Here, an intervention is some planned or instinctive behavior
by a counselor or therapist which causes a meaningful change in a
client's system of subselves or relationships. Effective interventions
reduce or resolve client's primary "problems" - i.e. empower
safely fill their
This is a checklist of effective clinical
of divorcing-family and stepfamily clients. It is based on 26 years' study and live clinical experience with
of typical marital and family clients. The checklist assumes you
are familiar with all five elements of this
Also see these related checklists of key (a) therapeutic-process
interventions and (b) intrapsychic
interventions for clients needing to reduce psychological wounds.
This is meant to be a reference tool for clinicians, supervisors, and consultants to
help (a) plan treatment strategies and (b) measure progress in the
work with a given client family. Links connect to background on the
primary problems and/or to outlines and examples of each
intervention. Depending on the type of client, interventions (a)
apply to a family, a committed couple, or an individual. They range
between therapeutic-process interventions
to didactic and experiential educational interventions. Key
interventions ("parts work") are summarized in
The checklist is in three sections:
A basic premise here is that most (all?) clients are unaware that
the needs they seek clinical help to fill are symptoms
of these 11 common interactive
portion of this clinical model proposes effective ways to (a) diagnose which
of these core problems are disturbing the client family system, and (b) how to prioritize the
The other intervention articles in this
series suggest effective ways of
empowering clients adults to reduce or resolve each of the common primary problems.
Prerequisites to any of these interventions are (a) validating any
"crisis" the client adults are experiencing, and (b) working to
stabilize it ("crisis intervention"). I assume you are
evolving your own strategy for doing this effectively.
Educational (Teaching) Interventions
1) General Educational
Options: "X" each intervention that isn't relevant to this
client family, asterisk each one you feel has been attempted well
enough, and check each one that has been "successful."
Hilights below indicate high-priority interventions with most client
Why and __
how to differentiate current
surface (secondary) needs from
__ explore how this relates to the client's presenting (surface)
__ 2) _ Why and
_ how to assess
__ 3) How low childhood
nurturance promotes fragmented, disorganized
__ 4) Outline _ the
[wounds + ignorance]
cycle, and _
effects on the client's
__ 5) _ Why and _ how and to
client-adult psychological wounds; and _ overview
goals and common
benefits. Note the related Lesson-1
"Who's really Running Your Life?" ((2nd ed., Xlibris.com,
Teach _ effective-communication
and _ problem-solving
basics, and common communication _ blocks and __
tips. Note the Lesson-2
resources and guidebook
(Xlibris.com, 2nd ed., 2010).
__ 7) Typical
requisites, and __ how to
__ 8) Typical
and _ how to assess individual kids'
status with these
(co-parenting) _ requisites and _ goals
__ 10) Identify each
client-adult's recent demonstrated (vs. desired) life
priorities. Then _ educate the adults on how this relates to
their presenting and primary problems - e.g. show that couple's
marital "problems" may stem partly from one or both partners not
really making their primary relationship their
priority behind wholistic health. Option: _ illustrate how adults'
demonstrated priorities reflect which
__ 11) As appropriate:
educate client-adults on
(broken bonds), _ healthy three-level
_ why and _
grief, and _ options for
teach _ how these relate
to the client's presenting and primary problems (if they do).
__ 12) As appropriate,
help client-couples assess the
strengths and stressors of their primary relationship.
Adults and Supporters
Add these educational interventions to those above
depending on where a client family is on this three-phase
__ 13) Teach (a)
meanings of divorce, (b) the three multi-year
of a typical divorce, and (c) probable
impacts of divorce on
all client-family adults and kids.
__ 14) Teach how psychological
wounds and ignorance (#4 above) can promote
making up to three unwise
which can (a) inhibit filling one or both partner's needs (#
7 above) and (b) promote eventual psychological or legal divorce.
Restated - empathically educate divorcing adults on how to
assess whether they were never really suited to be long-term
committed partners, so odds of reconciling successfully are low to
__ 15) Teach (a)
the difference between changes
(broken emotional bonds), and (b) how to help each their family
members manage each of these effectively as they adjust to
divorce-reorganization. See # 11 above. Options:
teach client adults how to
their losses, to help them grieve successfully; and/or...
teach and illustrate the
concept of a
encourage client adults and
supporters to see the divorcing nuclear-family system as living
in two inter-related homes, rather than in two independent "new"
__ 16) Teach
(a) the value of ex-mates
maintaining a long-term view as the family's multi-year
divorce-adjustment proceeds (e.g. 20 to 30 years), and (b) propose the concept of a
"successful" divorce or
re/divorce. Then (c) Invite client adults to evolve their own
definition/s of this to fit their circumstances.
__ 17) Teach
divorcing adults to
their usual communication attempts to resolve disputes - as partners
- to illuminate blocks that have prevented effective problem-solving.
