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

Introduction to Effective Assessment of Low-nurturance Family Clients - p. 4 of 5

Assessment Factors, Projects 9 thru 12

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
member NSRC Experts Council


under revision

The Web address of this 5-page article is

        This continues an outline of part 1 of key assessments of a client's metasystem - their extended family.

Lesson 7 Assessments for courting and committed stepfamily clients - evaluate the soundness, harmony, and status of the co-parents' biofamily-merger plan, if any.


The formation or expansion of a multi-home extended stepfamily system begins in courtship, and continues for years after co-parent-couple commitment-vows and cohabiting.

Typical stepfamily-system development occurs while co-parents and kids try to merge, integrate, and stabilize up to 16 groups of biofamily factors over many years usually with little or no insight and experience;

Depending on co-parents' (a) wholistic health (wounds), (b) grieving policies and progress, and (c) stepfamily awareness and support, this complex, stressful multi-year merger-process will range between well-planned and managed to chaotic and significantly conflictual.

Three other related factors shaping the pace and harmony of the merger process are...

  • co-parents' knowledge of communication basics and skills, and motivation to use them as childcare teammates, vs. opponents;

  • divorced co-parents' and their relatives' admitting and resolving significant barriers to cooperative childcare; and...

  • family adults intentionally evolving strategies to avoid or resolve inevitable concurrent conflicts over (a) stepfamily membership, values, and loyalties; and (b) associated relationship triangles. 

        From these and related premises, this clinical model suggests assessing these Project-9 factors over time, in the order shown...

The nature and degree of an co-parent psychological wounds and any related denials (A Lesson-1 assessment); and...

All client co-parents' knowledge of effective grieving and communication basics and skills, and (b) their motivation to use these cooperatively in resolving merger-related dilemmas and disputes;  (Lesson 2 and 5 assessments); and...

Whether (a) all client co-parents genuinely accept their stepfamily identity and what it means, and (b) if not, how receptive they are to appropriate Lesson 7 and Project-4 interventions now - (unreceptive > ambivalent / mixed > very receptive). And assess...

The scope and accuracy of client co-parents' knowledge of stepfamily norms and realities, including the five hazards. (low > moderate > high). And...

Client adults' understanding of the specific merger-related needs of each minor and grown stepchild; and...


  • the scope and degree of any significant barriers between divorced co-parents, and...

  • all co-parents' strategies - if any - to reduce these barriers effectively.

This and the prior assessment are important input to Lesson 7 interventions. Option - use this divorce-recovery worksheet to assess for any significant unfinished issues between ex mates and their kids and relatives. And then assess... 

Co-parents' knowledge of the 16 groups of biofamily "things" their family members must merge and stabilize together over time, and (b) whether they have a consensual, viable, plan to merge them over time. If not, (c) assess their receptivity to evolving a thoughtful, viable plan and implementing it as nurturing teammates (unreceptive > ambivalent / mixed > very receptive); and assess...

any other factor relevant to this client-family's merging their related extended biofamilies.

  Selected Project-9 Resources

Interventions related to these stepfamily-merger variables;

The Project-9 overview and article-index;

These articles on typical stepfamily merger considerations and planning; and three common stepfamily-development paths;

This overview of three common stepfamily-merger stressors, and links to how to manage them effectively;

The guidebook for Projects 9-12, Build a High-nurturance Stepfamily (, 2003)

<<  main assessment index  /  project assessment index  >>

Lesson 7 Assessments  (for all families with one or more minor kids) - evaluate client adults and supporters for their (a) ability and (b) motivation to evolve an effective co-parenting team and a high-nurturance family together over time.


The nurturance-level of any family is directly proportional to the wholistic health + knowledge + priorities + cooperation (teamwork) of all adult members and key supporters.

Typical low-nurturance family adults - specially divorcing families and stepfamilies - are unaware of or ignore significant deficits in some or all of these factors.

Our current wounded, decaying society denies and ignores, condones, and promotes this unawareness in national and regional family-law statutes and superficial human-service certification standards.

Though healthy bioparents and related caregivers want to nurture dependent kids effectively, most don't know...

  • each child's' concurrent developmental and family-adjustment needs, and/or...

  • how to fill these needs effectively over time.

 Once they're (a) aware and (b) committed to genuine personal wound-recovery (Lesson 1), many co-parents can significantly raise their family's nurturance level over time, and intentionally reduce the toxic effects of the inherited [wounds + unawareness] cycle on future generations.  And...

Typical family-health and family-law educators, legislators, and professionals are...

  • unaware of the above, and they...

