CFC News
Volume 4  Number 2                                                                 Winter 2020

In the first blog of 2020 on CFC's The Systems Thinker, Stephanie Ferrera, CFC co-founder and faculty member, shared a most thoughtful reflection on the closing of one year/decade and the start of another. Grounded beautifully in Bowen theory Stephanie begins with a quote from the poet Rainer Maria Rilke.

"And now let us believe in a long year that is given to us, new, untouched, full of things that have never been, full of work that has never been done, full of tasks, claims, and demands; and let us take it without letting fall too much of what it has to bestow upon those who demand of it necessary, serious, and great things."

Stephanie titled her blog Welcome to a New Year of Opportunity. Rilke's quote stimulated me to think more carefully about what may lie ahead in 2020 -- Rather than starting this new year with resolutions I already know I should or want to do, I will try to focus on being aware every day, of the myriad fresh opportunities both small and large, that I have either missed or ignored, or that are just emerging. In this edition of CFC News, we share with you some of the new opportunities that await you if you choose to expand and deepen your knowledge and experience with Bowen theory in 2020. We also update you on the activities that CFC faculty are engaging in here in the Chicago area, in Washington DC, in Sweden, and online to keep expanding and deepening our experience. Let's get started!

Upcoming Conference...

Conference Description


First Presbyterian Church of Evanston
1427 Chicago Avenue
Evanston, Illinois

Friday, February 21, 2020


The Family as an Emotional Unit: Implications for Practice and Life

Robert J. Noone, PhD

Murray Bowen's discovery that the family functions as an emotional unit led to a radical shift in viewing behavior and in the practice of psychotherapy. The observation that the family functions as a self-regulating system governing the behavior of its members:
  • provided a way to move beyond diagnosing people
  • expanded clinical options for individuals
  • obliterated the polarizations of good/bad, victim/persecutor
  • provided a method for gaining self in the family

The ability to see the family as an emotional unit requires more than an intellectual process, it requires a solid grounding in theory and an effort to work on self in one's own family. Moving beyond self-blaming and other-blaming, it provides one with the capacity to be more connected and more self-directed -- to be for the other and to be for self.

This presentation will focus on the depth of interconnectedness among family members and the contribution that being more of a self makes to a family. Clinical implications will be discussed.

Video & Discussion, "The Best of Family Therapy" (1985)

"Bowen theory's concept of an "open relationship" is the opposite of emotional distance. An open relationship is discussed at length in one of a series of video interviews I (Michael Kerr) did with Murray Bowen, titled,  The Best of Family Therapy . In an open relationship both parties are able to communicate their innermost thoughts and feelings without fear of hurting the other person. Such a relationship enhances the functioning of both people and is health promoting. In an interview..., (Bowen) described four contexts in which an open relationship most often exists: (1) the early mother-infant relationship; (2) courtship; (3) a psychoanalytic relationship; and (4) a fantasied relationship with someone (Bowen & Kerr. 1985)."  -- from Michael Kerr, Bowen Theory's Secrets: Revealing the Hidden Life of Families , page 44.

CFC faculty member John Bell, MDiv, will lead a discussion following the videotape.

Afternoon Workshops:
Participants can choose to attend any one workshop from each of the two afternoon blocks

Block One: 1:30 p.m. to 2:40 p.m.

How Families Adapt to Changing Economic Conditions
Stephanie Ferrera, MSW.

Identifying and Changing Family Triangles
Sydney Reed, MSW

Bowen Theory and the Business of Doing Business
Leslie Ann Fox, MA, former CEO, Care Communications, Inc.

Block Two: 2:50 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Living Thoughtfully in an Anxious World: Ideas from Bowen Theory
Regina Ferrera, MSW

The Cost of Losing Self
Cecilia Guzman, LCPC.

