Volume 7 Number 1 Fall 2022
Transitioning from Pandemic Mode to the New Normal: Opportunities and Challenges
This is the third Fall edition of CFC News since the Covid-19 epidemic started in the United States in late 2019. Looking back at my first opening essay on this subject in 2020, “Autumn—A Special Time of Reflection”, I reflected on the stark strangeness of the year just passed. I noted the range of responses from individuals across society. A deep sense of loss was pervasive. There was a shared experience of losses of family and friends to the deadly disease; losses of jobs and businesses; and losses of regular, normal daily in-person contact with other humans.

A year later in the Fall 2021 edition of CFC News, there was progress to report on—vaccines were available to whoever wanted to take them. Most families, businesses and organizations had experimented with, and developed, numerous adaptations and work-arounds to keep themselves and much of society functioning. We weren’t at a “new normal” yet, but things were looking up! I was able to report to you on CFC’s adaptive responses in the essay, “The Changing Landscape of Training and Continuing Education in Bowen Theory for Clinicians, Leaders and Consultants”. The major change for organizations offering educational resources and services was the implementation of rapidly developing teleconferencing technology.

Prominent among the technologies being implemented was Zoom, an easy to use, inexpensive, well-marketed solution. CFC was presenting all of our programs live, online. Our attendees participated from the comfort of their homes or offices. Time and costs were less for attending programs, and attendance soared. Attendance changed from primarily local audiences living near Bowen theory Education Centers, to attracting people from all over the country, and even from other countries.

Initially, we had thought of Zoom as a temporary fix to minimize exposure to other humans who might spread the disease to each other at in-person programs. I thought once everyone was vaccinated, the danger of transmitting the disease to colleagues, customers, vendors, etc. would disappear, as it had when people received the polio vaccines back in the 1950’s. However, that change has not happened.

I was naïve to think we would quickly return to the pre-pandemic way of living. How wrong I was! Operating norms have been disrupted in some way in almost all industries. Views on how much time people are willing to commit to “working” changed, as people began to enjoy and appreciate having a little more work-life balance. Low paying service jobs suddenly had become both dangerous in terms of catching Covid, but also service workers had opportunities and motivation to develop new skills that qualified them for higher paying jobs. Entrepreneurialism blossomed. Mid-sized and larger businesses and organizations experienced enormous cost savings in office space and travel costs. Executives and managers learned that individuals working from home are often achieving higher levels of performance.

We learned that not all staff members need to be “in the office” five days a week to get their work done. As the pandemic wanes, many organizations are bringing people back to central offices only when it is really necessary. While they are reformulating and figuring out what that looks like for their companies, millions of people already have greater flexibility to split their dedicated working hours between working remotely, and working onsite.

Finally, we are on the cusp of new emerging norms. This coming year will continue to require creativity and innovation. Assessing the human need for in-person contact with other humans will be front and center for all of us during the next few years. I have no doubt we will figure it out, and the “new normal” will spread across industries as geographic boundaries melt away, and opportunities for broader collaboration becomes feasible. A whole new world of adult continuing education and work awaits us. CFC will continue dedicating our time and resources to our 40+ year mission of being a resource, a contributor, and an example of the evolution and understanding of Bowen theory.

Leslie Ann Fox, MA
Bowen Family Systems Theory is comprised of eight concepts that describe the universal emotional process in families. Murray Bowen developed the theory over years of observing family interaction in daily life, psychiatric research and clinical practice. He became known for designing and carrying out an original study in which patients and their family members were hospitalized together. The study, conducted from 1954 to 1959 under the auspices of the National Institute of Mental Health, led Bowen to view the family as a unit, a natural system and part of the evolution of all life.
These are facts that students of Bowen theory learn soon after being introduced to the theory. Most attention then goes to the challenge of learning the concepts and applying them to one’s own life and work. Questions about the origin and evolution of the theory are seldom asked. What sparked Bowen’s original interest in psychiatry? How did his study of Freud lead to questions about the gaps he saw in Freudian theory and then lead to his pursuit of a more objective understanding of human behavior? How did he begin to see the family as a factor in the illness of one member, as well as a resource in recovery? How did this thinking guide the forming and testing of hypotheses? How did his clinical practice evolve in accord with new research findings? The most important question might be: how was Bowen able to sustain a way of thinking that was radically different from conventional thinking in psychiatry at that time, and how did he do this while maintaining mutual high regard in the important relationships he had with colleagues, supervisors, and administrators in every institution in which he worked?

In my forty-plus years of study of Bowen theory, I must confess, I have known only fragments of this story, and until reading Catherine Rakow’s Making Sense of Human Life: Murray Bowen’s Determined Effort Toward Family Systems Theory, I had not realized how much I was missing in my knowledge of Bowen theory. Her book addresses the above questions and many more.

In keeping with the importance that he placed on open communication, Dr. Bowen documented his work extensively with professional articles, conference presentations, videotapes of clinical work and teaching, and at symposiums and training at the Georgetown Family Center and Bowen Center. Beyond this he left “over 250 linear feet of unpublished papers, early drafts, clinical notes and correspondence.” (Joanne Bowen, Foreward to the book, p. xi)

Catherine Rakow has played a central role in the Murray Bowen Archive Project. Over three decades of dedicated work reviewing thousands of documents, she came to know the deeper history of Bowen’s life and work. She tells the story, much of it never told before, with meticulous references to sources in the archives. Beginning with chapters on Bowen’s childhood, education, and active duty in the military, she takes the reader through his eight years at the Menninger Foundation and five years as head of an inpatient psychiatric ward at NIMH.

