Department of Family Therapy Dissertations and Applied Clinical Projects

Date of Award


Document Type

Applied Clinical Project (ACP)

Degree Name

Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapy (DMFT)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Family Therapy


Christopher F. Burnett

Committee Member

Tommie V. Boyd


Traditional family therapy in the field of addiction primarily focuses on relapse prevention and psychoeducation. The lack of systems thinking in residential treatment facilities led to my desire to apply Bowen Family Therapy to a focus group in a residential treatment center. I used the following Bowen concepts: anxiety, differentiation of self, emotional cutoffs, and triangulation as a means to explore how addiction is a symptom of the larger emotional system of the family. I, co-facilitated a three hour group therapy session over 7 weeks with individuals in a treatment center. I addressed the following questions: RQ 1: What impact, if any did this program have on their life? RQ 2: What were the long-term effects of being in the program? RQ 3: Did participating in the group help to better understand resiliency? RQ 4: How does education on the family system impact an individual's recovery process and relationships in life? Through interviews, I followed up with clients three years later to look at the long-term effects of being in the 7-week program. This Applied Clinical Project focused on understanding resiliency and long-term effects on sobriety through a Bowenian lens. The themes that emerged focused on communication, boundaries, resiliency, relationships, and anxiety. The findings demonstrated that a multigenerational element in the study helped participants develop a way to maintain the Family Dynamics curriculum in their day to day life. The overarching theme is that healthy relationships with open communication lead to better anxiety management, resiliency, and boundaries which shows a foundation of which new approaches to substance abuse treatment can be found.