Alert others to inherited wounds + unawareness

Suggestions for Non-clinical Human-service Providers

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council


The Web address of this article is 

  Updated October 05, 2015

 This guide for human-service providers is under construction.

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      This article assumes you're familiar wiith...

      This article is for anyone who serves children, teens, and/or adults in any way other than "mental-health" (clinical) professionals. This includes
















Social work

It offers ways to help you improve your service by introducing the concept of parts work to troubled people. Tailor the suggestions here to fit your unique personality, background, and situation.

      Typical "troubled people" are currently stressed by things like...


financial problems





shame and/or guilt










relationship problems

employment problems

social isolation

criminal behavior

failure at something


feeling "lost"


      Numbering of these "assignments" continues from this introduction.

__ 12)  Complete all 11 preparation steps in Part 1. If you haven't done so, you may be controlled by a false self, and this guide and Web site will probably be of little use to you.

__ 13)  Practice asking yourself in various situations who's guiding you (making your decisions) - your true Self or "someone else.''? Proactively continue evolving an effective strategy to free your disabled Self when needed.

__  14) Reflect, and write down a summary of your specific current and long-term professional goals. Then rank order them from most to least important. Does "alert my clients to the {wounds + awareness] cycle appear among them?

__ 15)  Describe the people you serve as a group (your "clients") - e.g. "I provide service to divorcing couples / needy teenagers / my employees / job seekers / immigrants / disabled people / business executives / military personnel / spirituality seekers / etc.

__ 16)  check which of these apply to you now:

__ I believe that inherited _ psychological wounds and unawareness cause my clients and co-workers significant personal problems - and that _ they're unaware of this..

__ I believe my clients and co-workers would benefit significantly from learning about the toxic [wounds + unawareness] cycle and its effects;

__ I believe I have a moral duty to inform them of the cycle and its effects now.

If you can't honestly check each of these three, then focus on reducing your own wounds and protecting your family and friends from inheriting the cycle..    

__ 17)  Train yourself to recognize the common behavioral traits of significantly wounded people. These clients and co-workers are the most likely to benefit from learning about psychological wounds and how to reduce them.

__ 18)  Over time, evaluate the nurturance level of the place/s where you work and/or study (low to high). Consider your options for raising the level within your limits - e.g. thru educating co-workers and management on more effective communication.

__ 19)  Choose among these options for alerting people to the toxic cycle and its effects, act on your choice, A simple way to do this is to give clients and co-workers a 1-2 page flyer describing traits of wounded people and the cycle, and referring them to more information (like Lesson 1 here). Notice how you feel about yourself as you do this. Option - later, ask people their reaction to your information.

__ 20)  Consider alerting other people in your profession to the cycle and it's effects. Imagine how many thousands of adults and kids that could benefit. That includes instructors, evaluators, association and licensing officials, and policy makers. If you don't do this - who will?

__ 21)  If you know or work collegially with mental-health (clinical) human-service providers, watch for chances to alert them to the [wounds + unawareness] cycle and this guide.

__ 22)  Continue working at selected lessons on this personal self-improvement  course and enjoy the results!

__ 23)  Review this article periodically to (a) refresh your awareness and options, and (b) reflect on the results of your actions. In particular, be aware of positive benefits from having your true Self guide you in your life and work.

__ 24)  (Add your own ideas for alerting your clients and professional peers to the lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle and improving the quality of your human service.

Part 3)  Options for Clinical Providers

      This section covers..:

1)  how to use these options

2)  key clinical-service objectives

3)  general options for improving your clinical service

4)  working with troubled individuals

5)  working with troubled couples

6)  working with low-nurturance ("dysfunctional") families

7)  common clinical problems

8)  selected resources

1)  How to use Part 3

      These several Web pages cover a wide range of ideas. Some may not apply to your particular situation. To get the most from the time you invest here... .

