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

Four Requisites for Effective Clinical Service

Special Clinical Skills Needed,
by Client-type
- p. 2 of 4

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council

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Continued from p. 2...

Updated  September 30, 2015

  The Web address of this four-page article is http://sfhelp.org/pro/req/skills.htm

        This page continues an outline of four requisites for effective professional service to typical childhood-trauma survivors and divorcing-family and stepfamily clients:

        The prior pages outlines the special knowledge requirements, requisite self-awareness and process awareness, and general clinical skills required for all six types of clients covered by this model. This page summarizes special clinical skills required for each phase of the work with these clients:

  • adjusting to divorce or mate-death,

  • pre-stepfamily courtship,

  • committed stepfamily couples denying primary-relationship problems,

  • committed stepfamily couples admitting such problems,

  • re/divorcing stepfamilies; and...

  • families in any of these phases where at least one adult survivor of childhood trauma is motivated to reduce their psychological wounds and harmonized their personality subselves. This may be individual or family work.

1) Clinical Skills Needed for Divorcing-biofamily Clients

        For perspective on working with these needy, multi-problem client families, study this perspective on the current US divorce epidemic, this slide presentation on divorce, and this worksheet on divorce-recovery status before continuing here. The general skills on the prior page should be adequate for most families adjusting to the death of an adult or child.

        Effective clinical work with these families requires unique clinical knowledge and these special skills in clinicians, supervisors, consultants, and program and/or clinical directors:

  • help divorcing partners and their families to...

    • stabilize any personal and family crises, and...

    • if appropriate, help couples evaluate whether legal divorce is their best long-term choice, including...

      • assessing each partner's marital needs, how well each need has been filled, and what prevents filling unmet needs; and

      • whether or not to use a qualified marriage counseling (you?) and/or a professional mediator.

 If the decision to divorce is firm, then...

  • devise and implement an effective family-reorganization plan, and (b) manage their changes cooperatively. This includes helping divorcing parents...

  • assist in (a) evolving viable, stable co-parenting and child-custody agreements, and possibly (b) stabilizing and (c) reducing the need for legal orders of protection. The latter is strong evidence of major psychological wounds in one or both partners. And...

  • educate parents on the normal developmental and special divorce-adjustment needs of their minor kids, and assess each child's current status with them;

  • if presenting problems include one or more children "acting out," assess how best to help each child while working with the whole family system. This may justify expanding the clinical metasystem to include an appropriate co-therapist, school counselor, tutor, and/or clinical program; and coordinating the family work with them; And effective clinicians also need to be skilled at...

  • maintaining their personal and the client-family's balances through the stressful divorce-adjustment  process. This may involve working with adversarial attorneys and a Guardian ad Litem (children's attorney), family-court judges, and/or court-appointed mediators and child-custody evaluators for many months. If your client has been ordered by the court to "get counseling," see this. And...

  • evaluate and achieve effective divorce recovery over time. Some clients may need special help to resolve problems from marital affairs, family violence, sexual traumas, compound legal and financial problems; and someone's addiction, including co-dependence. Each of these surface stressors is strong evidence of significant adult (GWC) wounds, which is the primary problem.

  • helping divorcing parents (a) acknowledge and (b) permanently reduce significant barriers to cooperative child-nurturance over time. This long-term work often requires focused education and some version of skilled parts work.

  • Many divorcing Catholic families need empathic, knowledgeable assistance to navigate the difficult church annulment process, which may overlap with legal divorce and extend beyond it.

  • help adults and kids to (a) acknowledge (vs. deny, repress, intellectualize, or ignore) and grieve and adjust to biofamily reorganization (splitting into two co-parenting homes) following parental divorce, and (b) understanding and patiently achieving genuine divorce recovery before making stepfamily commitments;

  • help the client's extended-family system (a) understand, (b) accept (vs. deny), and (c) grieve and adjust to their divorce-related losses and changes.

        Think of several divorcing-family clients, and comparing the work with them to this clinical-goal and skill summary. Clinicians will usually not be able to cover all these goals adequately, and will need to triage their time and efforts to achieve the best long-term systemic changes that limits allow.

        Typical stressed divorcing-family clients will probably focus short-term relief (surface-problem reduction), and will not be able to focus on a long-term systemic goals. In such cases, a special clinical skill is weaving long-term suggestions into short-term work. ("For your kids' sakes, you'll probably want to improve your adult communication and problem-solving skills over time, won't you?")  

