Using Family Systems Concepts to Tackle Life's Most Perplexing Problems

“Love is not an enthusiasm. It is a skill” *

PHOTO: Swan family

Relating skillfully is often not as simple as it sounds. Anyone who has struggled with a spouse, a child, a parent, or a boss, knows this. How does it get so complicated? Why are some of our most important connections so often subject to tension if not outright misery?

Bowen Family Systems Theory has been researching the way people relate to one another for many decades. Taking the view that humans operate under the same laws of nature as all of life, Bowen theory has developed templates for how relationship systems function. Knowing "how it all works" is the first stop in figuring out "how to do it better." When we see the situation clearly, solutions emerge.

Common questions about coaching

  1. Who comes to sessions?
    Whoever is willing. Often this is the individual most concerned about relationship issues.

  2. What does a coach do?
    Ask questions to clarify problems, learn family facts and history, look for relevant patterns, bring a systems lens to the discussion, offer feedback and ideas about productive directions for work.

  3. Does insurance cover coaching?
    Usually. Every plan is different, so it is important to check.

  4. How can I get my spouse/child/mother to come with me to a session?
    It is often a good idea not to try too hard. Come by yourself at first, if need be. Later, you might ask the other to come to help you with your goals. Or you might conclude you don't need the other in the session in order to make the progress you want.

  5. Does working on relationship issues help with things like anxiety and depression?
    It is my view, based on thousands of hours of talking to people, that working on relationship issues helps all kinds of symptoms. Our primary health promoters are resilient relationships

  6. How often are sessions?
    That varies. Many start out weekly or every other week and then less frequently over time.

*Adam Gopnik, author, in an interview with Krista Tippett on the radio program 'On Being'