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Mercy Burton Russell, MSW, EDD
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On-line Attendance (via Zoom) Only

The goal of the conference is to present a fresh perspective from which families can best manage intergenerational conflict and gain stability in parent-youth relations.

Based in Bowen Family Systems Theory, the focus will be on identifying and nurturing the strengths inherent in families and youth including those with special educational needs. Attendees will receive insights, tools and resources to assist in the application of this fresh approach.


建基於博域家庭系統理論,重點將放在識別和培養家庭和青少年(包括有特殊教育需求的人)的內在優勢。 參與者將會得著洞察力、工具和資源去應用此新方法。

Public Lecture Details

Understanding youth problems from the family systems perspective


Date: Oct 16, 2021 (Sat)

Time: 10:00 am – 11:30 am


The family systems perspective approaches the mental health problems of the young person as a function of family dynamics. The focus in treatment is on restoring balance in the family to alleviate the symptoms of the child, on strengthening the emotional functioning of the whole family system as well as individual members.  This perspective highlights the mutual influence of the young person and the other family members on each other, and does away with pathologizing, blaming, and scapegoating vulnerable members. Bowen’s primary concepts of chronic anxiety and differentiation of self as they affect the resilience and emotional functioning of the family system will be presented.  The concepts of triangles, the family projection process, the multigenerational transmission process and sibling position will be applied to understand family and individual functioning. 

Conference Details

“A family member who is motivated to learn and control his own responsiveness can influence relationships in the entire family system.”  FTCP, 349


Each day of the conference will involve 2 parts:

  1. a new way of thinking about family dynamics and therapy from the framework of Bowen family systems theory. This conceptual framework establishes a thoughtful, engaged foundation for tackling challenging family times and supporting optimal youth development.
  2. Leadership in the family during times of trouble – Vignettes of families struggling with troubled and poorly functioning youth will be introduced to illustrate the nuclear family emotional process in a multigenerational context and the elements of family leadership.

Day 1

Date: Oct 21, 2021 (Thu)

Time: 9:15 am – 12:30 pm


A Principled Approach to Parenting based on Scientific Facts


Bowen Family System Theory is founded on the facts of the human family based in the evolution of life and social groups. Basic family patterns are present in all families. Anxiety affects how well the family and its members function. The building block of the emotional system is the triangle or the three-person relationship. Individuals vary in how well they use the intellect in a sea of feelings.

This is a strengths-based approach. It addresses the imbalance in the family system rather than pathology in the individual. Each family is unique. Parents and children remain attached throughout life.  Problems occur when this attachment interferes with independent adult functioning. Symptoms develop as a result of too much attachment.


Leadership in the Family during times of Trouble (1)

如何領導於困境中之家庭 (1)

Linda & Emma: How a mother changed her focus re: her adopted daughter’s long struggle with attachment disorder and drug addiction.


Day 2

Date: Oct 22, 2021 (Fri)

Time: 9:15 am – 12:30 pm


Fundamental Concepts in Thinking Systems about Families


Two fundamental concepts in Bowen Theory will be presented.  Differentiation of Self portrays the natural variation in individual and family emotional functioning. Chronic Anxiety describes how conscious and unconscious anxiety is transferred among family members. Developments in the neuroscience of emotion, cognition, anxiety and stress present the evidence supporting this way of understanding family emotional process.


Leadership in the Family during times of Trouble (2)

如何領導於困境中之家庭 (2)

Mercy & James: A defining shift in parenting a college graduate languishing at home with marijuana abuse and ADHD.


Day 3

Date: Oct 23, 2021 (Sat)

Time: 9:15 am – 12:30 pm


Principles for Therapy with Families and Youth in Trouble


Anxiety travels in predictable relationship patterns across generations. Families naturally direct their own life anxiety to the next generation. Helping professionals can become part of the problem. Sometimes they transfer their own life anxiety to their clients. Therapists, educators and parents who understand these patterns are in a better position to support developing youth.In a systems’ view, no one is to blame. It is natural for parents, teachers and counselors to want to protect, guide and help the next generation. This instinctual focus on the child can blind adults to seeing their own part in the child’s development. Natural differences among children and youth are often see as pathological. This instinctual focus on the child can blind adults to seeing their own part in the child’s development. The goal is to see the system in order to find a path forward. Each family system is unique. The critical approach is the “research attitude”. When the parent, teacher or therapist can see and change their own part in the problem, youth will be able to use adults as resources to achieve their goals.


Leadership in the Family during times of Trouble (3)

如何領導於困境中之家庭 (3)

A case presentation of a mother leading a family during a time of crisis will demonstrate the value of systems thinking when stress seems unbearable and authorities from social organizations become involved in the family’s reactions.



