3rd Family Systems Symposium: Calmness and Resilience under Uncertainties – November 12, 2022

3rd Family Systems Symposium 2022 11 12

Calmness and Resilience under Uncertainties 不安世代裡的平靜安穩
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閱讀︰ 20221112_Calmness and Resilience under Uncertainties 不安世代裡的平靜安穩
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3rd Family Systems Symposium: Calmness and Resilience under Uncertainties – November 12, 2022



The past few years have not been easy. There are still many uncertainties that we are facing presently and in the future. At the 3rd Family Systems Symposium, Mrs. Peggy Chan and six local Bowen theory learners will share their thoughts on different aspects of attaining calmness and resilience under uncertainties with Bowen theory.

Full Day: November 12, 2022 (Sat)

10:00 am – 5:30 pm

Language: Cantonese supplemented with English 



10:00 am Changing Our Fate with Bowen Theory?!
New Horizons for Systems Thinking in Hong Kong
(with two 15 minute Q & A sections)
Peggy Chan, M.Ed., R.S.W.
12:00 pm Lunch Break
1:30 pm Introduction
1:40 pm  A Journey from Uncertainty to Serenity amid the COVID-19 Pandemic
Doris Tai, M.Soc.Sc. (Counselling)
2:05 pm What can we learn from honey bees, especially in managing stress and group living?
Winnie Wan, M. Christian Marriage & Family Therapy
2:30 pm Work From Home – The impact from the perspective of Bowen Theory
Jean Tai, M.Guidance& Counselling, M.B.A.
2:55 pm Panel Discussion
3:25 pm Break
3:40 pm Gaining More through the Loss of One
Berenice Lee, M. Counselling
4:05 pm Aging Well
Winnie Lee, B. Sc Psychology, M.Divinity
4:30 pm From Painful to Funful: Build our Youth up with Lego
Renee Chiu, Ph.D., R.S.W.
4:55 pm Panel Discussion
5:30 pm Symposium Ends


Keynote Speech

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

Changing Our Fate with Systems Thinking?!
New Horizons for Systems Thinking in Hong Kong

In times of uncertainties and challenges, many in the Chinese culture would seek solace in Fung Shui, fortune telling, spells and religion. Having been a student of Bowen theory for three decades, Peggy will compare the similarities and differences between changing one’s life course with the above traditional methods versus following the Bowen theory path.

She will discuss what difference systems thinking, which Bowen theory espouses, will bring to one’s life. The systems perspective entails seeing oneself as an active player in our relationship networks with reciprocal influences on each other. Having a broad view with curiosity about our multigenerational emotional patterns opens up many resources and room for improvement of individual behaviours. Managing self and developing life principles are critical factors for helping us weather storms, and be a resource to our groups.

With the establishment of the ISS Family Institute 20 years ago to strengthen family and individual functioning with Bowen theory, how has systems thinking taken its roots in Hong Kong? Is the Chinese culture, often deemed to be collectivistic, conducive to the practice of a theoretical framework that stresses the management of self, developed by an American psychiatrist? Are there elements in the Chinese culture that reflects systems thinking? How does systems thinking address the anxiety of people learning it, as it entails a paradigm shift from our habitual linear or cause-effect thinking? How can we be more aware of our observational blindness to systems thinking? How are the elements of systems thinking integrated in the teaching and learning process?

Peggy will share her thoughts on the above.
Let’s explore new horizons for systems thinking in Hong Kong!


Peggy started studying Bowen theory in the early 1990s in Vancouver. She attended the Postgraduate Program 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 Program for the Advancement of the 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.


Presentation 1

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

A Journey from Uncertainty to Serenity amid the COVID-19 Pandemic

Under the uncertainty brought about by changes, we are constantly bombarded with tremendous amounts of information; some are facts, some are rumours, and some are fake news. To find calm & resilience amid massive amounts of messages, we must define our positions, assert our viewpoints and working principles, and articulate our voices.

At the beginning of the pandemic, I thought that being a Christian and once a clinical virology technologist, making rational choices and maintaining inner peace during the outbreak was straightforward.

However, siblings and friends are eager for me to adopt their views. I began to feel torn between the two forces: togetherness and individuality. When stress builds, it can be challenging to act on thoughts. As a result, anxiety creeps into my life, preventing me from making thoughtful decisions.

Bowen family systems theory is a roadmap for my journey from uncertainty to serenity. The theory guides me.

  • Being more objective by moving away from cause-and-effect thinking and toward systems thinking assists me in seeing the uncertainty with a broader perspective, resulting in less blame, projection and aggression but more accountability to myself.
  • Being more attentive to my emotional processes and managing myself with more thoughtfulness has helped me to react less and take more thoughtful action.
  • Strike a balance between togetherness and individuality.

