Victoria Harrison, MA, LMFT, LCSW
Victoria Harrison, a founding director of Center for the Study of Natural Systems, now serves as the Current Director of the Board and directs programs in Houston, Texas. She develops and teaches in educational programs, provides supervision consultation, and is active in research projects and writing.
Ms. Harrison began to study at Georgetown University Family Center in 1976 after graduation from Rice University and from a Master’s program at Antioch University. She continued to study and work at GFC while developing a private practice and working in community services in Baltimore, Maryland. She was invited to serve on the faculty of Bowen Center for the Study of the Family (formerly GFC) in 1992 and now commutes between her home and office in Houston and Washington, DC, where she directed the Special Postgraduate Program at BCSF from 2003-2008 and currently teaches and supervises in that program.
Ms. Harrison is licensed to practice psychotherapy in Texas as a Marriage and Family Therapist and holds national certification for biofeedback practice through Biofeedback Certification Institute of America. She is approved to provide training and supervision in biofeedback by BCIA and in family systems psychotherapy by Texas AMFT. She established Family Health Services in Houston to provide psychotherapy with biofeedback and neurofeedback based upon Bowen theory. She works with families who are dealing with chronic illness such as diabetes, depression, GI diagnoses, among many others, and with symptoms related to reproduction such as infertility, ovulatory disturbance, endometriosis, and sexual problems. She also works with families experiencing marital conflict and infidelity.
The focus for Ms. Harrison’s clinical research is the impact of relationships in the family on physiology responsible for health and reproduction. She was awarded the Caskie Research Award by Bowen Center for the Study of the Family in 2004 for her research on “Reactivity and Family Relationships in Development and Treatment of Symptoms that Impact Health and Reproduction with Endometriosis as a Model.”
Health and Reproduction
Victoria Harrison has pursued research projects using Bowen theory to better understand symptoms that impact health and reproduction since 1980. The history of health problems in her own family and the opportunity to work with families experiencing infertility related to various diagnoses fueled what has become a life’s work. One goal of research, of course, is to provide knowledge that is useful in improving health and in dealing with factors that affect reproduction. Another goal of research is a broader understanding of the ways in which health and reproduction are part of human evolution, responsive to factors and forces that operate in all other forms of life.
A timeline of this research is available in a presentation that she made on “Bowen Theory, Reproduction & Evolution” at Bowen Theory Then and Now, a conference held by Western Pennsylvania Family Center in 2003. (Family Systems Forum, Vol. V, Number 3, page 5) Publications include:
“Stress Reactivity and Family Relationships in the Development and
Treatment of Endometriosis.” April 2005. Fertility and Sterility. Vol. 83
No. 4. 857-864.
“Emotional Cutoff and Reproduction.” 2003. Chapter 10 in
Emotional Cutoff and Bowen Theory, edited by Peter Titleman.
Haworth Press: New York.
“A Better Chance: The Impact of Family Systems on Health and
Reproduction.” 2002 in Family Systems Forum
” Family Emotional Process, Reactivity and the Regulation of Ovulation.”
Winter, 1998. Family Systems. Bowen Center for the Study of the Family.
“Patterns of Ovulation, Reactivity and Family Emotional Process.” 1997.
Annals of NY Academy of the Sciences, vol. 807, The Integrative Neurobiology
of Affiliiation. 522-524.
“A Wider Lens: Bowen Theory and a Systems View of Symptoms” in CAPA Quarterly,
to be published in February, 2013. Australia.
Reprints for publications and articles based upon this research are available.
Her current research direction focuses on Differentiation of Self & The Regulation of Anxiety in the Family. Bowen theory proposes that all symptoms are the product of how the family system is functioning, of reactivity stirred in the effort to adapt to challenges that increase anxiety and disturb relationships between family members. Two factors are particularly powerful in driving symptoms: the level of differentiation of self and the degree of anxiety in the family.
This ongoing study investigates physiological reactivity and anxious reactions in families at higher and lower levels of differentiation of self in order to better understand human adaptation as well as symptom development and what people can do to improve health and functioning in the family.
The research employs three F1000 Biofeedback/Neurofeedback units modified by Frank Deits, the engineer who designed this instrument, to obtain simultaneous measures of physiological reactions for mother and father and children. The protocol is the same for each family: Two family members talk to each other, about self and the other, for 3 minutes while the third family member listens.
This protocol allows observations about the patterns of physiological reactions in nuclear family triangles in families that are selected
- to compare higher and lower levels of differentiation of self and
- to investigate different mechanisms for managing relationship intensity & anxiety, ie. conflict, distance, reciprocity, symptoms in spouse, & projection onto the next generation and
- to track the changes that occur throughout the family when one family member is working on differentiation of self.
The first family to participate in this study has been the subject of several presentations that identify levels and patterns of anxiety corresponding to symptoms present and to patterns of behavior that are described in the facts of family functioning.
