“When families come to me for help, I assume they have problems not because there is something inherently wrong with them, but because they’ve gotten stuck — stuck with a structure whose time has passed and a story that no longer works.”

Ronald B Cohen, MD

Bowen Family Systems Theory (BFST) recognizes the need to do individual therapy from the family’s point of view, and is directed towards resolving relationship difficulties and intergenerational conflicts. These include predictable family life-cycle challenges and unexpected family crises as outlined below. The process is equally effective for individuals, couples, intimate partners and families.

Normal Transitions in the Family Life Cycle

In order to best understand the growth and development of a family throughout its life cycle, it is necessary to pay attention to the stresses of transition points. Difficulties often arise and correlate with predictable changes in the family configuration. These include leaving home as a young adult, marriage, parenting young children, parenting adolescents, launching young adult children, loss of physical and mental capacity as we age, loss of others, and death.

Articles: Healthy Aging | Family Resilience | Becoming an Adult: Leaving Home and Staying Connected

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Looking to work on your marriage or other intimate relationships?

Unresolved issues from childhood get in the way of working on new relationships. Family systems theory provides a practical and constructive approach to preparing for love and intimacy, allowing individuals to explore and understand the rules of their family of origin, their role in it, the influence of these experiences, and how they impact their current relationships.
Article: On Becoming a Couple – Marriage Preparation & Enrichment

Worried about your adolescent or young adult child’s failure to launch?

In “launching” their children, parents transition from the existing parent-child relationship to a new, more co-equal, adult-to-adult relationship. The goal for the young adult is to become emotionally and financially accountable to one’s self while at the same time maintaining connections with their family of origin, without taking on the family’s “stuff.” Failure to launch results in either fusion, with the young adult not being able to leave home, or cutoffs and estrangement. Either way the family remains enmeshed and tied up in not being free to develop and grow.
Article: Becoming an Adult: Leaving Home and Staying Connected

Want a healthy and successful approach to aging?

Adults aged 85 and older are the fastest growing segment of the American population. With this “graying” of society, family members face many physical, emotional, relationship and financial changes. Family systems therapy can provide the opportunity to build resilience and hope, readjust intergenerational relationships and foster continuing family health. Life review and integration will hopefully lead to a sense of fulfillment, acceptance of one’s experiences and acknowledgement of approaching death. Renegotiations of the couple relationship address changes in role expectation and relationship time.
Transitional living arrangements necessitate reorganization and transformation of family relationships, roles and rules. In reflecting on one’s life journey, consideration of the legacy for future generations is paramount for most seniors.
Article: Healthy Aging

Want to find more satisfying ways to relate to your partner?

Satisfaction in intimate partner relationships depends on a secure emotional attachment. The central issue in a marriage is the strength and responsiveness of the emotional bond. Will you be there to “Hold Me Tight” when it really matters? A secure attachment helps develop a safe haven for friendship and trust, providing strong resources for coping and problem solving. Learning to be more flexible, open and forgiving helps couples express their needs to each other in a more intimate, loving and supportive way.
Article: What it is & What it isn’t and What Perhaps it Could Be

Are you caught in the “sandwich” generation?

The “sandwich” generation is comprised of those who are caring for both children and elderly parents at the same time. The developmental tasks at this point in the family life cycle include becoming a couple again, developing adult relationships with adult children, resolving issues with one’s parents, and adapting to their death. Family Coaching at this stage of the family life cycle can help to reduce interpersonal distress, resolve conflicted interactions, improve communication, strengthen relationships, reduce chronic stress and anxiety, create a nurturing atmosphere in which to promote active problem solving, healing and emotional well-being, and help all family members achieve an enhanced quality of life.
Article: The Sandwich Generation

 

Unexpected Crises

Family therapy and psychoeducation help improve the quality of life for patients and families facing unexpected crises. These include marital separation, divorce and remarriage; alcoholism and chemical dependence; chronic, severe, and potentially life-shortening illnesses; untimely or premature death; and complicated psychiatric disorders.

Family Systems Therapy is the treatment of choice for relationship difficulties, intergenerational conflict, and other problems common to the family life cycle.

Articles: Alcoholism and the Family “A Systemic Approach”
The Critical Role of Family Therapy in the Treatment of Chemical Dependence – A Systemic Approach
Mastering Family Challenges in Serious Illness and Disability | Family Resilience
The Practice of Psychiatric Family Therapy | Thinking about Thanksgiving
You Can Go Home Again and Enjoy It!! But How?

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Is your marriage distressed from fighting, betrayal or infidelity?

“Happily ever after” is a myth. As much as we would like to believe otherwise, John Gottman’s “Four Horseman” of Marital Distress – criticism, contempt, defensiveness and stonewalling – frequently create marital discord and unhappiness. Breaking the cycle of attack-defend, criticize-withdraw requires work. Systemic family therapy helps resolve conflicted interactions, improve communication, reduce chronic stress and anxiety, strengthen relationships, and create a nurturing atmosphere in which to promote problem solving, healing and emotional well-being.
Article: Coaching Toward Better Family Relationships

Are you struggling with separation, divorce or remarriage?

