The relationship between family, brainwaves and actions

Priscilla Friesen '71, LICSW
Founder, The Learning Space, Washington, D.C.
Major: social work


Social work from day one.
Priscilla FriesenPriscilla Friesen knew from a very young age that she wanted a career in social work. "Just like you're born into a position in your family, I was born into social work," she says. "I was born tuned in to how relationships work."

The interconnectedness of family.
While working on a master's degree in social work at the University of Kansas in 1976, Priscilla was introduced to Dr. Murray Bowen's family systems theory, which views the family as an emotional unit and explores the patterns of connected- ness and reactivity of each individual to one another. Priscilla discovered her future. "When my mother died, I could not figure out how those kinds of things happened," says Priscilla. "When I was introduced to the Bowen theory, it was like, 'Oh! That's how it works.'"

Understanding relationship and actions.
Priscilla moved to Washington, D.C., enrolled in a training program at The Bowen Center for the Study of the Family, and was offered an administrative/clinical position. Since 1978, she has helped plan and implement professional training programs that incorporate biofeedback (a method to develop self-regulation through awareness of an individual's physiology) and neurofeedback (brainwave training), to assist individuals, families and communities in solving major life problems through understanding and improving human relationships. Priscilla looks at the broader context of what is happening in a person's life that corresponds to his/her brainwave activity and to particular symptoms such as muscle tension, insomnia, chronic anxiety, marital conflict or problems with a child.

A space of her own.
In 2005, Priscilla joined two colleagues in forming The Learning Space, a practice that provides consultation, neurofeedback and learning forums for professionals to integrate various methods of body/mind experiences to increase individual functioning. "My niche throughout my professional life has been studying how physiology of the brain is developed, how physiology and brain activity develops within an individual as part of a family and how to use that information to provide individuals with the tools necessary for them to increase functioning," says Priscilla.

Teaching others.
Priscilla and her colleagues provide programs for individuals to better understand the brain in a broader context for functioning. They are currently presenting the seminar series "Beyond Protocol: Dialogues on the Life Cycle" which explores the developmental changes that occur in the interplay of the brain-body-relationship system over a lifetime and its impact on individual functioning.

Preserving the past.
Priscilla is working with Dr. Bowen's family to document and archive his collection with the National Library of Medicine. It's a massive undertaking, says Priscilla, considering at least 3,000 videotapes need to be digitized. In her spare time, she and her husband, Robert Felton, enjoy spending time with their two children and four grandchildren.