This article offers a quick reference
for mental-health professionals on common blocks to effective work with
typical divorcing-family and stepfamily clients.
This collection of blocks is based on
36 years' private-practice experience with this client
population, and a related five-element
of effective work with them.
The model proposes five things typical clinicians need to provide effective
service to these complex, multi-problem clients:
steadily guiding his or her other
accurate didactic knowledge of
experiential learning from applying
these topics in work with these clients; and...
a high-nurturance, informed clinical
resources for the client and clinician.
In my professional experience since 1979, most human-service
professionals (a) lack these requisites, and (b) don't know that, or
what it means to them and their clients. In other words, they and their
supervisors, case managers, funders, and employers settle for inferior
service because they don't know what's possible. Regardless of professional
training and work experience, uninformed, wounded, and novice
human-service providers can make a range of errors that will lower
service effectiveness and possibly add to client
These are common
A disabled true Self
- typical human-service professional are apt to be be significantly-
of low-nurturance childhoods. We
(GWCs) survived by developing a dominant
for false-self dominance and take any appro-priate corrective action
("recovery"), they are at risk of distorting reality, making impulsive,
unwise per-sonal and professional decisions; and missing the chance to help
clients assess for their own psychological wounds. Such clinicians are also apt
to unconsciously choose low-nurturance, stressful work environ-ments which
raises the odds of providing - and settling for - ineffective service.
The major error here is a clinician (i.e. their false self) avoiding
responsibility for learning how to em-power their resident true Self to lead
their "inner family" of
in all situations. The paradox here is that protective false selves will
usually deny the need to do this ("I'm not psychologically wounded!"), and
will ignore, postpone. They'll minimize learning about personality subselves
and psychological wounds, and (b) honestly assessing for significant wounds.
Then they'll deny doing this, and/or persuasively rationalize doing it.
Could this be true of you?
widespread related error is unaware human-service employers, supervisors,
case managers, and consultants (a) not learning about - or rejecting -
normal personality subselves and wounds, and (b) not assessing themselves
and their clinical employees and supervisees for significant false-self
dominance (wounds); and/or (c) not adequately training and encouraging
their staff to be aware of psychological wounds and what they mean.
you're not aware of normal (vs. "pathological") personality subselves, study
these slide presentations on "inner-family"
basics, the [wounds + unawareness]
wound-recovery basics. Then use
this for an initial appraisal of
whether you are significantly controlled by a false self.
in this non-profit Web site and its related
offer more detail and options on wound assessment and recovery.
Ignorance - not learning basic stepfamily
myths and realities,
adult adjustment tasks, risks,
2) Not doing an
honest attitude check and considering
the effects on your clients of continuing any inaccurate or toxic
beliefs about divorce, re/marriage, steppeople, and stepfamilies.
3) Treating a courting or legal
stepfamily member like a member of an intact biofamily - e.g.
avoiding or ignoring the use of appropriate "step" terms and titles;
Excluding stepkids' other parent/s from
consideration in making family interventions and decisions
5) Not asking early in the work if
client adults identify as "a stepfamily";
or _ not explaining clearly
6) If they say they identify as a
stepfamily, not testing to
see if they have appropriate traits;
7) Assuming that
if a client does identify as a stepfamily member, s/he knows what
8) Not assessing for
symptoms of significant false-self
in the attending
co-parents and _ their
9) Not assessing early how effective adult clients
are in marital and co-parental problems-solving;
assessing clients' knowledge of _ healthy-grieving
basics, and the _ symptoms of
blocked grief in any of their related co-parenting homes;
11) Not assessing client _ knowledge of and _
strategy to resolve _
12) Not assessing each re/married
mate for their primary needs, and
13) Not _ alerting clearly-unaware
courting partners of their
probable divorce, and _ pointing them to credible
14) Not forming a viable way of judging the _
nurturance-level and _ stepfamily
knowledge of other providers serving your client and alerting them
to any concerns.
15) Not _
learning about the special needs of typical
stepkids, _ encouraging clients to do the same, and _ explaining why;
16) Not _ learning of local service providers with
stepfamily awareness and competence, _ networking with them, and _
referring clients to them;
Not recommending or requesting that your organization's in-service
training program periodically focus on these stepfamily topics;
18) Not evaluating the viability and costs/benefits
of (co)sponsoring a professionally-led co-parent support group; or inquiring
if one exists locally, evaluating it's effectiveness, and making referrals
making a point to ask local clergy in professional or personal
socializing if they're aware of this site or equivalent, and urging them
to learn about the [wounds + unawareness] cycle and its effects..
20) Not recommending to appropriate program
executives in your professional organization/s (e.g. ABA, APA, AMA, NASW, AAMFT) that they _ include professional stepfamily-focused training
programs, and _ sponsor support initiatives and for _ courting
co-parents (prevention) and _ re/married co-parents and kids. Option: if
your organization/s support "single-parents" or divorcing families,"
proactively suggest enlarging those programs to include basic re/divorce-prevention
21) Ignoring family strengths, and
overfocusing on past and present family "problems"
This is a representative summary of ways human-service professionals can
err by omission and commission in working with courting
and legal stepfamily clients. The theme of all these
"errors" is not motivating such clients to get education
to help them _ realize their risks, and _ learn how to minimize them, over
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April 30, 2013