Murray Bowen believed healthy relationships are highly differentiated, meaning that each person is connected to the other emotionally but also maintains a degree of separateness (Bowen, 1978).
According to Bowen, unhealthy people tend to be either isolationist or emotionally fused. If someone is emotionally fused, he might experience anxiety that causes him to act in an overly revolutionary manner toward another person.
Isolated persons, on the other hand, have no way of benefiting from authentic human closeness. Consequently, Bowen believed differentiation, is the sine qua non of personal fulfillment and healthy societies.
Bowen also believed western civilization was in a societal regression. He believed that because of our inability to manage diversity, growth, and change well, we have seen an increase in indicators of social decline. I will argue as political scientist Robert Putnam has, that multiculturalism itself is unmanageable and is therefore leading to societal regression in various parts of the western world (Putnam 2006).
I would argue further that on the micro-relationship level, family therapy, which is our western attempt to heal relationship disputes, has all too often embraced the flawed collaboration model from multiculturalism, which has impacted the outcomes in the field. This area has not been studied sufficiently because it is an alternative to the dominant discourse in our field.
The best marital therapy concepts
What Is marital therapy? Marital therapy is a type of family therapy aimed at healing the marriages by treating one or both members of a couple in a strained relationship.
Marital therapy or marriage counseling, which is represented best in this realm by Bowen and later Gottman (1994), might be the best therapeutic model to create change from truth and synergy, but his method has been particularly prone to adopting the flawed multicultural paradigm that can be characterized as follows:
Multilateral Empathy – Tiptoeing Around Differences – Reframing – Decrease in Tension – Acceptance of Difference
The containment and truth paradigm in marital therapy I am proposing contains the following elements:
Containment – Access – Truth – Reconciliation – Change
In this paradigm the therapist is a container who provides the psychological safety for two people who are usually functioning in an emotionally reactive state with differing viewpoints.
Containment becomes the first necessary step in engaging the couple
Under the safety of containment, the couple is now free to begin seeing and hearing the other clearly so truth can be revealed. This is a controversial area that challenges the prevailing family therapy notions of social constructionism.
This approach assumes that there are truths that when revealed, will fundamentally alter the couple relationship by shaping a new reality. That new reality is what I refer to as reconciliation. The outcome is that one person or both discover a new reality that changes their behavior. The family therapist must be centered enough and strong enough to allow the truth to be revealed or to intervene more directly when the parties are in a stalemate or one party is imposing an untruth.
As importantly there are times when a therapist might impose his own beliefs when one or both partners is locked in dysfunctional, narcissistic, or illogical thinking.
One of the important things to know about marital therapy is that there are some couples that cannot be helped because one or both partners is not able to be contained. In those situations, individual psychotherapy is indicated.