        In my experience, almost all divorcing families are headed by survivors of childhood trauma - Grown Wounded Children (GWCs). Few (no?) such adults are aware of the [wounds + unawareness] cycle that promoted their and their kids' psychological wounds. Unless divorcing adults are middle-aged and have clearly hit true bottom, it's usually premature to suggest they commit to personal wound recovery while they grieve and adapt to divorce-related losses and changes. It is appropriate to plant seeds (comments, handouts, etc.) about the cycle's toxic effects and eventual personal wound-recovery. If one or both divorcing adults are ready to commit to wound recovery, see this.

        The more knowledgable and skilled a clinician is at facilitating client progress on this complex mosaic of systemic goals, the more likely they are to minimize future stepfamily stresses.

2) Extra Skills Needed During Pre-stepfamily Courtship

        My clinical experience since 1981 steadily suggests that one of five interrelated reasons for the US re/divorce epidemic is one or both needy, psychologically-wounded partners committing to the wrong people (partner + kids + ex mate/s and kin), at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons.

        With such clients, the definition of effective clinical work becomes (a) compassionately facilitating couples to make three wise commitment choices, and (b) preparing couples to (eventually) accept of the [wounds + unawareness] cycle that may threaten them and any living and future descendents.

        This Break the Cycle! self-improvement course and nonprofit, ad-free site exist to protect courting couples and their descendents and society from probable divorce trauma, and help them co-create stable, satisfying high-nurturance families.

        To gain perspective on special skills needed effective clinical work with this type of client family, first study...

  • this summary of five typical stepfamily (re/marital) hazards;

  • this summary of biofamily-stepfamily differences, and common stepfamily myths and realities;

  • this quiz on stepfamily basics,

  • this overview of co-parent

  • these questions ands answers typical courting co-parents should research, and...

  • this real-life stepfamily example,

        Now reflect on how much of this information typical courting co-parents and their supporters  have acquired and accepted as pertinent to their situation. My experience is - well under 5%. Implication: typical courting and committed stepfamily couples and their supporters don't know what they need to know, and often resist admitting this - specially if they're unrecovering Grown Wounded Children in denial.

        Special clinical knowledge and skills are required for effective clinical service to divorcing family systems which include one or two parents who are seriously dating a new partner - with or without biochildren. The legal and any Catholic divorce and annulment processes may or may not be completed. Such families are already multi-home psychological stepfamilies, though adults (including ex mates and relatives) often minimize or deny this.

        The more common of two scenarios is one or both adult partners seeking professional help to learn what they need to evolve a successful remarriage and stepfamily  - i.e. to guard themselves and their kids against another divorce trauma. They may term this "education," or "pre-(re)marital counseling." Often, presenting needs focus on preventing future (step)family and re/marital problems, rather than solving current (surface) problems. The second scenario is the dating co-parents do want to resolve pre-stepfamily surface problems - e.g. relations with a "difficult" ex spouse, or kids' initial adverse reaction to their bioparent dating a new partner.

        In both scenarios, one or both partners are usually...

  • unaware of being dominated by a false self, (significantly wounded and needy),

  • minimizing or denying current relationship stresses and warning signs,

  • unaware of - and often resistant to genuinely admitting (a) their stepfamily identity and (b) related realities and (c) hazards, and (d) their ex mates' full membership in their pre-legal stepfamily, and...

  • deny, minimize, and/or rationalize these.

  

Extra Clinical Skills Needed for Stepfamily Mates in Denial

       In addition to the general and courting-couple skills, clinicians working with stepfamilies who's couples deny any significant partnership problems need skills like these:

 

 Recap

        This page summarizes the second requisite for effective clinical outcomes with these complex clients: (a) general special skills, and (b) 19 special skills for each phase of the work. Clinicians who haven't fully accepted how different average divorcing-family and stepfamily clients are from intact biofamilies are apt to discount the need for these special skills. Restated: it will take average licensed clinicians several years and several dozen client families of all six types to really appreciate the need for and impact of these many special skills.

        Clinicians, supervisors, and colleagues who need to deny (a) significant psychological wounds and (b) how different these client families are, are apt to c/overtly trivialize or discount the need for these special skills. That risks providing ineffective long-term help to client families and leaving their descendents vulnerable to inheriting significant psychological wounds and ignorance and passing them on.