The balancing process required self-reflection and deep, thoughtful thinking, but it rewarded me with inner peace, resilience and wisdom.


Doris first learned about Bowen Theory when she studied Master of Christian Counselling and Family Therapy program 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 (HKMFTA) and an Associate Fellow and Certified Counsellor of the Hong Kong Professional Counseling Association (HKPCA). 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 finds it helpful to use the Bowen theory perspective to discuss spiritual matters when she conducts workshops for church and counsels Christians.


Presentation 2

Ms. Winnie Wan, M. Christian Marriage & Family Therapy

What can we learn from honey bees, especially in managing stress and group living?

The presenter will share her study on honey bees as living systems in nature and as emotional systems with the framework of Bowen theory. Honey bees are social insects. They live together in large, well-organized family groups. Communication, complex nest construction, environmental control, defence, and division of labour are just some behaviours that honey bees have developed for a successful existence in social colonies. Communication plays a crucial role in bee colonies as the operation and survival of their colonies is highly dependent on the cooperation amongst the bees. The presenter will introduce how the bees talk to one another. Do they pass around emotions when they “talk”, just as humans do? How do honey bees share information and make decisions for the entire colony? Do they “vote”? We could learn a lot from the individual honeybee and her social unit.

What happens when honey bees suffer from overwork and stress? Recent studies suggest stressful foraging activities reduce bees’ problem-solving ability. They must also work at their mental best to collect enough food for the colony. Although honey bees do not have the same level of cognition as human beings, it is discovered that anxiety can affect the learning ability of honey bees.

Interestingly, bees also fear and can sense anger as well. They have different behaviours when affected by emotions. Then how do bees calm themselves down to function well? How do honey bees get the colony organized again so they can continue surviving? This brief study of the behaviours of bees as living and emotional systems enhances the presenter’s understanding of differentiation of self and optimum system functioning.


Winnie is a guest lecturer at Bethel Bible Seminary and a Certified Marriage and Family Therapist (HKMFTA) and Certified Counsellor (HKPCA) She has much experience in marital and pre-marital counselling, counselling for personal growth and emotional relief. Besides teaching and clinical practice, she is currently studying a Doctorate Programme of Psychology in Marriage and Family Therapy. Apart from these, she is also one of the supervisors of Bethel Pastoral Counselling Centre. Winnie is a pet lover. She loves playing with her dog when she is free. Recently she started planting and found it a very effective way to maintain mental wellbeing.


Presentation 3

Ms. Jean Tai, M.Guidance& Counselling, M.B.A.

Work From Home – Impact from the Bowen Theory Perspective

Work From Home (WFH) became a new way of working during the Covid- 19 pandemic. Everyone in the world has a different experience of WFH, good or bad. There is a lot of economic or business review on this topic. Most surveys and analyses focus on the employees’ productivity, work quality, engagement, and stress experience; others may emphasize family-work conflict, social isolation, distracting environment, job autonomy, and self-leadership. These are true to different degrees in different working environments. The presenter will share more insights from the perspective of Bowen Theory.

In Bowen theory, a family is an emotional unit. A work system is also an emotional unit that experiences emotional processes. WFH triggers stressful events and intensifies the tension among people. People are overloaded with work tasks, while some colleagues need to be quarantined or take sick leave. When staff WFH, the boss checks and calls the staff frequently. Anxiety accumulates and spreads through the system. The presenter will further explore the emotional process in the family when both husband and wife WFH. The tension in the interlocking triangles of the family continues to grow, with escalating reactivity from family members and workmates. From the perspective of Bowen theory, awareness of own anxiety and the company’s anxiety can shed light on these situations and more options.


After working in the business sector for many years in her earlier career with a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, Jean turned to counselling. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Guidance and Counselling from The Hong Kong Polytechnic University. She then continued her counselling studies through the Bowen Family Systems Theory approach at ISSFI.

Jean is enthusiastic about bringing with her more than 20 years of experience in the business world and her learning of Bowen theory into her private practice. Her focus is to help clients manage their daily life, family relationships, personal issues and workplace relationships. She endeavours to facilitate her clients to work towards a better level of differentiation of self with improvements in emotional self-regulation and articulation of I-position.


Presentation 4

Ms. Berenice Lee, M. Counselling

Gaining More through the Loss of One

It would be common to think that the death of a family member reduces one’s family network by the loss of the demised member while weddings and births increases the network and number within the extended family. Although this is true in terms of the absolute number of persons involved, having a death in the family may bring surprising additions to family relationships. The extended family is back in contact again as news of the death travels through the grapevine. During this time, new ties can be formed, old ties renewed and existing ones enriched with sharing of stories one had of the demised member.

