Help clients understand and break the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle

Introduction to Effective Assessment of Low-nurturance Family Clients
p. 3 of 5

Assessment Factors, Projects 5 thru 8

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council

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The Web address of this 5-page article is http://sfhelp.org/pro/dx/basics.htm

under revision

        This continues an outline of key assessment-options of a client's metasystem (system of systems) - their extended-family plus any currently-impactful social subsystems.


  Lesson 3 Assessments
(for all clients) - evaluate the clients'...

knowledge about bonds, losses, and healthy three-level grief;

family grieving policy; and signs of...

significant bonding-block wounds, and...

unfinished or blocked grief in client adults or kids.

Premises:

       Throughout their lives, all wholistically-healthy persons automatically form emotional/spiritual bonds (attachments) with special living and inanimate things, rituals, dreams, sounds, places, and perceptions. By choice or chance, these bonds break, causing losses.

        Nature provides an effective process to adjust to them over time - grieving. However, psychological and environmental factors can hinder or block  mourning. If not corrected, this promotes a cascade of significant personal health and relationship problems.

        Adults and kids in typical low-nurturance ("troubled") families - specially divorcing families and stepfamilies - often have difficulty grieving their losses well. This clinical model proposes incomplete or blocked grief is one of four or five epidemic family stressors. Preventing and freeing blocked grief, and promoting wholistically-healthy personal and family grieving policies, are the main goals of Lesson 3 in this model. These goals apply to all families.

        Over several sessions, ask client adults to...

define (a) bonding, (b) losses (broken bonds), and (c) the process of grieving;

name typical abstract losses to see if they realize that grieving applies to more than just the death of a loved person or pet. And ask adults and kids to...

(a) describe significant abstract and tangible losses they've each had in recent years, and (b) the status of their grieving each major loss; And ask client adults to...

describe (a) the three levels of normal grief (mental, emotional, and spiritual), and (b) the common phases in each level; and to...

describe what they believe is required for healthy grief in adults and kids; And ask client adults...

if (a) if they believe grief can be slowed or blocked, and if so, (b) how, and (c) what blocked grief  means to persons and families like theirs. And ask...

if they know how to identify blocked or incomplete grief in themselves and other family members - specially kids; and...

how clients (a) if and when grieving a specific loss is "done;" and (b) how they try to support kids and adults who are mourning; And ask them...

to describe (a) what a family grieving policy is, (b) their respective birthfamily's policies, and (c) their current family's policy; And ask...

if (a) any of the client adults or kids are currently addicted to anything; and if so, (b) how the family is reacting to that. Rationale: typical addictions are often unconscious (false-self) strategies to self-medicate the pain of grief and/or significant psychological wounds;

if any family adults or kids have taken, or are taking, anti-depressant medications. Rationale - significant grief symptoms (apathy, "laziness," loss of appetite, undesired weight loss, eating and sleeping problems, trouble focusing) are often misdiagnosed as "depression."

Option - ask client adults to describe their family's current policies on (a) feeling and (b) expressing sadness and anger. Rationale: these semi-conscious policies significantly affect the family's rules and attitudes about grieving broken bonds. And assess...

Any other appropriate variables related to client bonding, losses, and grieving.

  Selected Lesson-3 Resources

Interventions related to these stepfamily-assessment variables;

The Lesson-3 overview and article-index;

These Q&A items on healthy grieving;

The guidebook Stepfamily Courtship (Xlibris.com, 2002).

 <<  main assessment index  /  project assessment index  >>


  PROJECT 6 Assessments
(all clients) - evaluate (a) whether client adults have a clear, consensual long-term family goal - i.e. a mission or vision statement, and (b) if they use effectively it to manage major family crises and impasses.

Premises:

        Families exist in every age and culture because they're more effective at filling their adults' and kids' primary needs (nurturing) than other social groups. Adults in high-nurturance families (a) are usually guided by their true Selves, who (b) have a clear, consensual idea of what needs they're trying to fill (nurture) together over time - i.e. family leaders rely on an unspoken or proactive mission or vision statement to help them make healthy decisions in conflictual or chaotic situations.

        Typical low-nurturance families (a) lack effective adult leadership, and/or (b) are unclear on their purpose (mission) and live reactively, day to day. Typical adult members are often significantly wounded  and unaware of the short and long-range benefits of a thoughtful family mission statement. Therefore, they won't proactively seek clinical help to forge and implement one.

        Implication - with low-nurturance client families, effective clinicians will assess the client family adults' current and long-term priorities and goals, and take (or make) opportunities to propose that their adults evolve and use a thoughtful vision statement. This is specially apropos for courting, newly-committed, and troubled stepfamilies.

Ask client adults what the current and long-term purpose of their family is - i.e. what do they hope to have accomplished together when they're old? Option - for perspective, invite clients to commune with their respective Future Selves;

If appropriate, refresh the clients on the concept of a family's nurturance level.  Then ask how they would rate the level of their present family - specially how well they're filling the developmental and adjustment needs of each minor child recently.

       Their response will illustrate how aware they are of these related needs (unaware > moderately aware > very aware) and what priority the adults give to filling them;

(a) Discuss and illustrate the concept and benefits of personal and group mission or vision statements, and (b) note client reactions (indifference > ambivalence > genuine interest);

(a) Ask what priorities the adults use to resolve major family dilemmas and crises now, and (b) suggest and illustrate the value of using a consensual mission statement to help manage major disputes and impasses.

Follow up to see if client adults are choose to evolve and use a family mission statement. If so, ask them (a) whether they're involving other family members in co-creating it, and (b) what benefits they all are experiencing from doing so.

