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Family Portrait




Jennifer Hall is a Marriage and Family trained therapist and works out of the "family systems model." She feels strongly that systems shape and model you for the first 18 years of your life. In the next 18, you are trying to make sense of it. Her deepest desire is that her clients don't blame the past but learn and emerge differently if the system they grew up in is associated with pain. Below is some basic information on the therapy: 

Bowen family systems theory is a theory of human behavior that views the family as an emotional unit. The theory uses "systems thinking" to describe the unit’s complex interactions. It is the nature of a family that its members are intensely emotionally connected. Often people feel distant or disconnected from their families, but this is more of a feeling than a fact. Families can profoundly affect their members’ thoughts, feelings, and actions and it often seems as if people are living under the same “emotional skin.” People solicit each other’s attention, approval, and support, and often react to each other’s needs and expectations. This connectedness and reactivity make the functioning of family members interdependent. A change in one person’s functioning is predictably followed by reciprocal changes in the functioning of others. Families differ somewhat in their degree of interdependence, but to some degree, it is always present.


This emotional interdependence presumably evolved to promote the cohesiveness and cooperation families require to protect, shelter, and feed their members. Heightened tension, however, can intensify these processes that promote unity and teamwork. This can lead to problems. When family members get anxious, their anxiety can escalate by spreading infectiously among them. As anxiety goes up, the emotional connectedness of family members becomes more stressful than comforting. Eventually, one or more members feel overwhelmed, isolated, or out of control. These members are the people who accommodate the most to reduce tension in others. It is a reciprocal interaction. For example, a person takes too much responsibility for the distress of others in relation to their unrealistic expectations of him, or a person gives up too much control of her thinking and decision-making in relation to others’ anxiously telling her what to do. The one who does the most accommodating literally “absorbs” the system’s anxiety and thus is the family member most vulnerable to problems such as depression, alcoholism, affairs, or physical illness.


Dr. Murray Bowen, a psychiatrist, originated this theory and its eight interlocking concepts. He formulated the theory by using systems thinking to integrate knowledge of the human as a product of evolution. A core assumption is that an emotional system that evolved over several billion years governs human relationship systems. People have a “thinking brain,” language, complex psychology, and culture, but they still do the ordinary things that other forms of life do. The emotional system affects most human activity and is the principal driving force in the development of clinical problems. Knowledge of how the emotional system operates in one’s family, work, and social systems offer new, more effective options for solving problems in each of these areas.

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