Differentiation of Self : Bowen Family Systems Theory Perspectives book cover
1st Edition

Differentiation of Self
Bowen Family Systems Theory Perspectives

Edited By

Peter Titelman

ISBN 9780415522052
Published January 6, 2015 by Routledge
428 Pages

SAVE $14.99
was $74.95
USD $59.96

Prices & shipping based on shipping country


Book Description

Bowen theory views the family as an emotional unit. The family is a natural system that has evolved, like all living systems. The elegance and unity of the concept of differentiation of self, and of Bowen theory in its entirety, is that they describe the basis of individual functioning in relation to others within the emotional systems of family, occupation, community, and larger society.
This volume consists of essays elucidating and applying differentiation of self, the central concept of Bowen family systems theory and therapy. The purpose of the volume is fourfold:
• to describe the historical evolution of differentiation of self
• to analyze the complex dimension of this concept as the integrating cornerstone of Bowen theory
• to present applications of the concept for both the therapist/coach and in clinical practice
• to examine the problems and possibilities of researching differentiation of self
The largest part of this volume is the presentation of in-depth case studies of clients or therapists in their efforts to differentiate or define self. This provides an understanding of the what and how that go into the differentiation of self. Contributed to by professionals who have studied, applied, and taught Bowen theory in their own lives, practices, educational settings, and training settings, this volume is a must-have for any therapist/coach working within a systems perspective.

Table of Contents

Foreword A. McKnight Part 1: Theoretical Perspectives on the Concept of Differentiation of Self 1. The Concept of Differentiation of Self in Bowen Theory P. Titelman 2. Emotion and Intellect in Bowen Theory D. Papero 3. Differentiation of Self as a Multigenerational Process R. Noone 4. Ancient Roots of Differentiation L. Howard 5. The Evolution of Helping: From Altruism to Empathy, to Differentiation of Self S. Ferrera Part 2: Differentiation of Self in the Therapist's Own Family 6. Defining a Self in Family, Profession, and Society P. Titelman 7. Applying Differentiation of Self in One's Family P. Klever 8. Differentiation and Remarriage: A Thirty Year Journey A. Wilgus 9. Bowen Theory as a Guide to Defining Self over a Life Cycle J. Maloni Part 3: Differentiation of Self in Clinical Practice 10. A Long-Term Coaching Process: Differentiation for Client and Coach K. Baker 11. Differentiation of Self and Neurofeedback: Integrating Top Down/Bottom Up P. Friesen 12. Defining a Self: A Long Term View A. Nicholson 13. Differentiation of Self in the Presence of Chronic Family Symptoms P. Meyer Part 4: Researching Differentiation of Self 14. Challenges of Conducting Bowen Family Systems Theory Research on Differentiation of Self R. Frost 15. Emotional Reactivity, Fusion, and Differentiation of Self in Family Physiology: Clinical Case Research V. Harrison 16. Toward a Greater Understanding of the Concept of Differentiation of Self in Bowen Family Systems Theory: Empirical Developments and Future Directions E. Skowron, E. Cipriano, J. Van Epps

View More



Peter Titelman, PhD, maintains a private practice in clinical psychology, specializing in Bowen family systems therapy, consultation, and professional education in Northampton, Massachusetts. He is one of the founders of the New England Seminar, in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the founder of the Northampton Seminar on Bowen Theory and its applications.


"This collection, including Dr. Titelman's comprehensive and insightful review, shows the depth and breadth of differentiation of self as an emotional process with deep origins in the history of life, and as a scientific concept and variable. There is likely little in the way of human emotional life and functioning that is not mediated by differentiation of self, and these papers reflect work long in progress in which the impact of differentiation is observed in physiology, psychology, behavior and relationships in the context of emotional systems." –Laura Havstad, PhD, Executive Director, Programs in Bowen Theory, Sebastopol, California

"Titelman’s team comprehensively describes various views of Bowen family systems theory. Readers will find the chapters fascinating and instructive. This book is for serious students who want to learn about differentiation." --Edward W. Beal, MD, The Bowen Center for the Study of Family; Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Georgetown University School of Medicine; Co-author, Adult Children of Divorce

"Titelman is to be admired for his long-term study of Bowen's concepts and methods of differentiation. This book, the latest of his texts, is an anthology of the work of Bowen's students and Titelman's colleagues as they attempt to ford the stream of life's stresses and emotional processes." – Philip J. Guerin Jr., MD; Author, Family Therapy: Theory and Practice; Co-author, Working with Relationship Triangles: The One-Two-Three of Psychotherapy; Co-Editor, The Evaluation and Treatment of Marital Conflict: A Four-Stage Approach

"This collection of papers about differentiation of self is a rich exploration of the utility and complexity of this theoretical construct. Dr. Bowen, in his final professional interview, spoke of the common misunderstandings about this concept as people are prone to treat it clumsily rather than seriously. He entreated some to take over the effort to understand it and to do the best they can with it. The writers of this collection have risen to this entreaty through their own research, personal observations and connection with the sciences. Bowen’s original research and writing is honored while at the same time each writer has made the theory his or her own. The diversity of applications speaks to the far reaching relevance of what goes into differentiation of self. Through this volume, the world will have better access to this theory for understanding human functioning within the full spectrum of relationship contexts, from the family to the larger society." --Jenny Brown, MSW, PhD candidate UNSW, Director of the Family Systems Institute, Sydney Australia; Author, Growing Yourself Up: How to Bring Your Best to All of Life’s Relationships

"This volume on differentiation is the latest of Peter Titelman's multiple volumes on Bowen Theory. Dr. Titelman has chosen many of the well-known writers on the topic. This text offers a comprehensive view of the theory from the clinical and research parameters. Readers will be exposed to an in-depth view of differentiation and Bowen Theory." --Paulina McCullough, MSW, ACSW, Executive Director Emeritus, Western Pennsylvania Family Center

"Differentiation of Self assembles a stellar array of essays, by some of the top Bowen theory practitioners, illuminating a key concept of systems thinking.  The book will be valuable for therapists, clergy, and other leaders who have found family systems theory to provide a reliable compass for navigating the challenges of family, congregational, and organizational life in these increasingly anxious times.   It is essential reading for all who want to deepen their understanding of the concept of differentiation, as a foundation for staying on course in the ongoing effort to be true to self, while honoring others." -- Rev. Richard Blackburn, Executive Director, Lombard Mennonite Peace Center

"Titelman's books are the appetizer to the main course, which is Dr. Bowen's own writings. I have no doubt that this book on 'differentiation of self,' will be the same. Titelman has brought together many of the 'heavy hitters' in this volume, who know well and write well about the theory and practice of this seminal idea. It is a welcome addition to this field of study." --James B. Smith, MS, Director, Western Pennsylvania Family Center

"This is a book well worth reading for anyone who knows Bowen Theory and for all those who want to understand more about the underlying processes that Bowen described."

--Ann D. Bunting, PhD, Founder, Vermont Center for Family Studies