Mercy Burton Russell, MSW, EDD

Dr. Mercy Burton Russell is a UCLA -trained clinical social worker with 30 years of experience and training in the application of Bowen Family Systems Theory to a wide range of clinical, social service, organizational and community systems settings. During her career she has been an active member of a national network of Bowen Theory professionals in U.S.A. through the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family in Washington, D.C. The founding President of the Vermont Center for the Study of the Family, Dr. Russell is currently living in Arizona and is an active contributor to Programs in Bowen Theory, a center based in California.

As an undergraduate at Carleton College and throughout her career, Mercy has worked with children, teenagers and their parents in a variety of clinical settings as well as schools. In order to deepen her knowledge of societal emotional process, she recently completed doctoral studies at the University of Vermont in educational policy and leadership studies. Her research focused on teachers and their families, as well as the creativity of boundary spanning leadership consultants trained as psychotherapists.

Passionate and optimistic about the social role of emerging generations, Dr, Russell brings her expertise in Bowen Family Systems theory and educational policy to inspire and challenge parents as well as innovative clinicians and educators. Systems thinking grounded in the social evolution of the family provides an invaluable perspective and tools for guiding and supporting our children, clients and students. Thoughtful, calm and creative leadership in the family and workplace is required to face the widening diversity of student needs, as well as an intensification of emotional responses to social issues.

Post-Conference Workshop Details

Self-Regulation and Neurofeedback in the Treatment of Anxiety and Attention Disorders

焦慮和注意力障礙的治療 – 自我調節和神經反饋

Date: Oct 30, 2021 (Sat)

Time: 9:15 am – 12:30 pm


“The mind cannot change the mind.”  Andrew Huberman

What can youth and concerned adults do reduce stress, conflict and anxiety and optimize attention? The key is for the individual to take responsibility for their own emotional state. This requires knowing the markers of stress and anxiety for self, as well as factors that affect attention. Then one can employ behavioral tools to calm the stress response, reduce anxiety and the automatic transfer of anxiety to others. Current neuroscience research reveals simple tools to improve self-regulation of anxiety and improve attention.

Neurofeedback offers a computer-assisted tool for optimizing attention by training the brain to operate more efficiently. This training improves perception, motivation and the ability to focus. The field of neurofeedback will be discussed including the variation in technology and applications.


Benefits of the use of neurofeedback, meditation and other modalities in the life span of a Bowen Family thinker.

An interview with a veteran member of the Family Systems professional network will be presented to illustrate how tools based in neuroscience can assist a family leader to navigate dynamics in the multigenerational family and professional life.

Registration Fee

Paypal is available for overseas applicants. Please click HERE to select and purchase.

  Date Regular Fee (HKD)
Single Day Public lecture Oct 16 $200
Conference (Day 1) Oct 21 $500
Conference (Day 2) Oct 22 $500
Conference (Day 3) Oct 23 $500
Neurofeedback workshop Oct 30 $500
Package 3 days Conference Oct 21, 22, 23 $1200
3 days Conference

+ Public lecture

Oct 16, 21, 22, 23 $1300
3 days Conference

+ Neurofeedback workshop

Oct 21, 22, 23, 30 $1500
3 days Conference

+ Public lecture

+ Neurofeedback workshop

Oct 16, 21, 22, 23, 30 $1600

Early Bird Deadline: Oct 12, 2021 (Tue)

COF Membership 2021-2022: Click HERE to Registration / Renewal Now!

Paypal is available for overseas applicants. Please click HERE to select and purchase.

  Date Regular Fee (HKD) Early Bird /
COF Member Fee (HKD)
Single Day Public lecture Oct 16 $200 $180
Conference (Day 1) Oct 21 $500 $400
Conference (Day 2) Oct 22 $500 $400
Conference (Day 3) Oct 23 $500 $400
Neurofeedback workshop Oct 30 $500 $400
Package 3 days Conference Oct 21, 22, 23 $1200 $900
3 days Conference

+ Public lecture

Oct 16, 21, 22, 23 $1300 $1000
3 days Conference

+ Neurofeedback workshop

Oct 21, 22, 23, 30 $1500 $1200
3 days Conference

+ Public lecture

+ Neurofeedback workshop

Oct 16, 21, 22, 23, 30 $1600 $1300

Students are required to send in their proof of student identity (transcript, copy of a current student identification card, or letter signed by head of department) by email (issfi@isshk.org) for verification, before their registration can be confirmed.