Divorce is an unexpected and off schedule process of change for the entire extended family. If all the adults are working at it full time, it takes a minimum of two to three years for a family to adjust to its new structure. Applying family systems therapy provides the opportunity to heal and grow, allowing one to view divorce as a cooperative effort to build resilience and hope, relearn how to be effective in the world, and foster improved communication within the family.
Articles: The Emotional Divorce | Divorced Parents – Intact Families | Family Resilience

Is your family struggling with drug or alcohol abuse?

When one person has a problem with drug and/or alcohol abuse, the entire family is affected. There are far more non-chemical dependent family members whose lives are negatively impacted than there are individuals with chemical dependence. The relational effects of alcohol and drug abuse include chaos, unpredictability, marital discord, abuse, neglect, incest and interruption of the healthy development of the family. Family therapy can help support and maintain long-term sobriety, and be protective of future generations.
Article: The Critical Role of Family Therapy in the Treatment of Chemical Dependence – A Systemic Approach

Do you have a family member with a chronic or potentially life-shortening illness?

Serious illness and disability are among the greatest challenges families face. Shame, anger, guilt, burnout, and isolation can often undermine the family’s ability to work together just when all members most need each other. With chronic disorders, an important family goal is to deal with the illness demands without family members sacrificing their own or the family’s development.
The diagnosis of a severe, chronic, recurrent or life threatening medical or psychiatric illness impacts the entire family. Medical and Psychiatric Family Therapy offer patients and their families the opportunity to communicate accurately with one another, express feelings, coordinate efforts, and delegate tasks. Regaining health thus becomes a cooperative effort of healing and renewal.
Articles: Helping Parents of Children With Chronic Health Conditions | Mastering Family Challenges in Serious Illness and Disability | The Practice of Psychiatric Family Therapy

Has your family suffered an untimely or premature death?

The death of a family member always involves multiple losses – past, present and future. These include the loss of the physical person and the current family composition, a shift in roles and relationships, and the loss of hopes, dreams and fantasies of what might have been. Untimely loss such as early death of a spouse, a parent or the death of a child creates what Murray Bowen refers to as an “Emotional Shock Wave” that can manifest anywhere in the extended family. Prolonged mourning, complicated grief and bereavement, and survivor guilt can significantly impair the family’s continued growth and development for many years to come.
Article: Family Resilience

 

Relationship Difficulties

Family systems theory provides a practical and constructive approach to psychotherapy, allowing individuals to explore and understand the rules of their family of origin, their role in it, the influence of these experiences, and how they impact their current relationships. Treatment techniques include creating a multi-generation genogram or family tree that explores the functioning of a family as a whole; conducting interviews with parents, siblings and children; and boundary setting exercises to help the person shift non-productive family patterns. Family Systems Therapy’s collaborative, resilience-promoting approach focuses on strengths and resources to heal from painful experiences and recover from life crises in order to enhance the functioning and well being of families, couples and individuals.

Articles: The Family Forest | What it is & What it isn’t and What Perhaps it Could Be

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Are you concerned that family members are cut-off and no longer talk with each other?

Family members often fail each other in important and painful ways, yet they remain family forever and must find their way forward together. Techniques for helping individuals deal with difficult family relationships are not widely known by most individual therapists. As a therapeutic coach, I help people plan and strategize to proactively define themselves in relationship to others in their families without emotionally cutting off or giving in. Coaching, or family therapy with one person, offers individuals a process for making changes in their relationships even without the participation of other family members.
Articles:  The Family ForestCoaching Toward Better Family Relationships

Are the difficult conversations in your family becoming even more difficult?

Are you in the midst of a family crisis? Are the difficult conversations in your family becoming even more difficult? It is important to include the whole family in resolving and detoxifying the crises.
If you are experiencing family relationship distress, choose your therapist wisely. Select a family therapist who has had specific training in family therapy, is comfortable with emotional intensity and will offer clear direction to help resolve the identified problems.Don’t allow the problems of the past to be visited on future generations. Whatever doesn’t get resolved at this time will be left for your children to struggle with. Is that the legacy you wish to leave?
Articles: The Magic of Family Therapy | Systemic Thinking for “Individual Diagnoses” | The Family Guy & The Relationship Doctor 
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Bowen Family Systems Coaching


Bowen Family Systems Coaching with Ronald B Cohen, MD is the treatment of choice for complicated relationship problems and intergenerational conflicts. Include the whole family in resolving and improving what is going on right NOW! When the entire family works to make the difficult journey together, the results are almost magical.
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Why Ronald B Cohen, MD?


If you are experiencing family relationship problems and distress, don’t treat all therapists alike. Look for a Family Therapist who has had specific training, is comfortable with emotional intensity and will offer clear direction to help resolve identified problems. Ronald B. Cohen, MD works with the whole family in a manner that can save you time and be more cost effective than equal doses of individual therapy.
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For Mental Health Professionals


I offer both individual coaching and a consultation group to help facilitate the acquisition and further development of knowledge and expertise in Bowen Family Systems Theory and Coaching for the enhancement of clinical efficacy, productivity and satisfaction. If this is something you want to do professionally, and especially if you have not had significant training and experience in working with family dynamics and relationships, then experiential learning by doing is the best way to go.
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