This week’s Healthy Minds “Therapeutic Thoughts of the Week” pertains to Intergenerational Patterns within Family Systems. In a previous “Therapeutic Thoughts of the Week” we looked at “Family Therapy w/o Child Present” and examined the nuances how “Family Therapy w/o Child Present” is different from “Individual Psychotherapy.” The intention of this “Therapeutic Thoughts of the Week” is to create insight and awareness of Intergenerational Patterns in the context of “Family Therapy w/o Child Present.”
As a Licensed Provider when I think about the concept of Intergenerational Patterns in the context of Family Systems I gravitate towards the work of Murray Bowen. Bowen’s work focused not on symptom-reduction, but rather on improving the intergenerational transmission process. Murray Bowen’s work can be explained as an attempt to understand the natural evolutionary emotional process. He sought to establish a model that explained how animals; more so the human animal adapts to their environment. Bowenian Family Therapy consists of the following 8 theoretical constructs:
- Emotional System
- Multigenerational Transmission
- Emotional Triangle
- Nuclear Family
- Family Projection Process
- Sibling Position
- Societal Regression
The concept that I am most interested highlighting in this “Therapeutic Thoughts of the Week” is number 3; multigenerational transmission. Bowen believed that the connection of current generations to past generations is a natural process. Friedman (1991), states, from this perspective, “not only can the future be predicted on the basis of the past, but the past can be reconstructed on the basis of the evolving present” (p. 148). It is essential to be mindful that multigenerational transmission gives the present context in history and that change occurs when differentiation is increased within the family system.
In the context of “Family Therapy w/o Child Present” it may be helpful to assess with the primary caregiver their working assumptions around caregiving and to inquire how the individual was parented by their primary caregiver. This information will be helpful in understanding the caregiver’s perspective, beliefs, and values around parenting and may also assist the provider in having greater empathy. During this process the caregiver will also have the opportunity to gain insight into their working beliefs pertaining to how they parent their child(ren) and you as the provider can invoke discussion pertaining to helpful ways the caregiver may think differently how to support their child(ren).
David P Sanchez, Psy.D., LMFT
Healthy Minds Licensed Provider