Center for the Study of Natural Systems and the Family offers Educational Programs in Bowen Theory and The Study of Natural Systems and the Family in Texas as part of its mission to be a resource for addressing problems facing families, organizations, and society in realistic and practical ways. The programs are designed to:

  • Introduce family members and professionals in various fields to applications of Bowen theory
  • Provide next steps for those who want to build upon an initial interest
  • Support ongoing study and training

These educational programs:

  • Support efforts to understand factors identified in Bowen theory to impact health and quality of life in families and society,
  • Integrate knowledge from the natural sciences and the study of family systems in research and projects that benefit families and the community,
  • Promote the efforts of individuals to develop a base of responsible leadership from which to address problems in the family and organizations and
  • Support applications within the health sciences, education, social service, religious, and business institutions

The natural systems theory developed by Murray Bowen provides a comprehensive framework for understanding and addressing human problems. Basic theoretical concepts can guide work in medicine, mental health, research, social services, education, politics, religious vocation, and business. The theory, however, is neither a fixed body of knowledge nor a set of techniques that can be appended to conventional thinking. 

These Bowen Theory educational programs serve as a resource to individuals within existing organizations, professions, and fields who are motivated to understand better and address the part that relationships and patterns of reaction play in health and human functioning. The direction of projects is diverse and develops out of the background that individuals bring to the study of Bowen theory. Although applications of theory, science, and knowledge vary with the background and interests of students, learning to “think systems” is guided by several standard principles.

People discern the difference between thinking and subjective reactions, between assumption and fact. People learn the implications of various ways of thinking for action and outcome. People develop the ability to see for themselves, to bring a unique perspective to any human dilemma. People learn how to gain new knowledge about a situation or others. People develop their ability to influence the family or work systems for the best they can be, not through telling others what to do but through working on their reactivity about others. People vary in how quickly they can develop their ability to think for themselves, recognize subjective reactions, and create a more factual perspective. People differ in their ability to see the system they are part of, their impact on others, and the effect others have on them. The learning process involves changing how people relate to each other and changing the person, brain, biology, and behavior.

Michael Kerr — Learning to think systems about human behavior is dependent upon emotional changes within the learner.

People can best learn through careful study in their own family, where the impact of relationships and subjective reactions are most evident. Professionals are not exempt from problems in the family, and those who direct their studies toward living concerns will learn most quickly. People learn about the factors outlined in the concepts of Bowen theory through observation and practice, example, and trial and error experiences in their own family. Change is based on understanding the part one’s reactions play in the system and working to change oneself.

The educational programs offered by CSNSF are designed to allow time for people to learn at their own rate and to promote study and practice that will allow people to proceed as quickly as possible. Individual consultation for the study of one’s own family and work on differentiation of self is an essential component of these educational programs. One cannot learn or teach from books alone. Regular meetings with a coach focus on understanding emotional patterns in the family that govern what happens in life and at work. The coach or consultant is experienced in studying family systems and committed to the differentiation of self as the basis for learning and change.

Continuing Education Credits for CSNSF Educational Programs are approved in Social Work, LMFT, and LPC. Clergy from various denominations have arranged CEU credit for these programs.

Victoria Harrison — The power in this theory lies in learning to “think systems” and to work on differentiation of self as the basis for unique solutions to common problems.