Within the last 3 years, the author has lost 6 senior family members in her extended family to natural death. While it is painful to be losing loved ones, she is comforted by new found relationships with other members of her extended family. The process is further enriched by the family research which she has conducted over the course of 10 years.

The author will share at her presentation how she conducted her family research, her connections with the extended family and her discoveries through the process. Besides understanding more about the past, she also felt strengthened by the resilience of her ancestors and more anchored when facing the uncertainties of the future.


Berenice first learned about Bowen family systems theory in her Master of Counselling course in Australia in 2006. After attending various courses at the ISS Family Institute, she joined the Professional Training Programme (PTP) in 2014 and continued with the PTP – Continuous Studies until now which is in its 6th year.

Berenice was a COF Think Tank member for many years since its beginning helping with the Bowen Conferences and is a member of the Faculty helping on the curriculum side. She facilitated various programmes in the past and teaches the Basic Course and other general courses in Bowen theory.

Berenice is a Certified Counsellor & Associate Fellow of the Hong Kong Professional Counselling Association (HKPCA). She is also a Certified Family Therapist with the Hong Kong Family and Marriage Therapy Association (HKMFTA). She holds a Bachelor of Laws (Honours), Bachelor of Arts in English Language and Literature, Master of Arts in American Literature and Culture and Master of Counselling. She specializes in marital and family relationship counselling, parental guidance, personal coaching, psychotherapy for individuals, and workplace dynamics in her own private practice.


Presentation 5

Ms. Winnie Lee, B. Sc Psychology, M.Divinity

Aging Well

Approaching mid-life, it is inevitable that one needs to face aging and the challenges it brings. This presentation is a journey to find out how to approach aging, and its challenges and to start this early in life, to look at resources and what helps to age well.

According to Bowen theory, “the level of differentiation is essentially fixed early in life; individuals who were impaired in their earlier years usually experience difficulties in functioning in their later years.” (Bowen 1978). Also, emotional cutoff (as an Intergenerational process) contributes to developing disabilities/paralyzing symptoms during later life transitions or elderly years.

The presenter will share some thoughts about being a caregiver to elderly parents or loved ones, such as how to be the resources for loved ones in a thoughtful way (Gilbert) and an opportunity to work on differentiation of self while caring for them as this is vital to “aging well” (Harrison).


Winnie studied Psychology at the University of Toronto. She holds a Master of Divinity Degree from Tyndale College in Toronto, majoring in Counselling. This is how she learned about Bowen Theory.

Though working in the commercial sector after graduation, she is interested in Bowen Theory. She has taken different courses at ISSFI: Family Research Consultation Group and Professional Training Programme in Bowen Family Systems Theory.

Her passion is understanding her family of origin, working on differentiation of self, developing resourcefulness in her own family and sharing her learnings with others or vice versa.

She strongly believes in the importance of developing meaningful emotional contact with her family, according to Bowen theory. She shared about this earlier at an ISSFI workshop: “Connecting with family members – Reflections during Chinese New Year”.


Presentation 6

Dr. Renee Chiu, Ph.D., R.S.W.

From Painful to Funful: Build our Youth up with Lego

COVID-19 has brought monumental impacts on the lives of many families and individuals across the world. Life patterns and relationships amongst family members altered with heightened anxiety towards the risks in the surroundings. Families must adapt and cope with the substantial changes due to social isolation, school closures, financial and employment instability etc. Youth in the families also encounter personal and academic challenges, such as the disruption of study, daily routines and social life. There was growing literature on LEGO-based intervention as a creative means in therapy. This presentation will illustrate the use of LEGO in facilitating the understanding of the emotional processes in families and young people to develop strategies to cope with the multitude of stressors with a family systems framework.


Dr. Renee Chiu received her First-class Honours Degree in Social Work, a Doctorate of Philosophy Degree from Hong Kong Baptist University, and a Master’s Degree in Family Counselling and Family Education from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Dr. Chiu is currently a lecturer in the Department of Social Work of Hong Kong Baptist University. She is also one of the teaching faculty members of the ISS Family Institute. Since 2015, Dr. Chiu has devoted herself to the study of Bowen theory and presented her research at different symposia and international conferences. She is committed to sharing her reflection and application of Bowen Theory in her teaching and training. She has engaged in individual and family counselling and professional training for more than 15 years, focusing on parent-child relationships, marriage, personal growth, career development and interpersonal relationships. Her main research areas include Bowen theory, attachment, intimacy, and parenting.



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Calmness and Resilience under Uncertainties 不安世代裡的平靜安穩

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閱讀︰ 20221112_Calmness and Resilience under Uncertainties 不安世代裡的平靜安穩