Are You Working in a
High-nurturance Setting?

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council


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 The article assumes you're familiar with six or seven prevention topics. If you're not, study these introductory pages to get the most from reading this.        

        This article is one of a  series on how concerned lay people and human-service professionals can help to prevent common symptoms of the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle like these...

        This article builds on the premise that once professionals like you are aware of the causes and effects of the [wounds + unawareness] cycle, they have a moral obligation to alert other people to them, and work to prevent family stress and divorce. The first two pages of this series propose three specific steps human-service professionals can take to alert family members, co-workers, clients or patients, and selected target groups of other people on these causes, effects, and cycle-prevention options.

       You can use the information in this nonprofit Web site to...

  • reduce any personal wounds and nourish your own family relationships;

  • improve the effectiveness of your present professional work,

  • help break the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle spreading in our society, and to...

  • empower people to prevent personal and family stress and divorce.

This article and series focuses on the last two goals. These Lesson-1 resources focus on the first goal. As you read in the introduction, you have a wide range of options to tailor and accomplish these goals if you're motivated to do so.

        This article offers perspective on (a) how the cycle may affect you and the people you work with and for, and (b) summarizes cycle-prevention options in your profession. You'll get the most from reading this if you study this slide presentation and read or review this four-page introduction first. Pause, breathe, and say out loud why you're reading this article. What do you need?

        You, your co-workers, and the people you serve  have a mix of daily and long-term needs. "To nurture" means "to fill (someone's) needs." Your workplace or school environment can be rated as being somewhere between "very low nurturance" (filling few needs) and "very high nurturance." A general indicator of your environment's nurturance level is the frequency and mix of "stress" and "satisfaction" you feel, day by day.

        My clinical experience since 1979 suggests that (a) many human-service professionals are significantly wounded and unaware, and (b) unconsciously choose and/or create stressful, low-nurturance workplace environments. These significantly reduce the effectiveness of the professional services they provide. This article (a) identifies key factors that contribute to a workplace's nurturance level, and suggests (b) ways to  assess how nurturing your workplace is, and (c) action-options if the level is too low.


        The suggestions in this article are based on a set of premises. Take your time, and see how you feel about these ideas, one at a time:

  • Your "work environment" is a dynamic system of interactive components like these...

    • people - (a) the people you serve, and (b) your co-workers, managers, office staff, executives, consultants, and policy makers (board members);

    • your employer's, unions', and professional-associations' attitudes, priorities, and policies;

    • your organization's goals and roles (job descriptions),

    • relevant state and federal laws and legislators;

    • your organization's financial assets and debts, and a system for managing these; and...

    • your physical workplace setting.

  • Each person in your workplace system fluctuating daily and long-term psychological, physical, and financial needs - discomforts. Most people - probably including you - focus on satisfying surface discomforts, and are unaware of their underlying primary needs. This often means the primary needs go unfilled - causing moderate to major "stress" and "dissatisfaction."

  • Most people aren't trained or motivated to assess how their domestic and workplace nurturance-levels affect the quality, productivity, and longevity of their lives. This can change if they choose true recovery from any false-self wounds and toxic attitudes and beliefs.

  • Workplace "stress" is the aggregate sum of your dynamic unmet primary needs. You;

  • The nurturance-level of your work environment is a reliable indicator of (a) who guides your personality, and (b) the nurturance-levels of your early childhood and current family.

  • If a false self rules you now, those protective subselves will ignore, discount, or disagree with these premises.

  • your workplace system is  in a constant state of change, as the elements in and and environment around the system ceaselessly change. This guarantees that your workplace's nurturance level - and your daily and over-all satisfaction - will constantly change.

  • You are responsible for (a) choosing your occupation and work environment, (b) assessing how your workplace affects your wholistic health and professional effectiveness, and (c) asserting for needed improvements.

  • You always have the option of asserting for constructive change in your workplace. The alternative is to numb out and endure, or feel like a powerless victim. Your governing subselves determine which of these options you choose every day.

        Pause, breathe, and notice your thoughts and fellings  now...

 Assess Your Environment's Nurturance Level

       In what follows, informed means having basic knowledge about relationships + healthy grieving + effective communication + stepfamilies. For clinicians, supervisors, and case managers, informed also means having most or all of these four knowledge requisites. Compatible means...

  • having most or all of these professional and lay attitudes, and/or being open to learning why they should adopt these attitudes; and...
  • being self-motivated to (a) assess themselves for significant psychjological wounds and (b) commit to personal recovery as needed.

Option: use this as a checklist to evaluate your or another person's environment. Key environmental requisites for organizations (O) and private practitioners (PP) include...