Reality check: on a scale of one (I believe these skills are not needed or useful) to ten (I believe that clinicians must proactively develop all these special skills for effective outcomes with these clients), I am now a __.

        This page continues an outline of four requisites for effective professional service to typical childhood-trauma survivors and divorcing-family and stepfamily clients:

        The prior pages outlines the special knowledge requirements, requisite self-awareness and process awareness, and general clinical skills required for all six types of clients covered by this model. This page summarizes special clinical skills required for each phase of the work with these clients:

  • adjusting to divorce or mate-death,

  • pre-stepfamily courtship,

  • committed stepfamily couples denying primary-relationship problems,

  • committed stepfamily couples admitting such problems,

  • re/divorcing stepfamilies; and...

  • families in any of these phases where at least one adult survivor of childhood trauma is motivated to reduce their psychological wounds and harmonized their personality subselves. This may be individual or family work.

        These pages offer many hyperlinks to popups and more detailed articles. To get the most from this page, you may want to read the whole page first without following any links, and then go back and explore the links.

1) Clinical Skills Needed for Divorcing-biofamily Clients

        For perspective on working with these needy, multi-problem client families, study this perspective on the current US divorce epidemic, this slide presentation on divorce, and this worksheet on divorce-recovery status before continuing here. The general skills on the prior page should be adequate for most families adjusting to the death of an adult or child.

        Effective clinical work with these families requires unique clinical knowledge and these special skills in clinicians, supervisors, consultants, and program and/or clinical directors:

  • If the couple is court-ordered to get mediation and/or therapy, meld this perspective with your own; 

  • help divorcing partners and their families to...

    • stabilize any personal and family crises, and...

    • if appropriate, help couples evaluate whether legal divorce is their best long-term choice, including...

      • assessing each partner's marital needs, how well each need has been filled, and what prevents filling unmet needs; and

      • whether or not to use a qualified marriage counseling (you?) and/or a professional mediator.

 If the decision to divorce is firm, then...

  • Devise and implement an effective family-reorganization plan, and (b) manage their changes cooperatively. This includes helping divorcing parents...

  • Evolve viable, stable co-parenting and child-custody agreements, and possibly stabilizing and reducing the need for legal orders of protection; and...

  • Educate parents on the special divorce adjustment needs of their minor kids, and assess each child's current status with them,

  • If presenting problems include one or more children "acting out," assess how best to help each child while working with the whole family system. This may justify finding an appropriate co-therapist and/or clinical program and coordinating the work with them;

  • Maintain their personal and family balances through the stressful legal divorce process. this may involve working with adversarial attorneys and a Guardian ad Litem (children's attorney), family-court judges, mediators, and/or court-appointed custody evaluators for many months. If your client has been ordered by the court to "get counseling," see this. And...

  • Evaluate and achieve effective divorce recovery over time. Some clients may need special help to resolve problems from marital affairs, family violence, sexual traumas, legal and financial problems, including bankruptcy; someone's addiction - including co-dependence;

  • (a) Acknowledge and (b) permanently reduce significant barriers to cooperative child-nurturance over time.

  • Many divorcing Catholic families need empathic, knowledgeable assistance to navigate the difficult church annulment process, which may overlap with legal divorce and extend beyond it.

  • Help adults and kids to (a) acknowledge (vs. deny, repress, intellectualize, or ignore) and grieve and adjust to biofamily reorganization (splitting into two co-parenting homes) following parental death or divorce, and (b) understanding and patiently achieving genuine divorce recovery before making stepfamily commitments;

  • Help the client's extended-family system (a) understand, (b) accept (vs. deny), and (c) adjust to their divorce-related losses and changes.

        Think of several divorcing-family clients, and comparing the work with them to this clinical-goal and skill summary. Clinicians will usually not be able to cover all these goals adequately, and will need to triage their time and efforts to achieve the best long-term systemic changes that limits allow.

        Typical stressed divorcing-family clients will probably focus short-term relief (surface-problem reduction), and will not be able to focus on a long-term systemic goals. In such cases, a special clinical skill is weaving long-term suggestions into short-term work. ("For your kids' sakes, you'll probably want to improve your adult communication and problem-solving skills over time, won't you?")  