      Check to see if your true Self is guiding you as you read. Overarching goals  here are to learn how to recognize when your Self is disabled, and how to free it to guide you. Can you do that yet?

      Read sections 1-3 here, and then decide whether to scan sections 4-8 or read one or more of them in depth.

      Be aware of your ''self-talk'' as you study. Some ideas will probably differ from what you believe - e.g. that normal human personalities are composed of subselves, or that your Self can dialog with other subselves. If you feel skeptical about or reject some idea here, notice that, and ask yourself...

  • "Which of my subselves is reacting to this idea?" Possibilities: your Self, Cynic, Skeptic, Doubter, Catastrophizer, Worrier, and Scared  or Guilty Inner Children.

  • What would it mean if I accept this new idea as true?" Possibilities...

   "I've been wrong about (this idea) so far, and may have unintentionally provided ineffective service to my clients  Most of my instructors and co-workers are wrong also." or...

   "I'm glad to discover this (new idea). I see how it will help me provide better service;" or....

   "I'll experiment with this new idea with an open mind, and see how it affects the outcome of my work. If my outcomes improve, then I'll accept this idea as helpful and valid." This reaction is typical of a true Self.

      Consider finding a study partner or group to discuss these ideas with. You'll learn about yourselves and these ideas if you do. Stay aware that many of us in the helping professions are significantly wounded and unaware, so optimal study partners will be Grown Nurtured Children (GNCs) or GWCs interested in freeing their Self and reducing any wounds they inherited.

      As you study, stay clear on...

  • what primary needs you're trying to fill by being a professional helper;

  • who is ultimately responsible for clients filling their needs - you, them, or both  of you?

  • When you're interacting with typical clients, which of your subselves are in charge? When clients "resist" your interventions and suggestions, which subselves guide you?

  • how do you define "effective clinical service"? What specific criteria do you use to define your professional "success."?

      And as you study this Part, stay clear on...

  • your attitude about your clients. Do you see each of them as "damaged and sick," or "wounded and unaware," or something else? Do you feel (a) empathy and respect for each person you work with, (b) pity, scorn, and/or criticism, or (c) something else? Which subselves cause your main attitudes? As you study and apply your learnings here, notice any shifts in your attitudes and how that affects your effectiveness, satisfaction, and self esteem.

2)  Clinical Service Objectives

      Premise: Effective clinical service occurs when each client and provider...

  • gets enough of their respective primary needs met.

  • in a way that satisfies each of them "well enough.".

Your professional effectiveness depends on...

  • the accuracy of your client-problem assessment,

  • your evolving an appropriate treatment plan within local service limitations,

  • how you implement and adjust your treatment plan, and...

  • the quality of any supervision and consulting you get.

      Premise: most non-organic personal, relationship, and family problems are caused by inherited [psychological wounds + unawareness], ineffective parenting, and (possibly) incomplete grief  If you disagree, this course will be of little value to you.

      Lets loof at these four effectiveness factors one at a time:

a) Client Assessment

      Optimal clinical service must start with each provider involved (you + supervisors and/or case managers + any consultants) assessing "what's the problem?" - i.e. diagnosing...:

1) individual clients' _ woundedness (true-Self disabled or enabled) and _ knowledge (inadequate > adequate); and...

2) clients' _ family structure (functional or not) and _ nurturance level (low to high); and...

3) clients' communication skills (ineffective > effective); and...

4) clients' _ losses (broken bonds) and _ grief policy (healthy or toxic) and status (incomplete > complete), and...

5) treatment constraints, if any, like money, motivation, resistance, accessibility, etc. .

      Typical clients know nothing of this, so their presenting problems will usually be surface symptoms of these core stressors. If clinical service is limited by client woundedness, finances, time, and organizational policies, it may require triaging professional attention to the most important of these six related stressors.

      A potential problem may occur if clinicians, supervisors, and any consultants are unaware of, and/or disagree on, these assessment requisites. Resolution will depend on woundedness + problem-solving skill of each person involved.   

