Encyclopedia of Couple and Family Therapy

2019 Edition
| Editors: Jay L. Lebow, Anthony L. Chambers, Douglas C. Breunlin

Detriangulation in Couple and Family Therapy

  • Kaylyn E. GydenEmail author
  • Megan J. Murphy
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-49425-8_315

Name of Concept



The process of detriangulating is arguably the most important technique in family systems therapy (Kerr and Bowen 1988). However, it is important to briefly discuss Murray Bowen’s concept of triangles and triangulating before discussing detriangulation further. Triangle is a term used to describe a three-person system that is formed when an unstable two-person systems begins to experience stress (Landers et al. 2016). The process of triangulating occurs when the two-person system introduces a third party to the system in hopes of stabilizing the relationship and reducing the amount of anxiety being experienced (Kerr and Bowen 1988). Thus, detriangulation is the process in which the third party begins to remove themselves from the unstable two-person system.

Theoretical Context for Concept

Detriangulation as a concept was developed by Bowen, the founder of Bowen family systems therapy, an intergenerational approach to family therapy.


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  1. Kerr, M. E., & Bowen, M. (1988). Family evaluation. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  2. Landers, A. L., Patton, R., & Reynolds, M. (2016). Family therapy glossary. Alexandria: American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Purdue University NorthwestHammondUSA

Section editors and affiliations

  • David Kearns
    • 1
  • Bahareh Sahebi
    • 2
  1. 1.Iowa CityUSA
  2. 2.The Family Institute at Northwestern UniversityEvanstonUSA