and roles in the family are passed on to future generations depending on how much interaction occurs between parents and children.
- Sibling position: Focuses on the position of each child in the family (eldest, middle, or youngest) that is most “triangular” with the parents.
BFT practitioners have several intervention techniques specific to this treatment approach. The techniques in question include:
- Genogram: A genogram is a family chart that includes information about certain histories, relationships, psychological aspects, and systemic patterns. This allows the therapist and client to explore patterns and connections to guide treatment.
- Emotional differentiation and self-differentiation: The therapist will help the client identify emotions that occur within the family unit. Then take notes when identifying the emotions of other family members. This technique helps each family member identify with each other’s emotions and identities and their role in the family unit.
- I-statements: Communication techniques that emphasize the speaker’s emotions. This aims to communicate the emotion behind the statement rather than invoke defensiveness or feelings of guilt.
- Triangles: BFT uses the concept of emotional triangles to symbolize a network of stable relationships. In practice, families work together to create a healthy balance and support within the emotional triangle.
- Patterns across generations: Using the genogram, the therapist will identify patterns that persist between generations and help families determine which patterns are advantageous and which to eliminate.
- Challenges to normalization: Challenges and conflicts may occur even after therapy has ended. In doing so, the therapist prepares the client for future difficulties.
BFT can help families overcome conflicts especially those related to communication difficulties. In addition, it can also address the impact of previous generations and current family dynamics related to mental health.
There is empirical evidence which although in quantity is still limited, shows the effectiveness of BFT, including:
- Self-differentiation techniques in BFT can effectively help reduce anxiety symptoms. This statement is supported by a study in the 2021 American Journal of Family Therapy.
- Another study in the Journal of Human Relations Studies in 2021 revealed that BFT can increase feelings of happiness and empathy between partners. This is due to an increase in communication skills and understanding of oneself and others.
- A study in the 2019 Journal of Family Social Work explains that BFT can help family reunification when child protection is involved. Therefore, parents can easily identify patterns of violence in the family genogram and try to solve these patterns.
BFT can be practiced individually, with a partner, or with an extended family unit. This therapeutic approach focuses on exploring transgenerational patterns and behaviors. Thus, it can trigger feelings of trauma between generations. Before starting treatment, the client must be prepared with all the possibilities that will be felt.
It is important to understand that BFT does not promise immediate resolution of problems in the family. It takes client involvement and a willingness to make the necessary changes.
BFT is used to resolve conflict and problematic behavior in the family setting. This therapy uses a variety of techniques that require cooperation between the parties involved. If BFT seems like a good fit for your mental health needs, you might want to give this treatment a try.