O PP Environmental Requisites

1) a high-nurturance organization managed by Self -guided administrators and policy makers

2) informed, compatible, Self-guided funders and accreditation bodies;
3) informed, compatible, effective supervisors, co-workers, and consultants
    4) formal and informal client assessment and intervention policies that are compatible with this model. A key policy is that clients not be limited in the number of sessions they can have. Another is a sliding-scale fee policy that allows needy client families to get the help they need.
    5) a stable professional support or consultation group - ideally with informed colleagues who also work with divorcing families and stepfamilies
    6) access to an effective in-service education program and related materials, ideally including sessions for uninformed colleagues in other human-service professions.
    7) an inventory of practical educational handouts for clients and uninformed professionals (e.g. selected articles in this Web site), including a current resource list like this.
    8) local school, PTO/PTA, hospital outpatient, media, and justice systems that are receptive to and compatible with this clinical model.
    9) informed, compatible local referrals: clergy, family-law attorneys, mediators, law-enforcement and medical professionals, school staffs, and financial advisors.
    10) access to informed, effective support groups for (a) co-parents, (b) children of divorce and stepkids, (c) grievers, and (d) wound-recoverers.
    11) membership in one or more professional societies or associations whose policies and resources promote or are compatible with this five-hazard / 7-Lesson model
    12) professional human-service graduate-school curricula and department heads and boards who are (a) compatible with and (b) open to evaluating and including this model
    13) State and federal laws which promote (a) effective co-parenting, (b) (re)divorce prevention, and (c) informed human-service licensure and accreditation.
14) (add your own environmental requisites)

        Pause and reflect - can you imagine working in an environment with most or all of these elements? Does it seem likely that working without many of these elements would significantly lower the odds of effective outcomes with typical divorced and/or re/married client families? For context, scan this article for organizational decision-makers.


        This table may seem naive, idealistic, and/or discouraging. If greater Chicago is fairly similar to most U.S. communities, I suspect typical novice and veteran mental-health professionals (like you?) would have well under half of these environmental requisites for effective long-term service. Further, local human-service policy-makers, administrators, and funders wouldn't know why they needed these requisites. If this is true in your locale, consider these key implications:

typical divorced-family and stepfamily clients in your area probably won't get the optimal courtship, re/marital, and co-parental help they need to promote high-nurturance family relationships.

typical professionals and clients will have to accept moderately-effective outcomes. This promotes word-of-mouth exchanges of  "Did your (family) therapy help, long term? Not much."

every day, professionals who are aware of the above have the option of devoting some efforts to  improving their work environment and/or preventing (re)divorce locally or nationally. Since average professionals have little discretionary time, self-motivated work to improve their work environment is probably rare - specially if not sanctioned by policy makers and administrators.

typical therapists will have to educate themselves and their co-workers on this model and generate their own professional support and resources, until they're able to interest or convince organizational leaders on its validity and merit.

widespread availability of these environmental requisites must await the ponderous cycle of theory formation (e.g. this web site) > research motivation and funding > methodical research > journal publishing > critical research evaluation and replication > academic discussion and acceptance > curricula integration > new graduates overcoming "resistance" from veteran (uninformed, wounded) human-service professionals > model integration into professional and lay awareness. For perspective, the professional paradigm shift from Freudian psychoanalysis to wholistic family-systems therapy has been evolving for ~ 50 years.

        Reality Check: Recall why you began reading this article. Did you get what you needed? What, if anything, has changed for you so far? Option: clarify your position now by answering the following: I A(gree), I D(isagree), or "?" = "I'm ambivalent or unsure about this."

A mental-health professional's work environment significantly affects her or his outcomes with clients. (A  D  ?)

I have enough of the special knowledge requisites about these clients now to judge the validity of the environmental requisites above. (A  D  ?)

Family-support professionals need special environmental resources and supports to provide effective service to typical divorced-family and stepfamily clients. (A  D  ?)

I feel this summary of environmental requisites is accurate and realistic enough, or _ I'm clear on how to improve the outline for my needs. (A  D  ?)

I need to study this clinical model more before I can evaluate the environmental requisites proposed above. (A  D  ?)

I feel my present work environment consistently supports effective long-term service outcomes with my clients, co-workers, and/or employees. (A  D  ?)

I'm motivated now to discuss these ideas with one or more colleagues. (A  D  ?)

I'm motivated to translate these ideas into specific proposals to improve someone's work environment now. (A  D  ?)

My true Self is responding to these items. (A  D  ?)





Continue by studying the last of four requisites for effective clinical service to divorcing-family and stepfamily clients - special resources for clients and clinicians.

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Updated September 30, 2015