Bowen’s focus was on patterns that develop in families in order to defuse anxiety. A key generator of anxiety in
families is the perception of either too much closeness or too great a distance in a relationship. The degree of
anxiety in any one family will be determined by the current levels of external stress and the sensitivities to
particular themes that have been transmitted down the generations. If family members do not have the capacity
to think through their responses to relationship dilemmas, but rather react anxiously to perceived emotional
demands, a state of chronic anxiety or reactivity may be set in place.
The main goal of Bowenian therapy is to reduce chronic anxiety by
1. facilitating awareness of how the emotional system functions; and
2. increasing levels of differentiation, where the focus is on making changes for the self rather than on
trying to change others.