  • get little effective training in...

    • systemic assessment and intervention,

    • effectively assessing family nurturance levels (starting with their own), and in...

    • how to raise these levels significantly.

 That's why this Web site and clinical series exist.

        Pause, breathe, and reflect - how do you feel about each of these premises now?

Basic Lesson 7 Assessments

        From these and related premises, this clinical model suggests these assessments in the order shown:

How wounded is each family adult (minorly > moderately > majorly), and if wound-recovery is needed, are they committed to it yet? (a Lesson-1 assessment);

Each family adult's current attitudes about key topics, including personal and family spirituality; and assess...

their current knowledge of...

  • effective thinking, communication, and problem-solving, including (a) the difference between surface and primary needs, and (b) how to effectively manage values and loyalty (inclusion) conflicts and associated relationship triangles; (a Lesson 2 assessment);

  • bonds, losses, and effective (healthy) three-level grieving (a Lesson-3 assessment);

  • (a) the typical traits of a high-nurturance family, and (b) the four or five concurrent stressors that can significantly reduce the nurturance-level in their family, and stress their descendents; and...

  • the common developmental and family-adjustment needs of typical minor kids; and...

  • principles of effective co-parenting, including effective child discipline; and...

  • (a) when and how to access appropriate family supports, and (b) the effectiveness of current family supports. And over time, evaluate

Client adults' main personal priorities, as judged by recent actions, not words - i.e. how does maintaining a high family nurturance-level rank with each adult in calm and stressful times? And assess...

Whether the client adults (a) agree on a clear, long-term purpose for their family, and if so, (b) whether they have a meaningful family vision or mission statement yet. If so, (c) are they living by it? (Project 6 assessments). And learn...

Whether family couples are denying, discounting, or ignoring any significant primary family problems (a common sign of psychological wounds); and evaluate...

(a) the client family's current structure in calm times and crises, and (b) adults' awareness of it and (c) how to discuss and use it together productively. And...

if the client family is a courting, committed, or re/divorcing stepfamily, assess what results accrue from Lesson 7, 4, and 9 assessments. And assess...

other client-family factors significantly affecting their recent nurturance-level.

<<  main assessment index  /  project assessment index  >>

  Lesson 11  Assessments for all clients, specially typical divorcing families and stepfamilies - evaluate...

  • client-adults' attitude about (a) seeking and (b) accepting family supports (disinterest > ambivalence > significant interest);

  • the personal and family supports needed now, and...

  • the effectiveness of any current supports on maintaining or improving the family's nurturance level.  


All infants, kids, and adults need various types of spiritual, lay, and professional support during significant personal and family changes (e.g. childbirth, moving, adolescence, separation, divorce, leaving home, remarriage, illness, retirement, death, etc.) and crises;

"Support" can include mixes of...

genuine love, friendship, and forgiveness

compassion' companionship, and patience

venting, empathic listening, and crying

healthy touching

non-interference and solitudes

physical and financial resources

some medications

healthy diet, exercise, and sleep

prayer and spiritual counsel

familiar rituals and settings

realistic encouragement and affirmations

respectful feedback

caring confrontations

relevant information

appropriate group interaction

appropriate protections and referrals

skilled coaching, counseling, and therapy

other situational comforts

For our purposes, support can occur on four levels: personal, marital, nuclear family, and  extended family.

A family's nurturance level is proportional to its adults' abilities to seek, evaluate, and accept appropriate supports as the family evolves (adapts to changes).

Significantly-wounded people (Grown Wounded Children, or GWCs) often...

  • are used to being excessively self-reliant, and often neglect themselves by not attening some primary needs, and/or not asking for appropriate supports; or...

  • they don't use offered supports, or use them with excessive shame and guilts; or they may...

  • avoid personal responsibility (i.e. fear and shame), assume a victim role, over-rely on others to fill their needs, and deny, whine, or justify this, or claim "I can't help it."

Most current professional family support programs and services aren't aware of the [wounds + unawareness] cycle causing many family stressors, so the help they offer may be short-term and/or partial at best - except in personal and environmental emergencies.

Any family adult can learn to be aware of their personal and family "support policies" (if, when, and how to seek and evaluate supports). Clinicians and other helpers can strategically encourage this via Lesson-11 assessments and interventions.

        Pause and reflect - how do these premises compare with your beliefs about personal and family supports?

 Basic Lesson-11 Assessments

                Based on these and related premises, this model suggests assessing any client for support-factors like these:

  • How wounded is each family adult? (a Lesson-1 assessment):  minimally  > moderately > seriously; Why? The more wounded an adult is, (a) the less likely s/he will ask for or accept appropriate personal or family support, and (b) the less likely s/he is to change that attitude without hitting true  bottom.