      Adequate assessment of these interactive factors must occur over several client contacts, overlapping interventions. With practice, you can learn to make initial diagnoses on each of them in the first several contacts. As your assessment progresses,

      Pause and compare what you just read to your current way of assessing clients' problems (needs). Note that to assess these factors, you must know how to diagnose each of them. Studying lessons 1 thru 6 or 7 can expand your ability to assess effectively.

b) Treatment Planning

      Once you assess

  • introducing adult clients to the ideas of wounds and personality subselves;


 In addition to the normal goals you have for helping your clients, I propose you add these general objectives:

  • explain these ideas: that early-childhood abandonment, neglect, and abuse (neglect) promotes psychological wounds 

prevent vs yreat


Options - print this study guide and check off each step you've completed. Don't check a main item ( __ ) until you check all sub-items ( _ ). Consider keeping a log or journal about your learning process and experience with this model.

Elements of the Clinical Model

      This assessment > intervention model is based on 33 years' clinical research + ideas from over 30 veteran mental-health professionals + direct experience with over 1,000 individual, marital, and family clients and students. It's a unique combination of interrelated concepts and premises:

  • definitions of young kids' developmental needs + effective parenting + family ''nurturance levels''; and these premises...

    • all normal human personalities are composed of three types of interactive ''subselves,'' including a true Self; and...

    • all non-organic personal "pathology" is caused by inherited psychological [wounds + unawareness]; and...

    • all animal behavior is caused by trying to fill [mental + psychological + physical + spiritual] discomforts - i.e. needs;

    • needs are hierarchical (surface > intermediate > primary), and lasting behavioral change requires identifying and filling primary needs; and...

    • all toxic compulsions (like addictions) are unconscious attempts to self-medicate inner pain caused by psychological wounds + unawareness;

    • ''mental illness'' is an outdated term and concept based on the old   Freudian ''medical model'' of human pathology and treatment. A more accurate term is "psychological wounding";

    • benign spirituality (vs. religion) promotes personal health and healing;

    • problematic behavior in kids is always caused by parental [wounds +  unawareness] (family dysfunction), unless there are organic causes;  

    • psychological and legal divorce is caused by 5 ''hazards.'' Four are preventable.; and...

    • permanently reducing personal "problems" is best achieved through client education + individual ''parts work'' + family-system therapy;  

    And this clinical model includes...

  • a teachable scheme of effective thinking, communicating and problem-solving; and effective grieving...

  • premises about early-childhood abandonment and human bonding; and the model proposes...;

  • the special needs and functioning of typical divorcing families and stepfamilies: and ...

  • a progressive sequence of couple > family > individual (intrapsychic) therapy over time; and...

  • a framework of client assessment, based on all the elements above.

      The model's central theme is helping clients understand and stop passing on toxic [wounds + unawareness] to the next generation.

Two Core Requisites

      To benefit from this clinical course and educational Web site you must...

  • want to be guided by your true Self. If you don't know what that means, you'll find out in the Fundamentals Part of this course.. And you'll need to...

  • be open to evaluating an array of new ideas about people, families, and solving human problems, that may differ significantly from what you've been taught. One essential new concept is how to recognize and do effective "parts work" with Grown Wounded Children.

  The Model in Action

      Here's an outline of the key steps in using this clinical model with typical troubled persons, couples, and families. The course Parts give much more detail::

Helping a Troubled Adult

      This outline applies to therapists of all types. life-coaches, counselors and family-life educators should use all these steps except those relating to ''parts work'' (wound reduction). "Troubled" means "experiencing significant local or chronic psychological + mental discomfort."

      The objectives here are to identify and resolve the client's primary problems, and teach and motivate the client to avoid and manage such problems on their own.

  • Initial contact > first meeting > learn the presenting problems (surface needs) and client expectations about therapy;

  • option - draw and discuss the client's genogram;

  • assess for primary problems...

