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The concept of “coaching” around life issues or particular strategies of development

and leadership has received increased attention in recent years.

Family Systems coaching or consultation is a unique form of work, with the goal of moving toward differentiation of self for an individual, family, or organization. The key to this aspect of family systems process is to establish an ongoing relationship with someone who can be objective, has a knowledge of Bowen family systems theory, who is experienced at defining a self, and will not ask an individual or system to do what they can’t or won’t.


If differentiation of self is, as Friedman said in 1993, a “life-long process of striving to keep one’s being in balance through a reciprocal, external, and internal process,” then a relationship with a neutral person outside the family or organization can assist individuals regardless of their place in a system.


Members of the HC Network are available for phone and Zoom conversation and distance consultation, as needed. Feel free to contact Dr. Emlyn Ott through the Healthy Congregations office or by email.

As part of the Leadership Series, participants have the opportunity to participate in group coaching sessions.


Who and what does one look for in a coaching/consulting relationship?

A person (1) with experience in their own work of defining a self, who (2) encourages clearer thinking, (3) challenges for the purpose of greater clarity and (4) encourages persistence.

What form does coaching and consultation take?

An individual, couple, or family may make arrangements with a family systems coach for work that involves a focus on family of origin relationships and processes, as well as looking at connections between family, work, and world. One of the best ways to work within a relationship of coaching is to find a family systems theory group that meets on a regular basis, including a coaching component. Some of the groups are structured to meet several times a year for concentrated work blocks of 2-3 days. Some groups meet on a monthly basis. Healthy Congregations offers a theory/coaching experience through its Healthy Leadership Seminars.

Can coaching apply to community organizations and congregations?

Healthy Congregations has a network of committed professionals with experience in working with larger systems, including hospitals, school districts, businesses, and non-profits as well in churches, parishes, and judicatories. These coaches and consultants also have made a commitment to their own ongoing family of origin work. They are available to work with leaders and communities who desire to examine their mission, deal with current or past challenges, and determine next steps in the process of clarifying the purpose and direction of the organization.

How can I find resources?

Certainly searching the web for resources is one way to see what is available. It is important to note that family systems coaching and consultation from a Bowen family systems perspective is unique. The Healthy Congregations office has a list of individual coaches that meet the criteria stated above. We also have connections with theory groups and their sponsors throughout the country. Contact us for more information.

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