Coming to grips with Bowen Family Systems Theory in a collaborative learning environment.

Our Story

Presenters and panelists at our 1st conference in 2004.

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 mission of the Institute is to develop and apply family systems theory, as developed by Dr Murray Bowen, to assist people in their efforts to improve relationships.


Institute Background

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.

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.


Dr Murray Bowen (Photo by Andrea Maloney Schara)

Murray Bowen

Murray Bowen, 1913 – 1990, was a psychiatrist who researched human behaviour in relationships and developed a theory about the common patterns found in all emotional systems and how these patterns are transmitted across generations.

As individuals react to tension in relationships, predictable patterns of behaviour develop. Symptoms that impact healthy functioning can be avoided as individuals learn how to hold onto their thinking selves while at the same time remaining connected to significant others.

“…I finally knew one way through the impenetrable thicket which is the family emotional system.” Murray Bowen



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.

The Institute aims to provide a training setting that brings faculty and trainee’s thinking and research together in a collaborative manner.

 “Current post modern debates “have enlarged our thinking and teaching, but have not necessitated any basic change in our family therapy model, which includes all levels of the system from the biological and intrapsychic level of the individual, through the family level, to the socio-political-cultural context, and on to the ecological…

Thus Bowen theory, the most elaborated theoretical system in the family field, and perhaps the least understood and appreciated, has obviously tapped into something more than one person’s vision of the family as an emotional system. Bowen theory provides a set of principles that are sound enough, profound enough, and flexible enough to be applied to human situations, conditions, and dilemmas not yet dreamed of.” 

  Betty Carter & Monica McGoldrick, Forward to Reweaving the Family Tapestry. Ed F Herz Brown 1990. 



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