I received my BS degree in Merchandising Management from Michigan State University in 1984. I picked that major because I hoped it was both something my father would approve (he didn’t) and that wasn’t as math-heavy as a business degree. In other words, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and didn’t feel capable of doing very much. By 1992 I was married with two kids. I’d had a series of decent jobs and a successful career as a restaurateur but also ongoing, almost debilitating conflict and stress with my family of origin. This stress spilled over into my marriage, eventually leading to divorce.
The study of Psychology had appealed since childhood for a particular reason I remember clearly: When I was in second grade a male psychologist came to the house a few times to work with my brother, who has Fragile X Syndrome and is autistic and developmentally disabled. This man brought an aura of calm into our chaotic, unhappy and weird household. All my life I’d carried unhappy feelings within me and into my intimate relationships. I also carried the fantasy that if I could only understand human behavior – why people do what they do – like that psychologist had, then I could be finally be happy.
In 1992 I decided to go back to school to pursue a degree in psychology. When I looked at various academic programs it became obvious that I was really interested in Family Systems Theory; the study of human relationships. This led me to pursue a Graduate Degree in Marriage and Family Therapy.
Why Bowen Family Systems Therapy
Of all the theories we studied in graduate school, the one that resonated the most was Bowen Family Systems Theory. Murray Bowen studied families over time and discovered that all families are subject to the same opposing forces of togetherness and independence. Families differ in how well they manage the challenges of life, but every family and every individual struggles with the same basic issues of how to be a member of the group while remaining a distinct individual.
Over the years I’ve had therapy and training from many approaches but never achieved any progress on what I viewed as my core issues-family conflict, depression and low self-esteem. It wasn’t until I started individual coaching in Bowen theory that things really started to improve. Theory does not provide an easy path, dealing as it does with the realities of our human natures and the constraints of our individual family histories, but Bowen Theory promotes personal growth, individual responsibility and maturity in ways not often seen in our quick-fix culture.
By taking responsibility for my part in my family relationships I’ve made great strides in increasing the quality of those relationships. I believe I am happier and more contented than I was raised to be. While there are no assurances, I trust the work I’m doing will benefit my children and their families as well.
My goal is to continue to deepen my understanding of Theory for the purposes of enhancing both my personal relationships and my clinical work. In Bowen theory, this is the same ongoing effort.
M.A., Marriage, Family, Child Counseling, University of San Diego, CA, August 1995. B.S., Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, May 1984.