        In my experience, almost all divorcing families are headed by survivors of childhood trauma - Grown Wounded Children (GWCs). Few (no?) such adults are aware of the [wounds + unawareness] cycle that promoted their and their kids' psychological wounds. Unless divorcing adults are middle-aged and have clearly hit true bottom, it's usually premature to suggest they commit to personal wound recovery while they grieve and adapt to divorce-related losses and changes. It is appropriate to plant seeds (comments, handouts, etc.) about the cycle's toxic effects and eventual personal wound-recovery. If one or both divorcing adults are ready to commit to wound recovery, see this.

        The more knowledgeable and skilled a clinician is at facilitating client progress on this mosaic of systemic goals, the higher the odds of avoiding and minimizing future stepfamily stresses.

2) Extra Skills Needed for Courting-couple Clients

          The most fruitful time to help prevent major stepfamily stress and probable re/di-vorce is during a couple's courtship - when they are least likely to seek professional help. This is why informed clergy asked to officiate at a re/marriage have an unparalleled chance to assess and alert couples to whether they're making wise decisions or not. The minority of couples who seek pre-re/marital counseling are usually less wounded than those who don't.

        This means that clinicians and social-service organizations working with divorcing families and stepfamilies should value divorce prevention, and proactively offer pre-re/marital education to their community via seminars, classes, Web sites and referrals, and printed materials. This unique guidebook for courting couples integrates key Web materials from this nonprofit, ad-free site.  

        With courting couples, effective clinical work can be defined as "motivating both partners to (a) assess for psychological wounds , and (b) commit to learning stepfamily facts, realities, hazards, and protections, in order to (c) honestly assess whether they should co-commit to forming or joining a stepfamily at this time. Achieving this requires special clinical knowledge, traits, and skills - particularly with wounded suitors.

         Among the range of extra skills needed, these are key: clinicians need to be able to...

  • Prepare the couple to participate patiently in a thorough pre-commitment assessment (below);

  • Assess (a) each partner and each co-parenting ex mate for significant psychological wounds, (b) whether the couple is aware of any wounds, and what they mean, and (c) whether any co-parents are now in meaningful personal wound-recovery or not;

  • Assess the degree of divorce-recovery in each family of divorcing adults children;

  • Assess (a) the couple's degree of motivation  to learn the stepfamily factors above, and (b) their level of current knowledge about each of them;

  • Assess whether the couple identifies themselves and their kids and other co-parents as a stepfamily now, and whom they include in their stepfamily.

  • Assess each mate's attitudes about these key topics, and suggest changing any that degrade their stepfamily's relationships and nurturance level;

  • Assess (a) the couple's current knowledge of effective communication basics and skills, and (b) the compatibility of their styles of problem-solving;

  • Assess the couple's (a) knowledge of grief basics, (b) current grief policy, and (c) each partner's status in grieving their respective major childhood and prior-relationship losses (broken bonds). Also (d) assess their respective kids for symptoms of incomplete or blocked grief, and whether the couple is alert to this - and knows what to do about it or not. 

  • Assess the specific personal needs that each partner expects to fill by committing to their partner, and how realistic these expectations may be;

  • Assess each partner's current life priorities, and whether s/he is genuinely prepared to put personal health and integrity first, their primary relationship second, and all else - including kids' local needs - third, except in emergencies. If either partner believes "In family conflicts, the kids' needs should always come first," RED LIGHT!

  • Assess the couple's willingness to honestly (a) evaluate and discuss whether any of these danger signs apply to their psychological stepfamily now, and then to (b) fill out this multi-part pre-commitment questionnaire and discuss their findings thoroughly. Option - go through this questionnaire with the couple, over several sessions.

  • (a) Explain your conclusions from all these assessments, in terms of the couple's degree of readiness to co-commit now; and (b) know how to anticipate and respond to any questions and/or objections. Significantly-wounded couples (Grown Wounded Children in denial) are apt to c/overtly ignore or reject any conclusions that they're not fully ready to co-commit.

  • Assess the courting couple's motivation to commit to work together on these self-improvement Lessons before co-committing. Option suggest they use this Web site, and/or the related guidebook above.

  • (a) Motivate the couple to learn more about any of these topics they need to, and (b) facilitate their learning as appropriate.

  • Refer the couple to useful sources of knowledge and support as they prepare to make wise  commitment decisions for themselves and their descendents.

