Bowen Family Systems in Contemporary Therapy

Based on the Petrakis Family case study, Alec moved in with Magda to assist and take easy of Helen, his mother. Nevertheless, there are two occasions when he stole medications and money from his grandmother (Laureate Education, 2013). Helen is concerned with Alec’s sobriety and feels that law could be involved while in the past, she has expressed concern for failure to accept as an individual.

Bowen systems theory is applied to identify familial patterns that can cause anxiety and provide possible solutions for resolving concerns. Due to his actions, Alec appears to be the negative factor in the Petrakis family. Nevertheless, his mother Helen feels that she has absolute responsibility for her son’s behavior, which causes emotional outbursts in her and the recent visit to ED. As Brown states, when a person reacts to other family members of their family, the state is known as a fused relationship (Vetere, 2001). Therefore, a fused relationship exists in the family because Helen has emotional closeness to her son even though his decisions are harmful and wrong. As a result, there is a co-dependency between Helen and her son Alec. Because of this relationship, Helen becomes overprotective of her son. This is why she does not want to discuss Alec’s behavior with her husband and does not want to involve law enforcement.

Consequently, Alec’s wrong behaviors do not lead to his accountability. The main thing that Helen wants to achieve is her family’s comfort rather than personal, which means that she does everything she can to make others comfortable (Vetere, 2001). Therefore, the goal for therapy is to ensure that Helen gains differentiation of self. Differentiation can help Helen retain her emotional connection with Alec, but emotions will not be personalized since they are byproducts of his interactions. In this way, it will be possible to avoid anxiety-induced physical symptoms in Helen.

Based on the structural theory, one may argue that the initial interactions between Alec and the law enforcement caused concern for Helen and made her highly protective of her son. It is worth noting that negative parent-child relationships can result in unhealthy behaviors and emotions in the two members of the family. Helen’s perceived thoughts that she is responsible for her son’s behaviors demonstrate the dedication to her family (Bowen, 1999). She believes that she is the main protector of all family members and wants everyone to comfortable, ensuring emotional stability. She puts the needs of other members of the family above hers. If applied to the Petrakis family, structural therapy would have helped its members to seek emotional support from each other in times of adversity (Bowen, 1999). In addition, could have enabled family members to solve problems together and develop alternative solutions that can help foster healthy relationships between them.

From the analysis, it can be argued that Bowen’s family theory is most helpful because provides opportunities working with the Petrakis family since it emphasizes how families can be affected. The approach underlines the need for individual dysfunctionality to change the functionality of the family (Plummer, Makris & Brocksen, 2013). In essence, Bowen’s theory encourages family members to establish understandings of personal problems and the need for self-resolution.

The Satir Model is a strength-based approach suggests that every individual, especially in a family, has some innate skills for coping, which need to be enhanced. Noteworthy, the Satir Model is more strength-based compared to Minuchin’s theory because it focuses more on attributes than deficits (Banmen, 2002). Personal change in the Satir Model involves four goals: increasing self-esteem, facilitating personal responsibility, encouraging the initial decision-making skills, and encouraging congruence (Banmen, 2002). Therefore, this paper concludes that it is essential to use more than one model or theory in working with the Petrakis family to help them resolve the issues affecting them.


Banmen, J. (2002). The Satir model: Yesterday and today. Contemporary Family Therapy, 24(1), 7–22.

Brown, J. (1999). Bowen family systems theory and practice: Illustration and critique. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy, 20(2), 94–103. Web.

Laureate Education. (Producer). (2013). Petrakis (Episode 6) [Video file]. In Sessions. Web.

Plummer, S.-B., Makris, S., & Brocksen, S. (Eds.). (2013). Sessions case histories. Baltimore, MD: Laureate International Universities Publishing.

Vetere, A. (2001). Structural family therapy. Child & Adolescent Mental Health, 6(3), 133–139.

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