  Date Regular Fee (HKD) Student (Full-time) Fee (HKD)
Single Day Public lecture Oct 16 $200 $100
Conference (Day 1) Oct 21 $500 $200
Conference (Day 2) Oct 22 $500 $200
Conference (Day 3) Oct 23 $500 $200
Neurofeedback workshop Oct 30 $500 $200
Package 3 days Conference Oct 21, 22, 23 $1200 $500
3 days Conference

+ Public lecture

Oct 16, 21, 22, 23 $1300 $550
3 days Conference

+ Neurofeedback workshop

Oct 21, 22, 23, 30 $1500 $650
3 days Conference

+ Public lecture

+ Neurofeedback workshop

Oct 16, 21, 22, 23, 30 $1600 $700


January 3, 2021
Mercy Burton Russell, MSW, EdD

Neurofeedback: A Tool for Treating Symptoms and Enhancing Optimal Functioning

Brain wave biofeedback is a treatment for mental and emotional disorders, as well as a valuable tool for optimizing normal cognitive and social skills. EEG biofeedback or neurofeedback was first developed to study meditation states and subsequently to treat stress and anxiety. With technological developments and the growth of neuroscience, therapists have used neurofeedback to treat ADD, ADHD, addictions, pain, depression, autism, headaches, epilepsy, trauma and brain damage. Mental health providers use a wide array of neurofeedback technologies in hospitals, clinics and private practice. Recent innovations include sophisticated neurofeedback programs available for home use on personal computer and tablets. In addition to reducing or removing symptoms, neurofeedback supports more accurate perceptions of environmental and social conditions. Increased flexibility in managing complex relationship issues enhances resiliency in the face of both trauma and achievement.


Elmer and Alyce Green invented biofeedback in the 1960s at the Menninger Foundation in Topeka, Kansas. Biofeedback is giving information to the individual about physiological processes, much like stepping on a scale. With this information, consciously, clients learn techniques to change their physiology. While studying consciousness and Eastern meditation practices, the Greens learned of the ability of yogis to control what westerners had described as involuntary physiological processes, such as muscle tension, heart rate, blood pressure, skin temperature and blood flow, sweat response and brainwaves. With their backgrounds in physics and
psychology, Elmer and Alyce Green developed equipment to give feedback in real time measurements for EMG or muscle tension, hand temperature, palm sweat
response and EEG brainwaves. In therapy, they trained clients to regulate these responses voluntarily. While researching states of consciousness, they discovered that self-regulation techniques alleviated a range of clinical problems. They treated symptoms such as blood pressure, Reynaud’s disease and headaches.


In 1968, Joe Kamiya at Berkeley published the results of a study inspired by the emergence of interest in Eastern meditation practices and biofeedback techniques. He found that the alpha brainwave frequencies correlate with states of relaxation and quiet alertness achieved with meditation. He trained subjects to identify and enhance the alpha state with the use of the EEG feedback. This led to the early application of neurofeedback to stress disorders as a tool to teach relaxation.


EEG measures brain electrical activity from electrodes placed on the surface of the scalp. Early researchers found that different frequency bands of brainwaves are associated with different parts and functions of the brain. Early studies made simplistic correlations between aspects of cognitive and emotional functioning with different parts of the brain. To this day, many forms of neurofeedback are based on readings from specific points on the scalp, e.g. attention lives in the left temporal lobe and the beta frequency, sleep in the brain stem and the delta frequency. Based in behavioral psychology, biofeedback signals either reward increased activity in an underactive frequency or avert activity in the overactive frequency. Recent applications of complex mathematics in analysis conceive of the brain as a system of networks of electrical activity within the brain. This form of neurofeedback identifies the quality of patterns. The feedback interrupts less coherent brain wave activity across frequencies. This interruption re-boots the brain which is always striving toward greater efficiency.


Since then, there has been a proliferation of approaches to and technological developments in neurofeedback. At the same time, pharmaceutical interventions have overshadowed the benefits of drug-free non-invasive self-regulation. A popular application has been in the treatment of attention disorders and neuropsychological conditions in children. Parents reluctant to medicate their children often pursue neurofeedback as an alternative therapy. Neurofeedback approaches range from expensive, elaborate assessment methods with treatment protocols focused on game playing to sophisticated non-diagnostic programs designed to enhance brain functioning for anyone. Symptoms fade away and achievement of personal goals is optimized.


The enhancement of self-regulation with neurofeedback has become a valuable adjunctive therapy for therapists and clients working with Bowen Family Systems Theory. Making changes in how one manages reactivity and chronic anxiety in complex family and work relationships requires increased self-awareness and flexibility. Patterns of perceptions, reactivity and behavior become less rigid and less turbulent. In BFST therapy individuals take on the challenges of becoming more authentic while improving important relationships. Neurofeedback supports optimal resilience and progress in life goals.

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