I Have Bad News to Share -- How We Set Context in Relationships
John Bell, MDiv

Plan Ahead for the 2020-2021
Applications are being accepted for the next session of the training program beginning September, 2020. The post-graduate training program grounds clinical practitioners, clergy, and organizational consultants and leaders in Bowen theory and its applications in therapy, consultation and leadership. This training program is designed for professionals seeking to enhance their work as therapists, consultants or leaders; to work on level of differentiation of self; and are interested in learning about the latest scientific research in the neurosciences, leadership development, child development, and the natural sciences. The CFC post-graduate training program is taught by Bowen theory practitioners.

For further information, contact Sydney Reed, MSW.

CFC Faculty Publishing...

Bob Noone, PhD
In January 2020, Handbook of Bowen Family Systems Theory and Research Methods: A Systems Model for Family Research, Mignonette N. Keller and Robert J. Noone, editors, will be published by Routledge Press.

Bob Noone, PhD, is co-founder and faculty member of Center for Family Consultation, editor of the Family Systems: A Journal of Natural Systems Thinking in Psychiatry and the Sciences , published by the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family, Washington, DC, and co-editor of The Family Emotional System: An Integrative Concept for Theory, Science, and Practice, Lexington Books, Lanham, MD, 2015. 

The winter edition of Family Systems Forum, published by Center for the Study of Natural Systems and the Family (CSNSF), Houston and El Paso, TX, Katie Long, editor, will include an article by Stephanie Ferrera, MSW, titled "A forty-year retrospective on an encounter with Bowen theory."

Stephanie Ferrera, MSW
Stephanie Ferrera, MSW , has been a partner in Center for Family Consultation, Evanston, IL, since 1980. Using her knowledge of family emotional process accumulated over the past 40 years through her research, writing, teaching, and clinical practice, she has published book chapters and journal articles, and is on the editorial board of Family Systems, the journal of The Bowen Center for the Study of the Family, Washington, DC. She is in private practice of individual, marital, and family therapy in Oak Park, IL.

CFC Faculty Speaking at Home and Around the World...

Stephanie Ferrera, MSW, will present a paper, "The Growth Dynamic," at the Bowen Center's Spring Conference,  Creating a Climate for Change , in Washington, DC, April 3-4, 2020

Stephanie gives an overview of this important conference...

"Creating a Climate for Change" is the title of the Bowen Center's annual Spring Conference, set for April 3-4, 2020. Serious concerns about climate change and its many consequences will be the focus of the meeting, but this conference will be different from others that focus on the environment. Emphasis will be on the human factor. A key question will be: What must we do to create a climate for change in our way of thinking, our behavior, and our way of life, in order to establish a responsible and sustainable relationship with our endangered home planet?

In his writings on emotional process in society in the 1970s, Dr. Bowen chose sober language to describe the reality of the human imbalance with the natural world. He saw us "on a collision course with the environment" (Family T herapy in Clinical Practice , p. 272) and "moving into crises of unparalleled proportions." (Family  Therapy in Clinical Practice , p. 281) Now, over four decades later and with more dramatic evidence of the dangers we face, we are beginning to contemplate the order of change that we must make.

Dr. John M. Gowdy, Professor of Economics at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, will be the guest scientist for this meeting. Dr. Gowdy approaches the study of economics from an evolutionary and ecological perspective. He has traced human economic evolution from the early hunter-gatherer communities through the millennia of growth that have resulted in the present expansionist global market system. He proposes an economic model that would address the excesses of the global market and move us toward a just and ecologically sustainable economy. There is a striking accord between the thinking of Dr. Bowen and Dr. Gowdy regarding the crisis we face and how we must correct course.

Presentations on various dimensions of the human impact on the environment will also be made by Bowen scholars from across the country. The conference will be held at Crossway Community in Kensington, Maryland. For more information...

Four CFC Faculty Presenting Papers at the Third International Conference on Bowen Theory... 