       Note that there are at least three current national and many local programs offering to help couples evaluate their pre-re/marital readiness and compatibility: Prepare/Enrich-MC, FOCCUS, and RELATE-remarriage. As far as I know, none of these currently include the full array of assessments above. Though incomplete, they are still useful. Alert couples who use any of these that if they conclude they're ready to re/marry, they're still at major risk of redivorce because of these combined hazards. Option - search the Web on "remarriage preparation" or similar to learn about current programs and resources. A helpful related link (11/06) is About.com's article on marriage-preparation options.

        The third of these six client types is probably the most common: one co-parent or a couple seeking to resolve non-remarital stepfamily stressors. Special clinical skills needed to to help such stepfamilies effectively are summarized in the next section.

3) Extra Clinical Skills Needed for Stepfamily Mates in Denial

        With these client families, effective clinical work can be defined as (a) assessing accurately for marital problems and likely psychological wounds (in addition to the assessments above), (b) helping couples break their denials of significant relationship problems and (c) motivating them to start reducing them together, while (d) helping co-parents reduce other family stressors. Clinicians get "extra points" if they can also interest one or both partners in learning about their subselves, and perhaps try parts work as part of improving their relationship. The alternative is to "plant seeds" about wounds and recovery, and let go.

       In addition to the general and courting-couple skills above, clinicians working with these clients need abilities to...

  • Select among options like these if the family is court-ordered to seek clinical help;

  • Consider these options if the client is limited in the number of sessions they can afford;

  • Explain that typical multi-home stepfamilies are usually confronted by many concurrent problems at once, so co-parents need to be able to (a) clearly identify and (b) rank-order their set of problems (unmet needs) in order to (c) reduce them together, over time.

  • Assess whether each co-parent genuinely accepts their identity as a stepfamily, and understands what that means. If not, use Project-3 and 4 interventions as appropriate.

  • (a) Assess whether either mate made up to three unwise courtship decisions, and if so, (b) empathically confront them about what this may mean. Use Project-7 interventions if/as appropriate.

  • Assess the couple's recent actual (vs. intellectual) life priorities. If their relationship is not firmly second in non-emergency family conflicts, confront the couple that this probably means: (a) one or both are probably ruled by a false self, (b) their relationship will probably decay, (c) their stepfamily nurturance level  will inexorably decline, and (d) unless they change their priorities, they and their dependent kids are at major risk of future re/divorce trauma.

  • Assess the couple's knowledge of communication basics and skills, and their style of problem-solving. In particular, assess how the couple usually copes with values and loyalty conflicts, and associated relationship triangles. Facilitate effective couple and family communication as needed with appropriate  Lesson-2 interventions.

  • Assess each partner for (a) knowledge of healthy-grieving basics, and (b) incomplete or blocked grieving of childhood and prior-family losses. Then (c) use Lesson-3 interventions as appropriate; 

  • Assess the stepfamily system for past and current addictions, and how family adults and kids are coping with any you find. If anyone seems to be addicted, see this and this for options.

  • Assess the client-family's status in merging their several biofamilies, and use Project-9 interventions as appropriate;

  • Assess for significant barriers to co-parental teamwork with stepkids' other co-parents (ex mates and any stepparents). Facilitate ranking and reducing any you find, within situational limits. Ideally, this requires motivating the other co-parents and any key relatives to join the work.

  • Assess each stepchild's reported status on (a) filling their age-appropriate developmental needs, and (b) their progress on filling their set of family adjustment needs. Assess co-parents' knowledge of these and effective-parenting basics, and how family co-parents are trying to fill each child's needs. Ideally, do this in several family sessions with kids present.

  • Assess the multi-home nuclear stepfamily's structure for significant problems, and discuss and decide what to do about any you find;

  • Assess and discuss the client family's strengths, using some version of this inventory;

  • Assess the couple's personal, marital, and family support systems, and promote any needed improvements with appropriate Lesson-11 interventions. This includes assessing the nurturance level of the metasystem the client family is part of.

  • After all these assessments, judge if and when to empathically confront the couple that they are denying or minimizing serious relationship problems (unmet needs), and what that probably means:

    • they may have made unwise courtship decisions, which cannot be reversed;

    • one or both partners is probably a Grown Wounded Child in protective denial, and needs to (a) hit true bottom, and (b) commit to long-term personal recovery for their and any kids' sakes;

    • focusing on reducing other presenting stepfamily stressors will probably not fill unmet partnership needs, long term.

