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Professional Training Programme in

Bowen Family Systems
Theory and Therapy


This is a 2-year part-time training programme designed to teach Bowen theory and its applications in our lives, families, and work.




To enhance the systemic perspective to viewing human relationships and to facilitate the development of the solid self.



To help clinicians to apply Bowen theory in clinical work.


Participants will

  • Learn to take a broad view of situations, and not only focus on the symptoms.
  • Learn the basic concepts and clinical strategies of Bowen theory.
  • Learn to apply systems thinking to dealing with the challenges arising from daily life and work situations.
  • Undertake research of their own families, and develop better understanding of their functioning patterns in families and important relationships.
  • Learn the connection between the family systems theory and the natural sciences.

This programme has the following components

Theoretical component–

a. the natural systems theory, and

b. the clinical theory


Research of one’s family–

to apply the theory to understanding one’s family and learning to change one’s functional pattern in it.


Clinical consultation–

to apply the theory in clinical work


Training Format

  • Lectures/presentations/discussions of theory, teaching videos, group and individual supervision, clinical conferences, and Institute conferences.
  • The programme also provides a practicum at the Family Institute for trainees to work with clients to apply Bowen theory in their clinical work. Trainees can have the option of working with cases in their own clinical settings.


  • Trainees can have the option of undertaking practicum to learn the application of Bowen theory in clinical work.
  • Trainees must show sufficient personal and professional maturity in order to see clients. Ethical guidelines for clinical work are based on the Hong Kong Professional Counselling Association (HKPCA) Code of Ethics (2021 Revision). Trainees are advised to review this material thoroughly.
  • Trainees are expected to undertake 150 hours of clinical practice in the two-year training programme. Trainees can take about 2 interviews per week. Trainees can start to take cases in Jan. 2025.
  • Trainees can have the option of working with cases in their own clinical settings.
  • Trainees can accumulate the clinical hours and supervision hours for application as Certified Counsellor from the Hong Kong Professional Counselling Association (HKPCA) and Certified Marriage and Family Therapist from the Hong Kong Marriage and Family Therapy Association (HKMFTA).


 Year 1 

  1. Trainees are required to do a 20-minute presentation, showing efforts to apply Bowen theory to work, personal and family life.
  2. Trainees are also required to do a paper of 3,000 words expressing understanding of Bowen theory, and application of the theory to clinical/ work/ family situations at the end of the first year.

Successful completion of the first year requires the completion of both the verbal presentation and the written paper.

 Year 2 

  1. Trainees are required to do a 20-minute presentation on a special area of interest/ academic or clinical research project to show understanding and integration of Bowen theory.
  2. Trainees are also required to submit a paper of 5,000 – 7,000 words to illustrate their integration of Bowen theory in the selected subject.



A certificate of completion outlining the hours and content of learning will be awarded to the trainees who have successfully completed the two years of training and the required assignments.

  1. Certificate of Completion – The Professional Training Programme on Bowen Family Systems Theory and Therapy(with Practicum) – for trainees who have taken the practicum option.
  2. Certificate of Completion – The Professional Training Programme on Bowen Family Systems Theory – for trainees who did not take the practicum option.

Admission Criteria

  • Masters degree in Counselling, Psychology, Social Work, and related human services.
  • This programme is designed to professionals in mental health, social services, pastoral care, human resources, and organizational management.
    Motivation to learn and practice Bowen theory in one’s work, and family.
  • Applicants should have a basic understanding of Bowen theory. They should have received at least 36 hours of training on Bowen theory from the ISS Family Institute (including Basic Course on BFST, plus any of the courses/workshops organized by the ISS Family Institute).
    (Note: BFS T stands for Bowen Family Systems Theory or Therapy.)

Admission Procedure

Applicants should complete the attached application form, and send it to the ISS Family Institute together with an application fee of $100 before August 23, 2024. Prospective applicants will be interviewed and assessed by the Programme Director as to their suitability to enroll in this programme.