  Selected Project-6 Resources

Interventions related to these stepfamily-assessment variables;

The Project-6 overview and article-index;

These proposed traits of a high-nurturance family;

These three practical steps for breaking the [wounds + unawareness] cycle in any family or region;

This two-page series on family mission statements; and...

The guidebook Stepfamily Courtship (Xlibris.com, 2002).

<<  main assessment index  /  project assessment index  >>
 

  PROJECT 7 Assessments for courting couples - specially those with prior kids - evaluate partners' main criteria for deciding whether to commit to each other and any existing kids and relatives.

Premises: This clinical model proposes that one of five epidemic Western-family stressors is cultural indifference to needy, wounded, unaware couples choosing the wrong people to commit to, at the wrong time, for unhealthhy reasons. This is specially common for courting (stepfamily) co-parents with prior kids, and promotes their eventual psychological or legal divorce.

        The model also proposes that couples can guard themselves and their descendents against these unwise decisions by patient work together on these Lessons before committing. Few typical couples are aware of the need for or value of this, and want to work at these Projects. Implication - effective clinicians will proactively assess courting client couples for their vulnerability to making unwise commitment choices for themselves and existing and future kids. 

        Early in the work, assess...

Clients' (a) presenting problems, and (b) any crises they need to resolve now;

The couple's openness to shifting from their presenting problems to studying and honestly discussing these courtship danger signs (closed > ambivalent > open). Disinterest, ambivalence, or approach-avoid behavior to this suggests that one or both partners are governed by a false self.

And assess the couple's openness to honestly...

  • acknowledge the five hazards they and their descendents face,

  • study all seven Lessons in the Break the Cycle! course,

  • answer and discuss these three pre-commitment worksheets (closed > ambivalent > open);

  Selected Project-7 Resources

Interventions related to these stepfamily-assessment variables;

The Project-7 overview and article-index;

The guidebook Stepfamily Courtship (Xlibris.com, 2002)

<<  main assessment index  /  project assessment index  >>
 

  PROJECT 8  Assessments (for all divorcing, courting, committed, and re/divorcing adult couples) - evaluate...

any significant wounds in each partner, if not previously assessed (Lesson 1);

the key strengths and stressors in the relationship;

the primary needs each mate is trying to fill with their relationship;

how satisfied with the relationship each partner has been recently, and...

how effective the couple is at resolving significant relationship problems.  

Premises:

        Our wounded, unaware, decaying culture currently denies the toxic impacts of...

the widespread [wounds + unawareness] cycle that promotes...

unwise couple-commitment choices; and...

couples being unable to communicate and problem-solve effectively. And...

we deny or ignore the impacts of psychological and legal divorce on...

  • personal wholistic health and longevity,

  • the needs and long-term welfare of descendents, and...

  • the psychological and spiritual health, wselfare, and growth of our society. And...

Typical lay people and human-service and media professionals are unaware of...

  •  the common causes of psychological and legal divorce, and...

  • how to reduce or prevent them. This is specially true of the complex causes of stepfamily divorces. And...

The quality and stability of the client-couple's relationship is central to the evolving nurturance-level of their home and family systems; and...

Conflicted couples who are court-ordered to seek professional help usually...

  • made up to three unwise commitment decisions which can't be undone; and they're...

  • significantly wounded, unaware, and denying, discounting, or ignoring this; and they're...

  • usually snarled in chronic blaming and defending surface, vs. primary stressors (unfilled needs); and they're...

  • ambivalent about or unmotivated for significant relationship changes; unless either mate has hit true personal bottom.

        Pause and reflect: how do you feel about each of theses core premises? How comfortable with and motivated are you to do "couples' work" using some version this model?

Basic Project-8 Assessments

        Based on these key premises, this clinical model suggests evaluating client couples over time for their...

presenting (surface) problems; and their...

degree of denial of serious relationship problems (none > moderate > high); and assess for...

significant false-self wounds - specially any bonding blocks (a Lesson-1 assessment); and evaluate...

each partner's awareness of what primary needs they each wanted to fill by committing to each other; and...

what each partner's selected attitudes and recent personal priorities are, as illustrated by their actions, not words; and...

the couple's (a) awareness and (b) appreciatrion of (vs. ignoring or discounting) their key relationship strengths; and...

the couple's awareness and use of...

  • the vital difference between first-order (superficial) and second-order (permanent) change; and...

  • effective-communication basics and skills - specially their awareness of why and how to discern surface and primary needs (Lesson-2 assessments); and assess...

recent significant relationship stressors (unfilled needs); and...

the couple's...

  • recent strategies for reducing these stressors - effective problem-solving or something else; and learn...

  • the usual outcomes of their strategies - needs never met > needs met sometimes > needs always met. And assess...

each partner for unfinished or blocked grieving of prior significant losses (a Lesson-3 assessment); and for...

the nature and effectiveness of the couple's support network, including personal spirituality - (no support > ineffective support > effective support); and assess...

any other couple-system element unique to this case.

        Pause and reflect - how does this set of primary-relationship assessments compare to your set?

  Selected Project-8 Resources

Interventions related to (a) these couple-relationship assessment factors, and (b) to effective inner-personal and couple-relationship problem-solving;

This Project-8 overview and article-index;

This proposal of essential relationship factors,

This inventory of typical primary-relationship strengths and stressors; and...

These key questions and answers about courtship, relationships, and stepfamily re/marriage; and...

This three-part worksheet on stepfamily courtship commitment decisions; and...

This  article and slide-presentation on divorce; and...

This worksheet on divorce-recovery status; and...

These articles on resolving common primary-relationship problems; and...

This guidebooks for typical courting co-parents: Stepfamily Courtship (Xlibris.com, 2002), .

<<  main assessment index  /  project assessment index  >>

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Updated August 16, 2015