Integrating EMDR and Bowen theory in treating chronic relationship dysfunction



The concept of Chronic Relationship Dysfunction was developed by the author to describe the experience of those who are unable to find and maintain a healthy relationship with a mate and who feel considerable related emotional distress. The types of experiences that people with this problem typically present in a clinical setting include the inability to make any meaningful contact with an appropriate partner and making a series of poor choices so that no relationship lasts. Clients seeking treatment for relationship problems can be effectively treated using a Bowen family systems perspective (Bowen, 1978; Kerr & Bowen, 1988) as the theoretical backdrop for understanding the bigger relational context. In addition, the Adaptive Information Processing (AIP) model (Shapiro, 2001) can be used to understand the physiological link between critical early life experiences and current dysfunction. Together these theories provide a cohesive theoretical base and integrative treatment approach for use with clients with chronic relationship dysfunction. The AIP model and the Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) approach address current symptoms such as chronic relationship dysfunction by allowing the individual to reprocess the old material, thus integrating it with current information. The treatment model described here utilizes the basic structure of the EMDR protocol with the clinical application of Bowen Theory at certain key times.


Book Section




Nancy J. Knudsen

Original Work Citation

Knudsen, N. J. (2007). Integrating EMDR and Bowen theory in treating chronic relationship dysfunction. In F. Shapiro, F. W. Kaslow, & L. Maxfield (Eds.), Handbook of EMDR and family therapy processes (pp.169-186). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons Inc



“Integrating EMDR and Bowen theory in treating chronic relationship dysfunction,” Francine Shapiro Library, accessed October 26, 2021,

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