Jo Wright - MAPS, AAFT

Registered Psychologist
Clinical Family Therapist

BA., Grad. Dip. Psych., Dip. Couple Therapy, Dip. Family Therapy.
Grad. Cert. Adult Ed. and Training (UTS).

A Recursive Intrapsychic and Relational Process:
The Contribution of the Bowen Theory to the Process of Self-Soothing


The concept of self soothing originating in the psychodynamic tradition has attracted interest from therapists as a key skill in the managing and regulating of strong affect and emotional discomfort. While a capacity for self soothing is implicit in, and a vital prerequisite to, the process of differentiation, Murray Bowen also predicted that the outcome of increased differentiation is improved emotional equilibrium and a capacity for self soothing, clearly a recursive process. The attention of Bowen Family Systems Theory to both the relational and intrapsychic aspects of human functioning provides a useful framework through which to explore these aspects of the dynamics of self soothing.

This paper describes some of the key processes involved in developing a self soothing capacity within an effort to define a more autonomous self in significant relationships. The author contrasts Family Systems thinking with other theoretical perspectives that speak to the importance of self soothing. Finally the role of the therapist as a facilitator of an environment in which the self soothing resources of clients can emerge is considered alongside suggestions and strategies for how a therapist may contribute to a client's own efforts.

This is the author's version of the work. It is posted here by permission of Australian Academic Press for personal use, not for redistribution. The definitive version was published in Australian and New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy (ANZJFT) Vol.30 No.1 pp. 29-41. (
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