The Practice Is the Performance

The Practice Is the Performance

Walking the Talk

“This work is a truly personal one;
we only know the whole truth of ourselves.”
— Rabbi Marcelo Bronstein

Murray Bowen began his essay, Theory in the Practice of Psychotherapy, with ”there are striking discrepancies between theory and practice in psychotherapy,” which begs the question, what exactly is the practice of Bowen Family Systems Theory “Coaching”?

If we define “practice” in the sense of doing something regularly and consistently, as action rather than thought or ideas; not as a rehearsal, not as a means of perfecting and getting somewhere, but as a commitment to a new way of being with others, then how do we best develop a practice based on Bowen’s theory?

Sometimes I think about the analogy between basic/pure science/mathematics and applied science/applied mathematics/engineering. Other times I think that the operationalization of theory in clinical practice is just that.

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Individuation and Togetherness

Individuation and Togetherness

A plea for peaceful coexistence

There is no differentiation without connection,
no autonomy without healthy interdependence
(or as Michael Kerr wrote:
…differentiation of self and togetherness
are two distinct, counterbalancing life forces
that can operate as a working team.)

(N.B. see author’s notes below)

In response to my blog post On Differentiation: The Mindfulness of Murray Bowen, Bonnie Hall wrote:

Ron, I really like your succinct explanation of the togetherness and individuality forces. I have a question about this that I’d appreciate feedback on: Bowen believed these two forces to be “equally intense.” I’ve often wondered about the “equal” part. If they are equal, then why is the individuality force the one that needs the attention (hence also called the differentiating force)? It is hard to differentiate out of the togetherness force, not the individuality force, right?

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Societal Emotional Processes

Societal Emotional Processes

How does Bowen Family Systems Theory translate to the larger societal system?  “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” — Margaret Mead (1902-1978) Societal Emotional Processes, on the face of it, a self-evident oxymoron. What…

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On Differentiation

On Differentiation

The Mindfulness of Murray Bowen

“Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass.
It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
— Vivian Greene

In response to my blog post Doing “Bowen”, Rebecca Chesin, MA, LAMFT of Twin Cities Relationship Resources, LLC noted and requested, “Nice thumbnail sketches. Would love to see each one expanded into their own post.” To briefly review, the following are Bowen’s eight interlocking concepts

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“The Emotional Shock Wave” of Death

“The Emotional Shock Wave” of Death

“And who by fire, who by water,
Who in the sunshine, who in the night time,
Who by high ordeal, who by common trial,
Who in your merry merry month of may,
Who by very slow decay,
And who shall I say is calling?”
— Leonard Cohen
— Who by Fire

I am going to die. You are going to die. And with apologies to Country Joe And The Fish, We are all going to die. Aging, Sickness and Death in one form or another will get us all. And yet, many of us try mightily to ignore this inevitable and inescapable fact of life.

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The Alcoholic Family

The Alcoholic Family

A Systemic Lack of Responsibility for Self

“… Bowen Theory can be helpful
no matter whom the client is!”
— Kevin Cundiff

How to develop a drunk in 8 or more easy steps (with apologies to Murray Bowen)?

Start with an imbalance of responsibility among family members, toss in 100-year-old patterns of family emotional isolation, simmer over a large base of chronic anxiety, season with some acute stressors and then note:

  1. The more the family is threatened by irresponsible drinking behavior, the more anxious they get
  2. The more anxious they get, the more they become critical
  3. The more they become critical, the greater the emotional isolation
  4. The greater the emotional isolation, the more the alcoholic drinks
  5. The more the alcoholic drinks, the higher the anxiety
  6. The higher the anxiety, the greater the criticism and emotional distance
  7. The greater the criticism and emotional distance, the more the drinking becomes problematic
  8. The more the drinking becomes problematic, the more the family is threatened by irresponsible drinking behavior, and the music goes ‘round and ’round, Whoa-ho-ho, Back to number 1.
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The Clinician as a “Solid Self”

The Clinician as a “Solid Self”

How did we ever get anywhere without Google Maps? And for us guys, it’s a good thing we don’t have to stop at a gas station and ask for a GPS. But what do you do when you actually have to know where you’re going before you get there? Well it certainly helps if you’ve been there before. Now if we as clinicians, and especially those of us who subscribe to Bowen Family Systems Theory (BFST), aspire to engage the folks we work with on a journey of research and understanding, what is the road map we might employ?

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Doing “Bowen”
Turning Theory into Practice

Doing “Bowen”<br>Turning Theory into Practice

“There’s nothing so practical
as a good theory”
— Kurt Lewin

We all carry unresolved problems from past life cycle stages with us, into our current situations. At times of family life-cycle transitions and unexpected crises, conflict and dysregulation arise. Questions about how best to respond include: (1) What can you do to help resolve the conflict, reduce stress and anxiety, improve communication, and promote active problem solving and healing? (2) How do you maintain both your autonomy and the connections with emotionally important people in your life? (3) Which behaviors will help make things better no matter what anyone else does? and (4) How do you deal with differences without loosing connection?

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Focus on the Process: Enhance the Journey

Focus on the Process: Enhance the Journey

With the recent conclusion of the Sochi Winter Olympics, those of us fortunate enough to be denizens of the Northeast are left to luxuriate in just another beautiful day of the disruptive wonders of cold, black ice and snow. As I become more and more ready to trade in blizzards and hurricanes for earthquakes and forest fires, my most memorable positive was reading about the success of 18-year-old U.S. skiing sensation Mikaela Shiffrin, who was encouraged by her parents to “focus on the process of athletic achievement instead of its results.”

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Individual Therapy from a Family Perspective

Individual Therapy from a Family Perspective

How is Bowen Theory Coaching different from all other family therapies?

And why should you care?

As paradoxical as it may sound, the majority of family therapists have an individualistic orientation, while Bowen Theory coaches and therapists help individuals from a family relationship perspective. So Family Therapy with One Motivated Family Member is not an oxymoron. Who knew?

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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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