        If the couple is willing to shift to focusing on relationship work, their stepfamily becomes a "type-4" client. See the next page for special skills needed to work effectively with them. If the couple is not ready to break protective denials, then work to facilitate their improving their presenting (surface) problems, and seed Project 8 (re/marital) interventions as you do.

  • When the client-couple terminates, summarize...

    • the co-parents' initial presenting (surface) problems and the primary problems causing them, and...

    • the work you all did, including any improvements the clients described, and...

    • the five hazards typical stepfamilies like theirs are stressed by, and the 12 projects co-parents can learn to work on together, and...

    • key conclusions you drew from your systemic assessments, including compassionate belief the couple is protectively minimizing or denying significant relationship problems, and what that may mean to their family in the future; and...

    • specific recommendations for the family's co-parents, including any appropriate resources and referrals, and...

    • the couple's and family's key strengths.

        This page outlines clinical skills needed for stepfamily couples who admit relationship problems and are motivated to reduce them, while managing other concurrent stepfamily stressors. Recall that the "/" in re/marriage notes that it may be a stepparent's first union.

4)  Clinical Skills Needed for Effective Re/marital Work

        To gain perspective on this section, first read these premises about relationships, re/marriage, and relationship problems; these questions and answers; and these overviews of co-parent Projects 7 and 8

        From 25 years' experience, this clinical model suggests that typical psychological or legal stepfamily re/divorces are caused by a mix of five hazards. To get the most from this section, first read (a) these overviews of Project 8, normal relationship needs, and step-family re/marriage; and then (b) scan this set of articles on common re/marital problems in stepfamilies.

        Typical presenting problems with these clients will be a mix of re/marital and other stepfamily problems ranging from preventive to correctable to terminal. If one or both mates have decided to re/divorce psychologically or legally, see this. If one or both mates or other family members have committed to reduce psychological wounds, see this.

What's Different about Stepfamily Re/marriage?

        From one perspective, stepfamily re/marriage is no different than a first marriage: each partner seeks to steadily fill a mix of personal needs by their union. However, the re/marital environment in typical stepfamilies is far more stressful than typical first marriages because...

  • One or both mates married and probably divorced at least once before. This may raise their motivation to change core attitudes and behaviors to avoid the trauma of another dissolution.

  • Dead or alive, stepkids' "other bioparent" and new partner (if any) and their relatives cause more values and loyalty conflicts and associated relationship triangles than for typical first-married mates. 

  • Stepfamily couples seeking help are often approaching or in middle age (e.g. 35+), and some or all of their kids are teens or young adults. Raising stepteens can be more problematic than younger kids. Being middle aged may mean that mates are closer to admitting and working to reduce psychological wounds from childhood trauma than younger partners.

  • Often, one or  both mates has have held unrealistic expectations about their stepfamily's roles,  relationships, development, and dynamics.

  • Typical stepfamily mates face more concurrent family-merger, co-parenting, and other problems than typical first-marriage couples. Unless the mates are well prepared, balanced, and guided by their respective true Selves, this often means they make too little time to nourish their relationship.

  • Some couples may have triggered significant relationship problems by having one or more "ours" children (half-siblings); and...

  • There is usually less empathy and informed support in couple's local community and the media than for first-married mates.

        With these complex, multi-problem stepfamilies, effective clinical work can be defined as "helping couples to (a) want to change recent priorities, attitudes, and behaviors to fill more of their respective relationship needs while (b) accepting their stepfamily identity and learning appropriate norms and facts, and (c) managing other stepfamily stressors together; or to (d) accept that their re/marriage is not viable, and begin to grieve and plan a successful re/divorce."

        The best case occurs when re/marital stress promotes one or both mates hitting true bottom, breaking protective denials, and starting to heal significant false-self wounds. In my experience, this is the exception rather than the norm with these clients. If this happens, the clinician needs these special skills.

        To work effectively with these complex multi-problem clients, clinicians need all the general and special skills above (and the other requisites), and know if, how, and when to...

  • ...adapt to the implications and limitations if the couple is court-ordered to get mediation and/or therapy; 

  • ...propose the [wounds + unawareness] cycle and the related common five re/marital hazards and 12 protective projects to the couple, and discuss how this relates to their relationship and stepfamily;

  • ...define, separate, prioritize, and stay steadily focused on filling unmet re/marital needs amidst a dynamic mosaic of other concurrent stepfamily stressors; and...

