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Welcome to the Bowen Theory Academy Website



Michael Kerr Director


Psychiatrist Murray Bowen radically departed from all other theories of human behavior by applying systems thinking to human emotional functioning and behavior. Unlike general system theories, which also attempt to apply systems thinking to human behavior, Bowen family systems theory contains specific knowledge that describes how all families operate as emotional units. For example, triangles are the fundamental building blocks of an emotional system, the smallest stable unit. Such knowledge is essential for change, for developing a new way of thinking and associated actions that benefit the system as well as oneself.
Bowen theory is such a radical departure from cause-and-effect models of human behavior that people exposed to the idea predictably mix the two ways of thinking. People do not easily comprehend that the processes described in an individual model of human behavior can be incorporated into a systems theory, provided these processes are not viewed as causes; e.g. “intra-psychic causes” and “relationship causes”, or “genetic causes” and “environmental causes”.

Five long-term students of Bowen theory have founded the Bowen Theory Academy primarily to address the distinction between systems thinking and cause-and-effect thinking. Letting go of individual, cause-and-effect thinking does not involve discarding centuries of important factual discoveries about human behavior, but incorporates them into a broader framework. The five objectives and purposes of the Bowen Theory Academy listed below reflect the organization’s overriding goal.

Click here to watch Michael Kerr, M.D.’s recorded webcast: “The Neuroscience of Differentiation of Self.”

Think Tank Presentations

March 9, 2019

Jim Edd Jones, PhD
“Patterns of Interaction in Living Systems”
click here to download presentation

December 8, 2017

Jim Edd Jones, PhD
“Schizophrenia and Family Reaction to Grandparent Death”
click here to download presentation

November 11, 2017

Michael Kerr, M.D.
“Research Supporting a Link between Chronic Anxiety and Cancer Progression”
click here to download presentation

October 13, 2017

Margaret Otto, LSCSW
“Construction theory of emotion and BFST ”
click here to download presentation

June 9, 2017

Jay Combs, MSW
“A Bowen Theorist in Public Administration”
click here to download presentation

Jim Edd Jones, PhD
“A Little More Systems Rationality: Bayesian Reasoning”
click here to download presentation

Michael Kerr, M.D.
“Brief Book Review: How to Tame a Fox, Lee Alan Dugatkin & Lyudmilla Trut”
click here to download presentation


Monthly 90 minute streamed web cast lectures featuring Michael Kerr, M.D., Director Emeritus of the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family. Lectures are designed to explicate Bowen theory concepts and principles. Bowen theory concepts conceptualize the family as a network of interlocking relationships that can be described within a multigenerational framework.


The Research Seminar serves as a stimulus and forum for those interested in the serious pursuit of natural systems ideas and in the systematic study of the human family. They include people with quite diverse interests, but with the common goal of developing and extending family systems ideas. People can use the seminars to move ideas towards publication.


The Family History Database Project (FHDP) is a long‑term effort to collect and archive multigenerational family histories in a computerized database for use by qualified researchers. The objective of the FHDP is to record facts about the functioning of individuals over a number of generations and to make possible the investigation of the family variables affecting these individual’s functioning.


The Bowen Theory Academy Think Tank began in October 2013 under the leadership of the Bowen Theory Academy Board. Its purpose is to bring together people knowledgeable about Bowen theory and interested in advancing the ideas to stimulate each other’s thinking by making brief presentations and discussing them. It meets once a month for an hour and a half using webcasting technology.


The specific objectives and purposes of the Bowen Theory Academy are:


  • to educate the public about Bowen Family Systems Theory and its application to a variety of human problems;
  • to maintain communication with professionals in the fields of science, mental health, medicine, the humanities and other fields that deal with research in human development and behavior;
  • to produce educational programs and materials about Bowen theory concepts and applications
  • to make educational offerings available as resources to Bowen theory educational programs nationally and internationally
  • to engage in other activities relating to educating the public about Bowen Family Systems Theory

Kansas City Center for Family and Organizational Systems

The KC Center, a 501c3 nonprofit organization, provides educational and training programs in Bowen family systems theory. The KC Center is dedicated to accurately representing, teaching, applying, and expanding Bowen family systems theory in the regional area. A variety of programs are offered to provide something for all individuals of varied backgrounds. Read More

Southern California Education and Training in Bowen Family Systems Theory

The program’s mission is to provide education and training to those interested in the principles and concepts developed by Murray Bowen, M.D. The emphasis is on using “systems thinking” as a way to conceptualize human functioning. Bowen theory describes how relationships and emotional processes shape individual behavior and development over time. Read More