Course Contents

 Year 1 

  1. Fundamentals of Bowen family systems theory –
    • The family as a natural system
    • The family as an emotional unit
    • The counterbalancing forces of togetherness and individuality
    • Family and the brain in evolution
  2. Chronic Anxiety and Differentiation of Self in the family emotional system
  3. Differentiation of Self  (DOS)
  4. Triangles
  5. Clinical Conference
  6. Nuclear Family Emotional System
  7. Family Projection Process & Multigenerational Transmission Process
  8. Sibling Position and Emotional Cutoff
  9. Clinical Conference
  10. Societal Regression

 Year 2 

This will involve:

  1. Examination of the above areas at a deeper level.
  2. Specific topics of interest to the participants will be selected for deeper study, e.g.
    • The Bowen Theoretical-Therapeutic System,
    • Multigenerational Family Assessment,
    • Bowen Theory as a Basis for Therapy
    • Marital Fusion and Differentiation
    • Emotional and Behavioral Dysfunction in Children
    • Family Systems View of Family Violence
    • Aging and Family Systems View of Working with the Elderly
    • Depression and Suicide

    The emotional processes and clinical strategies for working with families with these issues will be examined.

  3. Application of Bowen theory in other emotional systems
  4. Review of Anxiety and the larger society

Course Structure

  Year 1   Year 2
Theory/ presentation/ discussion: 32 hr   32 hr
Group supervision: 32 hr   32 hr
Individual supervision: 10 hr   10 hr
Clinical conference: 6 hr   6 hr


 Year 1:  Oct. 2024 – July 2025      Saturday        2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. 

This is a ten-month training programme which involves 4 hours of class (Theory/ presentation/ discussion), 4 hours of group supervision, and 1 hour of individual supervision per month, plus 2 clinical conferences (6 hours) for the school year, totaling 80 hours a year. Class time usually takes place on the last Saturday afternoon of each month, except when it is a public holiday. This will involve lectures, teaching videos, dialogue, presentations by trainees on different aspects of the theory and its applications.

Trainees are also expected to attend the Institute conference. Date to be confirmed.

1 26/10/2024 Fundamentals of Bowen family systems theory-
Family as an emotional system, and the link with the evolving brain.
2 30/11/2024 Chronic Anxiety and DOS in the family emotional system
3 14/12/2024 Differentiation of Self (DOS)
4 18/01/2025 Other emotional processes in the family system – triangles
5 22/02/2025 Clinical Conference 1
6 29/03/2025 Nuclear family emotional system
7 26/04/2025 Multigenerational transmission process
8 24/06/2025 Sibling position and emotional cutoff
9 28/06/2025 Clinical Conference 2
10 26/07/2025 Societal regression


Theory/ Presentation/ Discussion

(Oct. 26, Nov. 30, Dec. 14, 2024, and Jan. 18, Mar. 29, Apr. 26, May 24 & July 26, 2025)

2:00 pm – 3:30 pm Presentation by Instructor
3,:30pm – 5:00 pm Bowen video and discussion
5:00 pm – 6:00 pm Presentations by trainees


Group Supervision


2:00 pm – 3:00 pm Discussion of readings
3:00pm – 6:00 pm Supervision re: clinical practice, family of origin work, work systems, or other applications.

Each group will consist of 5-6 members. Group supervision sessions will take place on other Saturday afternoons (2:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.), or Saturday mornings (9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m). Group members will fix the schedule of their group supervision sessions according to their availability and the availability of their supervisor.

Group supervision will focus on application of Bowen theory in clinical work, management of self in family-of-origin, work settings and important social relationships.


Individual Supervision

Each trainee will have individual supervision with the supervisor once (1 hour) (outside the class and group supervision time) every month during the school year. Trainees will examine their understanding of the theory, and application of the theory in clinical work, family-of-origin, work settings and social relationships. Trainees will also practice doing research of their families.