    > psychological wounds (a disabled true Self), and...

    > incomplete grief; and...

    > past and present addictions; and...

    > past and present organic (medical) problems and medications); and...

    > knowledge, awareness, and spirituality; and assess for...

    > early-childhood and current-family nurturance levels (low to high).

  • with a supervisor (if available), evolve a flexible treatment plan;

  • provide didactic and experiential education (ongoing). Main goals: client understanding and acceptance of their personality subselves, and motivating them to learn how to free their true Self to guide them;

  • tailor ''parts work'' to fit the client, and teach the client how to use it to free their Self and permanently reduce their wounds;

  • if the client is addicted; focus on attaining sobriety (preliminary recovery);

  • help the client identify major life losses, learn about healthy grief, and acquire 7 requisites to finish any incomplete mourning; and...

  • help the client learn and use effective communication and relationship skills as appropriate;

  • if the client has a primary partner, evaluate whether couples work (below) is appropriate. If so, initiate it and repeat the above steps with the partner as needed.

  • if the client's current family is significantly dysfunctional (low-nurturance), evaluate and propose family-system intervention;

  • refer the client to appropriate wound-reduction (recovery) resources, and liase with any other involved health providers;

  • with parenting adults, motivate and educate them to protect dependent kids from inheriting [psychological wounds and unawareness]; and...

  • encourage the client to identify and pursue their life purpose, long term; and...

  • if the client terminates before completing this sequence, be content with "planting seeds," and use these wisdoms. Otherwise, terminate and follow up as appropriate

      How does this scheme compare with your present way of helping troubled persons? If you work in a clinic or agency, how do it's service guidelines compare? Part 4 in this online clinical course gives more detail on this framework. 

  Helping Troubled Couples

      Premise - adult relationship problems are caused by psychological wounds + partners' unawareness of communication and relationship skills + extended-family dysfunction. Typical couples seeking help are focused on surface symptoms of these three root causes. In some cases, a fourth factor is incomplete grief in one or both people.

      Because they're unaware of these factors, a high percentage of troubled mates committed to the wrong (e.g. wounded, unaware) people, at the wrong time (before wound-reduction and education) for the wrong reasons. Where this is true, these wrong decisions can't be corrected unless both partners are willing to reduce their own wounds, learn to practice effective communication and relationship skills, and shift their priorities, boundaries, and expectations with toxic relatives.

      So - the sequential goals of working with troubled couples are (a) teaching them about psychological wounds and effective communication and relating, and then (b) coaching and motivating them to use their new knowledge as teammates. When one or both partners are controlled by a false self, they may sabotage or quit therapy before accomplishing these goals.

      These steps are for couples with no significant stress with existing kids, relatives, or other third parties. Couples with such stress are covered in the next ("Family") section.

  • Initial contact > first meeting: learn the presenting problems (surface needs) and the clients' expectations about therapy. Resolve administrative questions.

  • assess for primary personal and dyadic problems

>  do the same assessments as above for each partner (over time), and...

>  learn how the couple has tried to resolve their relationship problems, including the outcome of any prior therapy. Identify their specific communication blocks;

option - if the couple lives with other people, create a structural diagram of their home. Use it to assess boundaries, alliances. exclusions, and group roles;

>  assess each partner for abilities to bond and empathize.

>  assess each partner's willingness to accept their half of current relationship problems (vs. blaming their mate), and their motivation to change. If either resists, assume they're guided by a false self.

  • discuss your conclusions about the couple's primary problems, and propose specifically how to reduce each of them. Discuss and agree on priorities for the work. Key themes: psychological-wound reduction and more effective communication.

  • educate the couple on...

> inherited [wounds + unawareness], via explanation, handouts, and referral to Lesson 1 in thus nonprofit Web site; and...