Prerequisites: # 5 and # 6 above.
If appropriate, teach client adults their kids' typical (a)
and (b) divorce-adjustment
needs, and (c)
how to assess each child's
status on filling these needs. Option - review effective-caregiving basics - # 9 above
and other Lesson 7 articles and
Review the typical
that can inhibit effective co-parenting
relationships, and educate client couples on any relevant barriers
as a first step toward reducing them. Follow the links to
__ 20) As
appropriate, facilitate client-adults assessing
what tasks remain
before their family's divorce-adjustment is "finished." Use this
3) Educate Typical
Stepfamily Adults and Supporters
This model defines four types of stepfamily clients:
co-parents are courting but have not
committed to a permanent relationship;
committed co-parent partners who
deny primary-relationship problems;
committed partners who admit primary
relationship problems; and...
re/divorcing couples. The "/" notes
that it may be a stepparent's first union.
Some interventions apply
to all four types, and others are type-specific. Clinicians
should evolve a systemic treatment plan
based on assessing any stepfamily client for their (a)
strengths and (b) status
Recall that all educational interventions can be verbal and/or via
discussing informational handouts and worksheets.
__ 21 Teach
client-adults an overview of _ the five hazards and the [wounds +
ignorance] cycle, and _
outliner these common core
__ 22) Teach
client-adults and supporters about...
basics, including how
("traditional") biofamilies and concurrently
very dissimilar from
them); and about...
and realities. Then _ Identify and respectfully challenge
client-adults' misconceptions and unrealistic expectations about
stepfamily norms and dynamics. Significant "resistance" to
adopting realistic expectations usually indicates psychological wounds (# 5 above).
__ 23) If
relevant, teach co-parents and supporters _ the importance of
accepting their stepfamily
identity, and _ what that identity means to all their adults
and kids. Option: encourage client-adults to use this
identity worksheet, and discuss the results. Reducing "resistance"
to fully accepting stepfamily identity usually requires _ assessing
for and reducing blocked grief, and/or _ intrapsychic interventions.
__ 24) _
and how to construct a
multi-generational genogram, and _ facilitate adults' doing so.
Then _ facilitate client adults (a) agreeing on who comprises their
stepfamily systems and (b) teaching that to other family members and
supporters. If there is significant conflict about who belongs
to the stepfamily, use this and
this to educate client adults
on options for reducing or resolving "membership conflicts."
__ 25) If appropriate,
teach client adults _ what a "healthy" (high-nurturance) family
structure looks like, and _
why and how to map their
structure to identify any problems.
Structural problems in
any family system are usually caused by
combinations of adult psychological wounds (# 5 above) + blocked
grief (# 11 above) + ineffective communication (# 6 above) +
conflicts and associated
Once identified and admitted, each of these stressors can be reduced
if client-adults are willing to (a) put their
in charge of their respective personalities (work at
and (b) learn to tailor and apply relevant interventions here.
Refresh client adults as needed on...
the difference between surface and
primary needs (# 1 above), and...
and how to
as teammates to discern the unfilled needs promoting
any "stepfamily problem" ((part of # 6 above); and...
common primary problems
causing most stepfamily stress.
Educational Interventions for
Specific Stepfamily Types
In addition to relevant "universal" interventions above, each type
of stepfamily client may benefit from these educational
Pre-commitment (Courting) Couples
couples _ why and _ how to choose...
Use Lesson-7 resources as
needed - including the guidebook for Projects 1 thru 7,
Stepfamily Courtship (Xlibris.com, 2003). Client-adult
ambivalence, disinterest, and/or "resistance" to these core concepts
usually indicates significant psychological wounds (# 5 above).
Option: use this intervention for other types of stepfamily
clients as appropriate - specially when primary-relationship
problems are central. Premise: if one or both troubled
stepfamily mates made up to three unwise commitment choices,
effective remedial ("marital") interventions have low odds of
__ 28) Encourage
courting couples and their ex mates and key supporters
(including clergy) to (a)
adopt and keep a long-range
view (i.e. the next 20 - 30 years), and get
counseling" - i.e.
potential-problem assessment and factual stepfamily education.
Interventions for Committed
Couples Denying Relationship Problems
__ 29) Educate /
refresh couples as needed on...
the five common marital
primary vs. secondary needs (# 1
psychological wounds and the [wounds +
ignorance] cycle (# 4
the psychological wound of
(e.g. denial, minimizing, or ignoring);
problems (unmet relationship needs) in a stepfamily context
__ 30) If
appropriate, teach / refresh couples on...
their recent actual life priorities
(# 10 above), and/or _ the three wise commitment choices (# 27
empathically discuss whether they
made all three or not. If not...
facilitate realistic discussion on
what the couple's _ primary problem/s (unmet needs) are
(# x above), and _ what their realistic options are now.
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