Clinical Conferences

(Feb. 22, 2025 and June 28, 2025 (Sat)  2:00 pm – 5:00 pm)

There will be 2 Clinical Conferences each year.  The instructor or guest faculty will present a lecture on a particular theme followed by discussion of a clinical case that illustrate the theme. Discussion will focus on the application of the theory in conceptualizing the problems and in implementing the clinical strategies and techniques with the clients.


The Institute Conference and Family Systems Symposium

To enrich the exposure of the trainees to system thinkers from the broader Bowen network, the Family Institute organizes conferences led by faculty members of the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family (Washington DC, U.S.A.) or leaders of approved network programmes of the Bowen Center. Trainees are expected to attend the Institute Conference. Date to be confirmed.

The Family Institute also organizes Family Systems Symposium for students of this Programme, local and and overseas Bowen theory learners to share from the Bowen theory perspective, their subject of interest or research to the public.  Students of this Programme are expected to attend or participate as presenters.




Texts and reading materials

Trainees will be given a reading list on Bowen theory. Trainees of this programme have access to the library of the Family Institute which consists of books, articles, audiovisual resources on Bowen theory produced by the Bowen Center and other network programmes.

Trainees are expected to do much personal reading on the theory.



Year 1: HK$26,000
(COF / One-off payment before Sept. 27, 2024:  HK$24,700)

Year 2: HK$26,000
(COF / One-off payment before Sept. 27, 2025:  HK$24,700)

Payments can be made annually by two installments (half of the annual fee), to be paid before  Sept. 24 and Jan. 15 of each year.

The training hours of this Programme are recognized by:
American Association for Marriage & Family Therapist (AAMFT) for application of Clinical Fellow membership;
Hong Kong Marriage & Family Therapy Association (HKMFTA) for application of Certified Marriage & Family Therapist membership.


Peggy Chan, M.Ed., R.S.W.

Mrs. Peggy Chan started studying Bowen theory in the early 1990s in Vancouver. She attended the Postgraduate Programme in Bowen Family Systems theory and Its Applications at the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family, Washington DC, U.S.A., from 2008-2013. Peggy continued her study by attending the Bowen Center’s Research Seminar group from 2013 till now. She has been a member of the Bowen Center’s Network Programme for the Advancement of Bowen Theory since Nov. 2014. She collaborates with other Bowen theory training centers worldwide to promote better teaching and learning of Bowen theory.

She has presented at conferences and workshops in Hong Kong, China, Taiwan, the U.S.A., and Australia. She was the Coordinator of the 2nd International Conference in Bowen Family Systems Theory held in Hong Kong in May 2018. Working closely with non-governmental organizations, she conducts programmes for parents and teachers and parents of substance abusers based on Bowen theory.

She is Fellow and Approved Supervisor (Hong Kong Professional Counselling Association), Certified Marriage & Family Therapist and Approved Supervisor (Hong Kong Marriage and Family Therapy Association), and Certified Social Work Specialist (Hong Kong Academy of Social Work).

She has over 20 years of experience counselling individuals and families, conducting clinical supervision, and training professionals. Her research interests are women’s sense of self in the Chinese multigenerational family systems, in-law triangles, and the impact of parents’ differentiation of self on their parenting.


Doris Tai, M.Soc.Sc. (Counselling)

Ms. Doris Tai first learned about Bowen Theory when she studied Master of Christian Counselling and Family Therapy programme in Australia in 1998. She has actively participated in various courses, workshops and conferences of ISSFI after obtaining her Master of Social Sciences (Counselling) with Distinction from the University of Hong Kong. She also speaks at symposium and conferences, sharing her work experience and research projects.

She is an Approved Supervisor of the Hong Kong Marriage and Family Therapy Association, and an Associate Fellow and Certified Counsellor of the Hong Kong Professional Counseling Association. Before working as a marriage and family therapist, she was a church minister and a medical technologist in virology.

