In this article, Gro Anita Homme and I offer a heuristic framework that links several key aspects of the psychological models of John Bowlby, Heinz Kohut, and Murray Bowen. Our main goal was to generate insight into an underlying set of isomorphic patterns in the shaping and reshaping of the self. A PDF of the article is available here.

We argue that this theoretical matrix of interlocking perspectives can facilitate our understanding of the formation – and promote the transformation – of selves as they engage within their familial and social worlds.

The first section introduces some of Bowlby’s, Kohut’s, and Bowen’s key theoretical and therapeutic contributions and provides our rationale for linking some of their ideas and intervention strategies. The second section offers a brief review of earlier attempts at partial integration of these theories and describes the distinctiveness of our proposal. The third section outlines our proposed heuristic framework, which identifies some of the underlying structural similarities in the formation of the self, described in different ways and with varying emphases by these three scholars.

Finally, we briefly explore some of the implications of the model for producing clinical insights into distinctive pathways for the transformation of the self.