  • What is each family adult's current attitude about if, how, and when to seek help with personal and family problems (unmet needs)?  (appropriate / healthy > mixed / varied > inappropriate / unhealthy). Are they open to relevant referrals?

  • If the family is currently being supported by friends and/or relatives, (a) why, (b) who initiated the support, and (c) how is the support affecting the family's stability and nurturance level? (significantly helpful > mixed > significantly stressful).

Common family problems meriting special lay and professional support include:

pregnancy / childbirth

single parenting


abuse or child neglect

child adoption

school problems


trauma recovery

grieving major losses

spiritual growth

addiction management

impulse control

special-needs person/s

elder care

diet / weight control

financial problems

legal problems

illness or disability


natural disasters

local crime

  • If the family is being supported by one or more groups or organizations now, (a) who initiated the support?, (b) why?, and (c) what's the nurturance level of the supporting group? (high > moderate / unclear > low). See this for more perspective on assessing support subsystems. Finally,

  • Option - use this support-inventory to help you and the clients assess their current degree of four levels of support;

  • Assess how motivated client adults are to study, discuss, and include some version of Lesson 11 in their current family activities and goals now.

  Selected Lesson-11 Resources

Interventions related to support-assessment findings;

These materials on high-nurturance groups and religions, and common traits of members of  high-nurturance groups;

This series on effective support groups;

These selected inspirations;

These experience-based articles on solving common stepfamily stressors, selecting stepfamily counsel, and evaluating stepfamily advice and reference materials; and...

The guidebook for Projects 1-7, Stepfamily Courtship (, 2002)

<<  main assessment index  /  project assessment index  >>

Assessments for all clients, specially stepfamilies - evaluate...

  • up to four levels of systemic balance, and...

  • the degree of enjoyment and satisfaction co-parents are experiencing from developing their family system over time.

For perspective, read this overview of , and this article on four kinds of balance.


Human and other systems automatically seek to maintain balance (equilibrium), as they and their environments constantly change.

Systems of personality subselves and family members range from chronically and/or currently stable and balanced to chaotic, unbalanced, and stressed.

Family adults who are guided by their true Selves can (a) develop their awareness and valuing of personal + marital + home + nuclear-family balances, and (b) proactively reduce any significant unbalances and related stresses as teammates.

Effective clinicians, supervisors, and case and program managers, will want to (a) maintain similar awareness of the balance-levels of each client's metasystem, and (b) proactively reduce any significant unbalances and related stresses.  

Adults managing any kind of family can find that responsibility burdensome to ho-hum to steadily enjoyable and deeply satisfying. With their true Selves in charge, a clear mission statement and family role definitions, and effective communication skills, any wholistically-healthy adults can learn to...

  • increase their family's nurturance-level, and personal enjoyment, and pride, and to...

  • reduce or block the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle from burdening their descendents and spreading in their society. 

        Pause and reflect - how do these premises compare with your beliefs about personal and family supports?

Basic Lesson-12 Assessments

        Based on these and related premises, this model suggests assessing any client for factors like these:

  • Who usually controls each client-adult's personality - their true Self or other subselves (a false self)? (This is a Lesson-1 assessment.) Why? Families whose adults are guided by their true Selves are most apt to want to maintain the four levels of balance;  

  • How does each client adult define "being balanced"?

  • How does each client adult rank the importance of maintaining...

    • daily personal (inner-family) balance

    • primary-relationship balance (if appropriate);

    • household balance, and ...

    • nuclear or extended-family balance?

  • If each client adult has a strategy to maintain each of these four levels of balance, (a) what is it, and (b) how effective has it been recently, judged by the clients and the clinician/s?

  • If client adults feel something hinders them and other family members from maintaining stable balance on any level (a) why, and (b) how have they reacted to this?

  Selected Lesson-12 Resources

Interventions related to these stepfamily-assessment variables;

The Lesson-12 overview and article-index;

The guidebook for Projects 1-7, Stepfamily Courtship (, 2002)

<<  main assessment index  /  project assessment index  >>

+ + +

        Recall: We're reviewing who, what, and how to assess the six types of low-nurturance clients served by this clinical model. We've covered 2 1/2 of five major groups of assessment factors so far...

1) themselves (for clinical requisites);

2) who comprises the client's family system?, and assess...

3) the current clinical metasystem, part 1: the client's extended family system.

Let's continue with...


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Created September 30, 2015