> effective communication skills and techniques - specially assertion, empathic listening, and win-win problem-solving. Use explanations, role plays, handouts, worksheets, and referrals to online Lesson 2. Option: raise their motivation to learn by using some version of this quiz.

  • Watch for chances to explain how false selves interfere with harmonious relations and effective communication. Propose individual parts work to reduce this interference. If one or both partners are receptive, focus on that via the steps above. Alternate using one partner as an observer while the other does parts work.

  • If either partner is working with an individual counselor, coach, or therapist, inform them of what you're doing and why. Option - refer them to this Web site and course.

  • Option - consider using a couples group to accelerate learning and provide accountability and support.

  • Continue individual and joint work as appropriate until termination. Recap the core problems, the key steps in the work, and affirm the couple's progress.

      How does this scheme compare with your present way of helping troubled couples? If you work in a clinic or agency, how do it's service guidelines compare?

       Part 4 in this clinical course gives more detail on this assessment > intervention framework. 

Helping a Troubled Family

      This part of the model presumes you understand and have experience with family-systems assessment and treatment. These steps add to those in the prior section:

  • Identify family-members' presenting (surface) problems, and define the goals of therapy with them.

  • Propose that the purpose of any family is to fill the evolving developmental and special needs of each member. Then define surface and primary needs, "family nurturance level;" and "family functioning," Option - explain the elements of a ''family system.''

  • Explain the concept of the [wounds + unawareness] cycle and how it relates to the family's presenting problems. Option - hand out this article to all adults and discuss it.

  • Draw a structural diagram of the nuclear family, and discuss it with family members. Use it to identify significant problems like these:

    • family role confusion and conflicts; Who leads this family?

    • membership inclusions and exclusions

    • levels of bonding among members (low to high)

    • alliances, coalitions, scapegoats, and black sheep

    • communication barriers and problems

    • boundary problems within the family and/or with the outside world

    • addictions and special (e.g. medical or money) stressors

  • Discuss the family's normal way of trying to resolve "problems" and how effective it is. (who usually gets their needs met, and who doesn't?) Compare and contrast their way to win-win problems-solving:

  • Propose that incomplete grief can be a major family stressor. Then review the family's timeline and identify major losses that significantly affected one or more members. Then assess the family's ability to grieve well, and identify any incomplete mourning. Identify what's needed to make the family ''pro-grief,'' and weave that into the treatment plan. Discuss this as appropriate.

  • If the family is having child-behavior (parenting) problems, ident5ify the surface and primary problems, and facilitate more effective parenting. Differentiate marital and parental problems. Help the adults see the connection between inherited [psychological wounds and unawareness] and kids' surface "behavioral problems." Suggest marital and individual (wound-reduction) work (above) with adults as appropriate.

  • If the family adults are divorcing (psychologically or legally), assess how far along members are in understanding and adapting to their losses and systemic changes. Identify any blocks to adjusting, and discuss options for resolving them over time.

  • If the family is a stepfamily:

    • assess the adults' knowledge of stepfamily realities, and educate them as appropriate.

    • motivate family adults to learn and discuss stepfamily norms and problems - e.g. invite them to study and discuss Lesson 7 in this Web site.

    • identify and rank-order concurrent problems, and propose a prioritized treatment scheme. Include appropriate couples' work (above); 

    • Option - provide an educational class for several stepfamily clients. Use elements of Lesson 7 as appropriate.

Throughout these steps, look for chances to grow adults' awareness of (a) their inherited psychological wounds and (b) how their wounds and unawareness are promoting their presenting problems. Motivate wounded adults to engage in individual wound-reduction work.

+ + +

      Note what you're thinking and feeling now. Is your true Self providing your thoughts, or ''someone else''? Recall - you just read an outline of how the clinical model in this Web site can be applied to people, couples, and families. The course for professionals provides more detail and illustrations of this outline.

2) Learn the Requisites for Using the Model

__7)  Review these proposed requirements for using this model effectively


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