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This article is one of a series on
professional counseling, coaching, and therapy with (a) low-nurturance
(dysfunctional) families and with (b) typical
and trauma. These articles for
professionals are under construction.
This series assumes you're familiar with:
Before continuing, pause and reflect - why are you reading this article?
What do you
+ + +
is one of a series on effective clinical interventions with low-nurturance
A "low nurturance family" is one in which members seldom get their
met in wholistically-healthy ways. An
effective intervention is an instinctive or intentional behavior of the clinician which significantly
raises the family's nurturance level in the opinion of all involved.
typical wounded co-parents in low-nurturance families hit
they will not be fully motivated to commit to long-term work at these wound-reduction
interventions. When this is so, the best clinical option is to
and "plant seeds" (teach and
illustrate basic concepts, and not push clients to free their true Self and
harmonize their subselves (reduce psychological wounds).
This significantly reduces
what's possible with all 11 other sets of
the most from this article, first read:
this introduction to professional family
clinicians and educators,
this slide presentation on the [wounds + unawareness]
cycle that is a root stressor with
typical low-nurturance families.
If you have trouble viewing the slides, see these
this overview of the clinical model on which
these articles are based;
this summary of
for effective professional service with these complex client families;
scan these terms which are liberally used
throughout these clinical articles; and read...
this overview of effective clinical assessment
client families, and these key assessments for
Lesson 1 with any client family; and...
this introduction to effective interventions with
low-nurturance families and persons recovering from psychological wounds; and...
This overview of Lesson 1, and the
index of all Lesson-1 articles and resources; and scan...
"Who's Really Running Your Life?" (2nd ed.), by Peter Gerlach,
seems like a lot of work - it IS.
Does Lesson 1 Exist?
At age 49 (1987) I broke lifelong denials to accept that (a) I was the son of
two functional alcoholics, and (b) I had
a very low-nurturance childhood which I and our kin and friends thought
was "normal" (functional, or healthy). Since then, I have compulsively studied
and worked at personal
from the psycho-spiritual
of my unintended childhood
My personal epiphany coincided with these 1980s movements...
exploding interest in and recognition of the traits and special needs of
Adult Children of
Alcoholics (ACoAs); and...
growing belief that
- including the new idea of
(relationship addiction) - was a family-system symptom and stressor,
not an individual "disease"; and...
widening lay and clinical acceptance of the psychological reality of one or
emerging mode of therapy called "psychosynthesis,"
based on the work of Dr. Roberto Assagioli and colleagues; and...
continuing evolution of psychoanalysis into
and therapy; and...
growing clinical awareness and acceptance of the treatable dissociative
condition then called Multiple Personality Disorder - MPD - renamed
Dissociative Identity Disorder
(DID) in 1994 by the American Psychiatric Association (APA).
As my awareness and wound-recovery grew, I began to see common "ACoA"
behavioral traits in most of
my adult therapy clients and many of their kids - tho many of them
reported no addicted parents or ancestors. I began to wonder if the traits
resulted from low-nurturance upbringing, not addicted caregivers per se. After
17 years' clinical research, I now believe this is universally true, and that
most lay people and family-support
are unaware of it and what it means.
After attending an introductory clinical seminar on "Internal Family Systems
Therapy" by veteran psychologist Dr, Richard Schwartz in 1990, I enrolled in two
9-month internships with him focusing on this therapeutic concept. He applied
accepted family-system principles to the old,
little-regarded idea that all normal personalities are composed of interactive,
semi-independent "parts" or "subselves." A key theory component was that every
person has a subself whose special talent is leading other subselves effectively
- the "true Self" (capital "S"). Schwartz proposed (after 10 years of clinical
investigation and practice) that common mental-emotional "disturbances" were
promoted by narrow-visioned, reactive, distrustful subselves (a "false self")
disabling the Self and unintentionally causing toxic reactions.
The concept made intuitive sense to me, and I began to weave personality-subself
assessments and interventions into my clinical work. I continued to study
related subjects like mood and dissociative disorders - specially Multiple
Personality Disorder, and Ericksonian (indirect) clinical hypnosis and the
unconscious mind. I discovered that almost all clients accepted that their
personalities were composed of dynamic subselves, and showed interest in
learning how these "parts" might contribute to their presenting problems. Some
clients were not ready to pursue this in any depth, and others - typically
having hit their true bottom - were willing - even eager.
Over time, the concepts of "psychological wounds" and wound-recovery (empowering
the disabled self to guide and harmonize the inner family of subselves) evolved
from Schwartz's and other clinician's ideas. As my experience and understanding
grew, the concepts of "Lesson 1" coalesced - first as these Web pages, and then
as a guidebook. In the 15 years I've explored and practiced "inner-family
systems therapy," I have experienced what Schwartz did - "my clients taught me
about their (and my own) subselves."
As I evolved and clinically applied the concepts of the five re/marital hazards
and 12 protective Projects since 1990, I became interested in preventing
psychological wounds and their widespread symptom of divorce. A fundamental concept
began to form, which is now called the [wounds + unawareness] cycle in this
site. I know of no one else who has formulated this idea, nor any research that
confirms it. If my premise is right, this unseen, pervasive cycle is the root of
most personal, marital, parental, family, social, and ecological problems.
The bad news is, no one currently seems to recognize this, or want to -
probably because doing so forces us to acknowledge that our society promotes
this toxic cycle by permitting widespread irresponsible child conceptions and
unqualified parenting. The good news is - if and when local and societal leaders
do recognize the cycle and it's widening impacts, they can evolve policies and
legislation to break the cycle and protect
future generations from wounding and ignorance.
The first step in this essential process
is informing people of the cycle and its effects. That's the main purpose
of this Web site and related guidebooks. The next essential step is testing
these concepts via well-designed impartial research.
If the personality-subself and inner-family therapy concepts are new to you, I
encourage you to adopt an open mind, read this
background and letter to you, and try
this interesting exercise. Then (a) experiment
with clinical assessments using these
worksheets or equivalent - starting with yourself; (b) try out
interventions like those below, and (c) see what happens. Note the central
implication of Lesson-1 concepts - to
be fully effective in all your personal and professional relationships, you need
to be usually
by your true Self.
Are you? Notice your
to this question - they're your diligent, well-meaning subselves responding!
Basic Lesson-1 Interventions - for significantly-wounded family adults
(a) before and (b) after they've hit true bottom.
Before Hitting True Bottom
1) Ask clients to define
"my personality" and how it evolves. Then ask for their ideas on why
peoples personalities differ.
Propose that normal (vs. pathological) personalities are
composed of semi-independent, talent "parts" or "subselves," like
players in an orchestra or sports team. Offer behavioral evidences
of this, and observe client's reactions.