Family Health Services
The real reason I contacted Dr. Bowen the first time in 1975 was for myself, my own miserable situation. I was estranged from my family and my daughter lived with her father in Europe where he had taken her after a contentious custody suit. I was depressed and rather lost. I had been in therapy with about every possible approach and none of them had focused on what I needed to do to be more responsible for myself or to be a more responsible family member. When I reached Murray Bowen on the telephone at his office, he said “If you want to take responsibility for your own miserable situation, I’ll meet with you.” A few well-aimed questions and I knew what I must do in my life and family. The initial results were remarkable. I began to study family systems theory with Dr. Bowen and his faculty the next year in the Postgraduate Training Program. I began to work with biofeedback in much the same way. I wanted to see what difference I could make in asthma and anxiety I experienced frequently. The results were gratifying and I began the formal study of physiology using biofeedback to recognize and regulate reactions associated with symptoms. Very quickly I realized what had convinced Dr. Bowen to develop a biofeedback program at The Family Center. The instruments made it possible to see reactivity more clearly and to study the ways in which people regulate each other.
In 1980 I became fascinated with the study of how reactivity to relationships between family members and stress reactions affected reproductive hormones, menstruation, fertility, sperm count, pregnancy and childbirth. It required a tremendous amount of reading in the sciences and original studies of my own to identify some of the ways that relationships in the family impact hormones and ovulation. I’ve written about this work in “A Better Chance” a series of articles for Family Systems Forum and in articles published by Fertility & Sterility and Family Systems. I worked closely with the Department of Ob/Gyn at Georgetown University to see women with severe PMS, infertility, symptoms during pregnancy and for childbirth preparation when anxiety was high. Psychotherapy with biofeedback for self-regulation, based on Bowen family systems work, proved particularly helpful in symptoms that are often difficult to treat, such as pelvic pain and interstitial cystitis and endometriosis. The work applies to the impact of stress and relationship reactions on men as well. Reproduction and health in the family continue to be a special area of focus for my practice.Five years later, I began to apply what I had learned in dealing with several miscarriages that occurred when my second husband and I attempted to have a child. I was able to understand the obstacles, attempt to overcome them, and make peace with a decision not to use reproductive technology to override natural constraints.
Ms. Harrison moved back to Houston in 1991 and established Family Health Services. She commutes to Washington, DC to serve on the faculty of Bowen Center for the Study of the Family where she directs the Postgraduate Training Program. She also directs Center for the Study of Natural Systems and the Family for educational programs in Bowen Family Systems Theory in Houston.
I returned to Houston to be more a part of my family when my daughter began to have her children and my grandmother began her dying time. Now I am able to spend more time with my parents, watch my grandchildren grow into young adults, and get to know far more family members far better than I was able to do when traveling from Maryland.The move also allowed me to establish an office at Woman’s Hospital of Texas and work closely with reproductive endocrinologists and physicians there. After 15 years in a medical setting, I decided to build an office and classroom on our property in the Heights. People enjoy the quiet and tranquil setting here and can begin to learn how to cultivate that state of mind for themselves.
Ms. Harrison is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in Texas and a Licensed Social Worker in DC/MD. She holds certification from Biofeedback Certification Institute of America with senior clinician, training and supervisory status. Her full CV provides history about her work with drug addiction, crisis intervention, and women’s health as well as a list of presentations and publications.