The Family Systems Institute was founded in April 2004 by Jenny Brown assisted by Jo Wright. We specialise in post graduate training for professionals working with human systems (eg. mental health, education, health, religion, organisational / psychology).
The plans to establish the Family Systems Institute in April 2004 were in response to the request of many in the family therapy and counselling community in Sydney to have a training venue in Dr Murray Bowen’s model of Family Systems. While training centres in the USA have been operating in this approach for some decades, comprehensive training in Bowen’s model is difficult to access in Australia.
Betty Carter set up the Family Institute of Westchester in 1977 (FIW), where Jenny Brown trained from 1992-1994. The Family Systems Institute in Sydney is influenced by FIW’s vision and looks forward to seeing its model evolve in collaboration with trainees and faculty as the years proceed. The scholarship and experience of other established Bowen Theory Training Institutes in the North America (the USA) will provide invaluable resources for the Institute’s work, in particular, The Bowen Centre for the study of the family in Washington DC.
Having trained at the Family Institute of Westchester New York in the early 90s, Jenny Brown has been mindful of the value of a centre that offers both an introduction to Bowen’s theory as well as a comprehensive clinical program of supervision and training that allows for a deeper grasp of this very broad model of relationship systems. A venue for therapists and others to explore their own family of origin in order to increase differentiation levels, is also an important offering for personal and professional development.
The curriculum of core certificate programs, family of origin research groups and supervision has emphasised how theory can be practically applied to one’s own life and work. The Institute aims to provide a training setting that brings faculty and trainee’s thinking and research together in a collaborative manner.
Over the years, many people have contributed to developing dynamic family systems informed professional development offerings – from introductory training in Bowen theory to more in-depth core programs. Popular annual conferences have been highlights of the FSI calendar since 2005.
In 2015-16 the Family Systems Institute became a registered Not for Profit organisation, and the Family Systems Practice became a separate entity which offered, and continues to offer, counselling from a Bowen informed approach.
As an NFP, the FSI now has an independent board to oversee governance and strategic directions, and its focus is primarily on the delivery of training and professional development in Bowen family systems theory. It has a robust membership of people who have graduated from its certificate programs and continue to collaborate in thinking, applying and teaching Bowen theory.
In 2019-2020 our longstanding Certificate Program received accreditation from the Australian Association of Family Therapy (AAFT), providing the opportunity for graduates of the newly accredited program to count the accredited Advanced Certificate toward their pathway of becoming Clinical Family Therapists with AAFT.
We formally rolled out this program in 2021 and have re-visioned the offerings of clinical and workplace supervision, family of origin research and coaching, and workshops as part of the revised programs.
After 14 years developing and leading the Family Systems Institute, Jenny Brown stepped down as the Executive Director. In June 2021, the board of directors appointed Lauren Errington to lead the FSI into its next exciting phase. Jenny continues to be involved with the FSI, serving on the Board as Executive Director Emeritus, and on faculty overseeing the membership network and post-graduate professional development.
Lauren wrote this about taking up the new role:
It is a privilege to take up the role of Executive Director of the Family Systems Institute. My first foray into systems thinking was at the FSI’s Annual Conference in 2008 when Dan Papero presented on triangles. What he described fit with my own experience of relationships – personally, professionally and in the workplace – and I began to appreciate systems thinking as a description of our patterns of human behaviour, and began to see triangles everywhere! It continues to be the case for me that when I introduce systems thinking to others, it often makes sense to them and provides a description of what they are already experiencing in their relationships.
For me, Bowen Theory provides a way of understanding the very human dilemmas we find all ourselves in with our relationships. With further training in Family Therapy more broadly and working in multiple therapeutic contexts, I have appreciated having a theory that helps me navigate the complexity of the relationships I am in and those I work with, and also helps redirect my thinking and my energies into what kind of resource I can be for the people I am in contact with.
I am stepping into this role in the context of an incredible network of practitioners, leaders, thinkers, and researchers – many of whom have been my own coaches, supervisors, trainers, peers and colleagues along the way. I truly value the way the Family Systems Institute fosters a community of people who are committed to ongoing learning and growth, both personally and professionally.
– Lauren Errington, 2021