Beautifully written and fascinating to read, the book captures the depth and breadth of Bowen’s thinking as he developed his unique understanding of human behavior and unique way of working with families. The core principles that guided his odyssey come through with crystal clarity: the family is a natural system with inherent strengths and adaptability; with assistance from those who have the capacity to provide support without becoming entangled in the family emotional process, the family will find its own resources and its own answers.
Sympathetic helpfulness, while well intentioned, can be undermining to its recipients. Bowen practiced and taught a neutral, non-pathologizing, non-mothering way of relating to people that fostered their maturity and development of self. There is age-old wisdom in this, but I have not found it easy to learn. In her remarkable book, Rakow gives us a most welcome chance to learn it again. 
Stephanie Ferrera, MSW
CFC faculty out and about:
Presentations Fall 2022
Stephanie Ferrera, MSW is presenting on November 4, 2022 at the Bowen Center’s 59th Annual Symposium. Ms. Ferrera’s topic is “Sexual reproduction: Nature’s Gift; Nature’s Challenge.”

Robert Noone, PhD is presenting November 5, 2022 at the Bowen Center's 59th Annual Symposium. Dr. Noone’s title is "The Integrated Functioning of the Emotional, Feeling, and Intellectual Systems."

CFC Faculty in Print - Discount extended!
by Robert J. Noone, published by Rowman and Littlefield, 2021.

Family psychiatrist and researcher Murray Bowen’s effort to contribute to a science of human behavior led to the famous Family Study Project at NIMH and the later development of a formal theory of the family and its clinical application. Later known as Bowen theory, it represented a radical departure from the individualistic paradigm predominant in psychiatry. Following Bowen’s mode, this book examines the interplay between the individual and the family in shaping the differential capacity to effectively adapt to life’s many challenges.
Robert J. Noone, PhD

Note: The publisher is offering a 30% discount using the this code: LXFANDF30, or call 1-800-462-6420.

What is CFC faculty reading and viewing this fall?
Kelly Matthews, LCSW
I just watched a fascinating movie on Amazon: House of Gucci (trailer). The Italian family-owned business is featured and the family dynamics are rich (no pun intended) with tension, conflict and warmth.

As is the case with many families, not much is cut and dry with families.

Sydney Reed, MSW
Extraordinary Attorney Woo (trailer) is a new series on Netflix featuring an autistic young female lawyer in Korea who, given her high I.Q. and her ability to see the details others may have missed, provides a valued addition to the law firm. Attorney Woo's unusual and somewhat confusing mannerism are gradually accepted as her other qualities become known.

It's wonderful to see an honest portrayal of an autistic person as the hero of a series.

Leslie Fox, MA
See the trailer for C’mon C’mon. Johnny (Joaquin Phoenix) and his young nephew (Woody Norman) forge a tenuous but transformational relationship when they are unexpectedly thrown together in this delicate and deeply moving story about the connections between adults and children, the past and the future, from writer-director Mike Mills.

Upcoming Programs

Bowen Theory 101 - Begins September 22, 2022

This series of eight, weekly one-hour lectures is designed to provide participants with an overview of each concept of Bowen Family Systems Theory. A basic understanding of the eight concepts offers participants the opportunity to begin conceptualizing clinical cases through the lens of BFST. Gaining a new, broader perspective on behavior patterns in families can significantly improve outcomes of the therapeutic process. Lectures and class discussions are conducted online using Zoom.

Click here for details: Bowen Theory 101

Save the Dates for CFC's Annual Conferences Winter and Spring of 2023

Clinical Application of Bowen Family Systems Theory
Annual Day of WorkshopsFebruary 24, 2023

The Annual Day of Workshops is a clinical conference highlighting the basics of Bowen theory and its application in a variety of clinical settings. It would be useful to therapists, counselors, social workers, psychologists, clergy, organizational consultants, and others.

The one-day conference includes a morning keynote address by a CFC faculty member, followed by a video of a presentation by Dr. Murray Bowen, and a discussion led by a CFC faculty member. The afternoon offers two 70-minute workshop sessions with multiple workshop choices for each.

More information about content of this program.
Final information regarding topics, speakers and registration for the February 24th program coming in early 2023.

Midwest Symposium on Family Systems Theory and TherapyMay 5 & 6, 2023

In 1990, CFC began inviting a guest scientist each year to be one of the keynote speakers at the annual symposium, with the goal of ensuring that Bowen family systems theory remains firmly rooted in the natural sciences. Since that meeting in 1990, when Murray Bowen and Frans de Waal were the two Keynote speakers, CFC has invited a wide variety of scientists ranging from biologists to primatologists, to neuroscientists, and evolutionary psychologists. They are researchers who have contributed to the science of human behavior, and who are willing to engage in a dialog which enriches both their and our understanding of the family, the brain, and behavior from an evolutionary perspective.

More information about content of this program.

Final information regarding registration coming in early spring, 2023.

Online Course Starting January 2023

Leading a Business in Anxious Times

Program Description
This course introduces Systems-Based Leadership® to leaders, coaches and consultants working in or with organizations. An eight-month online course using Zoom for meetings and coaching is based on Bowen theory. The course provides a practical approach to leading by addressing the most challenging of all leadership skills, managing oneself in relationship systems, also often thought of as the “politics” in most organization. The program registration includes the cost of the text Leading a Business in Anxious Times, by Leslie Ann Fox and Katharine Gratwick Baker. It will be the basis of exercises and discussions at 7 two-hour monthly meetings, and 3 one-on-one coaching sessions with faculty members Patty Sheridan and Leslie Fox.

Final information regarding registration coming in October, 2022.

CFC News published quarterly by Center for Family Consultation

"The goal...is to rise up out of the emotional togetherness that binds us all."
Murray Bowen, M.D.