As a privately practicing psychologist in Rockville, Maryland, Uzi Ben-Ami, Ph.D., treats individuals, couples, and families. Uzi Ben-Ami, Ph.D., frequently applies a systems approach in his work with family units.
Family systems therapy arose out of the work of Murray Bowen, who theorized that an individual is an inextricable part of his or her network of relationships. He believed that because the family plays a critical role in the development of one’s psyche, effective treatment of an individual requires evaluating and affecting change within that person’s family system.
Bowen’s theory centers on eight basic principles. The first and most foundational of these is the Differentiation of Self, which explores how well an individual can maintain his or her own personhood while cultivating close interpersonal connections. The concept of differentiation is further explored in the second principle, known as the Multigenerational Transmission Process, which suggests that individuals may seek out partners with similar differentiation levels, and that increasing one’s level of differentiation may therefore be effective in breaking patterns of low differentiation between generations.
Bowen explores current family relationships in the third principle, the Emotional Triangle, which describes a small and not always stable unit of relationships, typically between three people like two parents and a child. These triangles may become unstable, however, when two individuals are in harmony and a third is in conflict. The Family Projection Process, the fourth principle, is one such conflict. This occurs when parents pass their emotional distress onto a child, thus interfering with the child’s healthy emotional differentiation.
The fifth principle, the Emotional Cutoff, describes usually unhealthy form of differentiation in which a member of the family chooses to manage his or her personal distress by becoming emotionally distant. This can create tension within the family as well as within new relationships.
The Societal Emotional Process, the sixth principle, further explores how emotions within the family system affect members’ interaction with the outside world. The seventh principle, the Nuclear Family Emotional Process, deals with internal systems conflict in the following main areas: emotional distance, impaired child functionality, conflict between intimate partners, and problematic functioning in one partner. Finally, the birth-order roles of brothers and sisters, and the way these roles affect the family, fall under the eighth principle of Sibling Position.