For more than 20 years, her seminary experience and training have helped her provide counseling services to individuals, couples, and families in church settings. She is particularly interested in incorporating spiritual elements into Bowen Theory when she conducts workshops for church and counsels Christians.


Frequently Asked Questions:

Is this training programme recognized by any international organizations?

The Bowen Center for the Study of the Family, Washington D.C., U.S.A., is the leading agency providing training on Bowen theory. Its website lists The ISS Family Institute as one of the 16 organizations with programmes that “are directed by people who trained extensively at the Bowen Center for the Study of the Family and who are in close contact with the most recent developments in Bowen theory and the science that informs theory”.

The ISS Family Institute has close relationship with the Bowen Center for the Study of Family.

  • It organizes regular conferences presented by the faculty of the Bowen Center.
  • Its Director of Programme, Mrs. Peggy Chan, regularly attends the meetings and conferences organized by the Bowen Center in Washington, D.C. Mr. Chan is currently participating in an advanced programme (Research Seminar) of the Bowen Center.
  • Mrs. Chan has presented at the Bowen Center’s 51st Annual Symposium (Nov.,2014) in Virginia, and was a plenary speaker at the 1st International Conference on Bowen Family Systems Theory at Pittsburg, Pennslvania in August, 2015.
  • Mrs. Chan is currently a member of the Bowen Network Programme for the Advancement of Bowen Theory, and collaborates with other Bowen theory training centres around the world to promote better teaching and learning of Bowen theory.


How can I benefit from this training programme?

Through in-depth study of how human emotional systems function, trainees will learn a comprehensive framework on how to understand human functioning and relationships. Trainees will get regular coaching on how to apply the theory to their clinical practice, work and family relationships, so that they can solve problems and manage themselves effectively in these arenas.


How can this programme help me in my counselling work?

Through learning Bowen theory, this programme helps the counselor to take a broad view of the clients’ situation, and also to have a firm grasp of the underlying emotional forces that impact on the family members. It helps the counselor to understand the functional patterns of the family system and its members, and not only focus on solving the presenting problems. The counselor will guide the clients to have fundamental changes in their functioning patterns, so that the clients will be more effective in future relationships. This theory sees the family as an emotional unit, and that members’ functioning is heavily influenced by one another. This offers the counselor flexibility in the target clients to work with. The counselor can work with any member of the family to address his/her participation in the problem, even though the person having the presenting problem refuses to come.


I am not a counselor, can I still benefit from this programme?

Bowen theory offers very useful concepts to understand human functioning in social systems or relationship networks. It provides a roadmap or blue print for us to lead a functional life and solve problems in our relationships. Besides clinical work, it has been applied to a great variety of settings, such as work relationships, organizational management, pastoral or church settings, and international relationships. Therefore, anyone interested in self-change, and in enhancing one’s functioning in his/her relationship networks, will find this programme useful.


What is family research? Why is it an important part of this training programme?

Dr. Bowen found out that the interns who had undertaken family-of- origin work did better with their clinical work besides having better functioning families. Our families are thus seen as a laboratory for trying out our new behaviours, and for learning Bowen theory experientially. By doing family research, trainees study the functioning patterns of their families-of-origin, how anxiety plays out in their family systems, how they have positioned themselves to their family members, and how they can function better. Family research provides the opportunity for the trainees to integrate the theory experientially, and is a very important part of our learning.



Applicants should complete the application form and send it to ISS Family Institute together with an application fee of $100. Prospective applicants will be interviewed and assessed by the Programme Director as to their suitability to enroll in this programme.

Click here for application form in word format.
Click here for application form in PDF format.



Please send your application form to ISS Family Institute, 6F, Southorn Centre, 130 Hennessy Road, Wanchai, Hong Kong, together with a cheque of $100 for your application fee before August 23, 2024.



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