  • ...assess whether each partner's true priorities rank their relationship second or not, after personal health and integrity. If not, know how and when to confront the couple with the re/marital and co-parenting implications of this. And effective clinicians need to know how, and when to...

  • ...assess whether each mate's governing subselves are genuinely willing to make second-order changes to improve their relationship. It this seems unlikely, review realistic options and outcomes with the couple; and to ...

  • ...(a) assess whether either mate's false-self committed to wrong people in courtship (e.g. a significantly wounded, unaware divorcing parents and kids). (b) If so, know if, how, and when to confront the couple with this opinion, and that it may mean their relationship isn't viable, long-term;

  • ...facilitate the couple realistically assessing whether their relationship is viable if they can learn to manage other stepfamily stressors well enough, or if it is fundamentally not viable;

  • ...shift comfortably between family, dyadic (marital), and individual clinical modalities as needed;

  • ...be fluent with strategic use of other Project-8 interventions, including assessing for affairs and addictions;

  • ...know if, when, and how, to present the concepts of significant false-self wounds and self-motivated  recovery from them. If one or both mates decide to recover, shift to "type six" interventions.

  • ...assess the couple's (a) problem-solving effectiveness and (b) openness to learning to use Lesson-2 skills together, whether they stay together or not.

  • ... assess whether blocked grief may be a significant re/marital stressor, and if so, review options for freeing it up with the couple.

        As with the other five client types addressed by this model, this summary of special requisite skills is illustrative, not comprehensive.

5)  Extra Clinical Skills Needed for Re/divorcing Families

        To gain perspective on this requisites section, first read these...

        "Re/divorce"  is a mental/emotional/legal decision and/or an unacknowledged psychological reality that may not have invoked the legal system. Usually one mate seeks clinical help at this stage rather than the couple. Common presenting problems may include (a) the need to vent; (b) justifying the decision to end the relationship, (c) easing depression (grief), overwhelm, and/or situational shame and guilt; (d) helping kids grieve and adjust; and (e) clarifying "what went wrong?" (part of mental grieving); and/or (f) exploring reconciliation.

        Persons of strong religious (vs. spiritual) faith may also need to relieve excessive guilt and anxiety over (a)  sinning or "breaking my covenant with God," and perhaps (b) adapting to disapproval and rejection by key pious relatives, friends, and/or their religious community.

        Often, one or both re/divorcing mates are Grown Wounded Children (GWCs) in denial, and are unaware of this, why it's relevant, and/or what to do about it. If the person was divorced before, s/he is confronted with (a) being a middle-aged "two-time loser," (b) putting any kids through two (or more) sets of losses and heartache, and (c) facing the possible/probable horror of being alone in old age.

        With re/divorcing client-families, effective clinical work can be defined as (a) helping family members sort out and validate their needs, feelings, and boundaries; (b) promoting appropriate grieving and support in all stepfamily members, and (c) helping the partners evolve and implement a realistic plan for a "successful re/divorce," over time, within their limits.

        For effective outcomes, clinicians need all the general and special skills above, and these:

6) Clinical Skills Needed When Clients Commit to Wound-recovery

 

 Recap

        This four-page series summarizes the third personal trait needed for effective clinical outcomes with these complex clients: (a) general special clinical skills, and (b) special skills for each of six client types. Clinicians who haven't fully accepted how different average divorcing-family and stepfamily clients are from intact biofamilies are apt to discount the need for these special skills. Restated: it will take average licensed clinicians several years and several dozen client families of all six types to really appreciate the need for and impact of these many special skills.

        Clinicians, supervisors, and colleagues who need to deny (a) significant psychological wounds and (b) how different these client families are, are apt to c/overtly trivialize or discount the need for these special skills. That risks providing ineffective long-term help to client families and leaving their descendents vulnerable to inheriting significant psychological wounds and ignorance and passing them on.

Reality check: on a scale of one (I believe these skills are not needed or useful) to ten (I believe that clinicians must proactively develop all these special skills for effective outcomes with these clients), I am now a __.

Continue with the third of five requisites for effective service to trauma-survivors and divorcing-family and stepfamily clients: special personal traits.

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