CFC faculty Robert Noone, PhD, John Bell, MDiv, Leslie Ann Fox, MA, and Patty Sheridan, MBA, RHIA, FAHIMA, are trekking over to Lapland, Sweden, June 15 to 17, 2020, to speak at the conference, Managing Relations in a Changing World -- Bowen Theory in Organizations, Families and Communities. Join us in Sweden to hear the CFC faculty speak on the following topics:

Robert J. Noone, PhD

John Bell, MDiv

Leslie Ann Fox, MA

Patty Sheridan, MBA, RHIA, FAHIMA

It won't be all work for the faculty. The sun shines all day and all night in Lapland during June, so we can do lots of sight-seeing all night. Keynote speakers include US-based Bowen theory experts,  Dr. Anne S. McKnight, Director of the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family, Washington, DC; Dr. Daniel V. Papero, faculty at the Bowen Center, Washington, DC; Dr. Michael E. Kerr, President of the Bowen Theory Academy, Islesboro, Maine; Ms. Kathleen Wiseman, faculty at the Bowen Center, Washington, DC, and founder and President of Working Systems, Inc.; and Ms. Victoria Harrison, Director of the Center for the Study of Natural Systems and the Family, Houston, TX, and faculty at the Bowen Center, Washington, DC. Papers will also be presented and discussed by Bowen theory experts from around the world. Register at the Bowen Forum, a non-profit organization in Sweden.

Bowen Theory Online Resources Around the Network

Do you need a brief, frequent booster shot of systems thinking on a daily, weekly or monthly basis? If yes, subscribe to free online blogs, like CFC's The Systems Thinker, or newsletters like and Speaking to a wide variety of issues in human behavior, all three publications make frequent references to Bowen theory, with short essays or brief posts.

Register now for CFC Online Video Courses starting in 2020

Busy practitioners gain a basic understanding of Bowen theory and learn a new way to think about clinical cases! Learn from the comfort of your office.

Bowen Family Systems Theory 101: Next course starts March 5, 2020
Cecilia Guzman, MS

Cecilia Guzman, MS , CFC faculty member and private practitioner, conducts this 8-week series of one-hour lectures and discussion via The course is designed to provide the participant with a general overview of each of the eight concepts of Bowen Family Systems Theory A basic understanding of these eight concepts leads participants 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. Weekly sessions meet Thursdays from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. on

Earn 8 CEUs with full-series attendance. Approved for social worker, psychologist, marriage and family therapist, and professional counselor education credits.

Using Bowen theory in your practice? Benefit from a Clinical Supervision study group. Using the lens of Bowen theory to present and discuss your clinical cases with a CFC faculty member and Bowen theory practitioner helps to continuously hone your approach to therapy using Bowen theory and systems thinking.

Kelly Matthews-Pluta, MSW
Kelly Matthews-Pluta, MSW , CFC faculty member and private practioner, provides online clinical supervision to family therapists in small groups. The group meets monthly via video conferencing available at . This is a nine-month program.

At the monthly Study Group meetings, Bowen Family Systems Theory is discussed and applied, using  Growing Yourself Up by Jenny Brown. The first 30 minutes of each session is spent discussing the assigned book chapter, followed by two 45-minute clinical case presentations by participants. Each participant in the study group is expected to present cases at 3 meetings over a 9 month period.

For further information, contact  Kelly Matthews-Pluta regarding new openings in the program.

The study group on Bowen Theory and Meditation is intended for individuals who already have knowledge of Bowen theory, meditation or mindfulness, and seek to further their independent studies of these topics.

Each member of the study group is on a self-directed learning path, choosing the aspects of Bowen theory and meditation that intrigue them most. The common theme in this study group is to understand how Bowen theory, science, and meditation and/or mindfulness practices (eastern and/or western) intersect, i.e., how they are similar, different and/or synergistic. The study group is for people interested in working on such ideas, and who would benefit from presenting their ideas and listening to and discussing the ideas of others.

The study group will meet on Mondays from 10:30 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. CST, 7 times during 2020. It will meet using video conference. Scheduled meeting dates are on February 17th, March 9th, April 13th, May 11th, September 14th, November 9th, and December 14th.

Registration deadline: February 10, 2020

For more information about registering to join the study group, or to audit the course to participate in discussions, please contact one of the CFC administrative program coordinators, Lisa Moss or Leslie Fox.