DVD’s are available at Bowen Center for the Study of the Family for
- “Physiological Reactivity, Anxiety, and Differentiation of Self in Nuclear Family Triangles” presented at the 2009 Annual Symposium
- “Variation in Physiological Reactivity in Parental Triangle” presented at Triangles and the Regulation of Social Systems, Spring 2009
- ”Contributions of Nuclear Family Triangles to Variation in Physiological Reactivity” presented at The Impact of Relationships on Individual Variation, the Spring Meeting 2010
Several steps have been accomplished in the last year:
- A bioengineer rebuilt the F1000 units in order to more easily access the data from physiological measures via USB ports.
- Frank Deits modified the F1000 units to synchronize measures and provide research software.
- A volunteer family was located to represent higher levels of differentiation of self.
- A video consultant, Scott Coneby, began to work on capturing facial expressions during the research protocol, exporting graphs and visual data from the F1000, and editing diverse information to examine for patterns of reactivity.
- Mercy Hyde donated a 4th F1000 instrument to the project.
- Clinical interview videotapes have been made with the physiology and EEG on screen for research and teaching purposes.
- Raoul LeBlanc and David Mason collaborate on Excell formatting for systems analysis of physiology.
The budget for this research is available upon request. Financial contributions in 2009 and 2010 have made it possible to accomplish progress to date & will be necessary for further progress. Thank you to all those who have contributed to this work!
2016. “Opportunities for Differentiation of Self around Deaths and Dying” Family Systems Forum, Winter 2016, Vol. 17, Number 4.2016. “The Dance of Life in Nature and the Family: Emotional Systems and the Regulation of Reproduction” in The Family Emotional System The Interface of Theory, Science, and Practice. Edited by R. Noone and D. Papero.
2015. “Bowen Theory and Differences in Thinking.” Family Systems Forum. Volume XVI, 4:3.
2014. “A Wider Lens Bowen Theory and a Natural Systems View of Symptoms.” Family Systems Forum. Volume XV, 2:3.
2014. “Emotional Reactivity, Fusion and Differentiation of Self in Family Physiology: Clinical Case Research.” Differentiation of Self. Bowen Family Systems Theory Perspectives. Ed. Peter Titelman. NY: Routledge.
2013. “Contribution of Nuclear Family Triangles to Variation in Physiological Reactivity.” Family Systems 9(2):145-153.
2012. “Overcoming Blind Spots Common in Leadership.” Family Systems Forum. Volume XII, 4:3.
2012. “The Functions of Triangles in Problems and Problem-Solving.” Family Systems Forum. Volume XIV, 2:6.
2012. “Defining and Examining Beliefs as a Part of Differentiation of Self.” Family Systems Forum. Volume XIV. 3:9.
2011. “Live Learning: Differentiation of Self as the Basis for Learning.” Bringing Systems Thinking to Life. Eds. Ona Bregman and Charles White. NY: Routledge.2009. “Family Reactions to Birth.” Family Systems Forum. Volume XI. 4:1.
2008. “The Emotional Side of Money, Part 2: Wealth and Health in Families and Societies.” Family Systems Forum. Volume X. 4:1.
2007. “The Emotional Side of Money.” Family Systems Forum. Volume IX. 4:1.
2007. “Family Systems and Learning, Part III: The Difference One Person Can Make.” Family Systems Forum. Volume VIII, 1.1.
2005. “Family Systems and Learning, Part I: Teaching What One Does Not Know.” Family Systems Forum. Volume VII. 3:3.
2005. “Family Systems and Learning, Part II: Reading, Writing and Relationships.” Family Systems Forum. Volume VII. 4:1.
2005. “Stress Reactivity and Family Relationships in the Development and Treatment of Endometriosis.” Fertility and Sterility 83(4):857-864.
2005. “A Better Chance: Part VII, Progress Report: One Family’s Experience.” Family Systems Forum. Volume VII. 1:3.
2004. “A Better Chance: Part VI, An Example of Systems Theory.” Family Systems Forum. Volume VI. 3:3.
2004. “A Better Chance: Part V, Understanding and Managing Emotional Reactivity and Chronic Illness” Family Systems Forum. Volume VI, 2:3.
2003. “Bowen Theory and the Study of Reproduction and Evolution” Family Systems Forum. Volume V. 3:5.
2003. “Emotional Cutoff and Reproduction” in Emotional Cutoff and Bowen Theory. Peter Titelman, ed. Binghamton: The Haworth Press.
2002. “A Better Chance: Part III” Family Systems Forum. Volume IV.2:3.
2002. “A Better Chance: Part IV” Family Systems Forum. Volume IV. 3:1.
2001. “A Better Chance: A Series on Systems Therapy Based on Bowen Theory” Family Systems Forum. Volume III. 2:4.
2001. “A Better Chance: Part II” Family Systems Forum. Volume III. 3:1.
1998. “Family Emotional Process, Reactivity, and Patterns of Ovulation.” Family Systems 4(1):49-62.
1997. “Patterns of Ovulation, Reactivity, and Family Emotional Process.” The Integrative Neurobiology of Affiliation. Annals of the NY Academy of the Sciences 807:522-524.