Toward effective service to
couples, and stepfamilies
the Assessment-Intervention Model
of Clinical Interventions With
Courting-stepfamily Clients (continued)
By Peter K.
page continues outlining key custom-education interventions
for unconflicted courting stepfamilies.
Prior pages suggest ways of motivating
courting co-parents toward ongoing stepfamily education, and several assessment-interventions.
This page outlines more intervention options with unmarried stepfamily couples. Note
that these interventions aim to assess for potential problems, and seed motivation and resources to
reduce each of the five
combined stressors that courting-stepfamily members will probably face.
"Custom education" means learning the unique history, structure,
and needs of a pre-wedding nuclear stepfamily, and tailoring an appropriate
series of educational interventions for the courting co-parents and other family
members. Custom education interventions usually span several meetings
with co-parent couples, to initially assess and seed information about up to 13
|The ultimate clinical
objective here is to motivate and prepare the couple to do
: honestly assess the three-level viability of their re/marrying
to form a complex, re/divorce- prone stepfamily.
Custom-education Interventions - part 3
Courtship intervention 8)
One of the five common stressors in typical
divorced-family and stepfamily adults and kids is blocked grief. Typical
courting couples _ aren't aware of this, _ don't know healthy-grieving
basics, and don't know they don't know; and _ are often reluctant to focus on this
topic. This assessment-intervention aims to ...
- motivate the co-parents to do co-parent
Lesson 3 together: i.e. assess themselves and other nuclear-family
members for blocked grief, and intentionally free it up; and also...
- initially assess the extended
stepfamily for any gross symptoms of
blocked grief. Blocked ancestral grief often signals significant
false-self dominance, and unintended and unseen bequests of low family
This three-part intervention requires the clinician to
familiar with _ attachment and grieving dynamics and
norms, _ symptoms of blocked grief, and to _ have strategies and confidence about
promoting healthy mourning - including the spiritual level.
_ Alerting and motivating: Offer
some initial comments like these: "Like yours, all stepfamilies are founded
on two or three sets of major losses - i.e. broken emotional
bonds, or attachments - for adults and kids. The groups of losses are
from _ childhood, _ first-family breakup from death or divorce, and _
stepfamily co-habiting and biofamily merger. The latter implies "breaking
up" (reorganizing) a single-parent family.
Give attending clients copies of this loss-inventory
worksheet, to illustrate how many things they and their kids and key
relatives potentially need to grieve. Discussing this can easily take a whole
session. Watch for, and correct, the common illusion that
"grieving" relates only to the death of a loved person or pet.
"Nature's remedy for broken bonds is normal
three-level mourning, or "good grief." The levels are mental, emotional
and physical. When people grieve well, over time, they're able to
form selective new attachments - such as new stepfamily relationship bonds. The
problem is that grief can be unintentionally blocked, under some circumstances.
"People who come from low-nurturance childhoods often have trouble
grieving well, because of psychological
wounds and ignorance. A high
percentage of divorced and re/marrying co-parents and their
kids are dominated by a false self and are blocked in grieving without
knowing it. That promotes emotional, physical, and relationship
problems, until grieving is freed up by the mourner to resume.
Ask "Did you know this?"
The way the clients respond can yield key clues about _ possible
false-self dominance and _ the co-parents'
priorities and degrees of
awareness and empathy. Couples' receptivity to the rest of this intervention
will vary with these factors. If receptivity seems low, aim for seeding, vs.
discussion and action.
_ Assessing/seeding: choose
among these options, depending on the clinician's style and the client-family's
attributes and receptivity:
- Note that some adults or kids who are seen as
may really be stuck in some phase of grieving major losses;
- Summarize the symptoms
of blocked grief (option: one-page handout), and ask "If some adults or
kids in your stepfamily are stuck in mourning their losses, who would it be? How is that blockage affecting the rest of the family?"
- Ask "How would you each describe your
birth-family's policy (shoulds, oughts
and musts) about grieving? What is your personal policy about
mourning your losses?" Options:
- Use this grief
values-clarification worksheet to help co-parents answer;
- Explain the concept of inner and outer
to grieve, relate that to their family grief policies, and ask if
co-parents' inner and physical families give or withhold such
- Ask "What have your kids learned about
how to react to important life-losses from the behaviors of their main
male and female role models?"
- Ask "What or who might hinder you from
doing Lesson 3 (assessing your
nuclear- stepfamily members for blocked grief) before you decide
whether to re/marry?"
- Depending on the situation, inform the
co-parents of grieving resources like local Rainbows
or similar programs, books, and local
counselors. Note - typical co-parents aren't aware that some clinicians
specialize in facilitating healthy mourning.
_ Summarize the Intervention
- Recap that _ a common adjustment task for
stepfamily members is to grieve many tangible and abstract losses to prepare
for new relationship bonds, and _ blocked grief is a common major stressor
in typical divorced and stepfamilies because of psychological wounds
and not knowing about healthy three-level grief.
- Note that if an ex mate is
psychologically wounded and blocked in grieving their losses, it's
very likely that will cause significant ongoing relationship
problems in their nuclear stepfamily until the blocked person
decides to free up their mourning. Other co-parents can make a pro-grief
family environment, but can't make the blocked person
- Ask if the couple has any questions about
_ what Lesson 3 is, _ why it's vital to them and their
kids, and _ how to do it.
- Ask if the couple wants to meeting again to
help them and their kids and other co-parents do Lesson 3 well, together.
- Give the couple copies* of appropriate
"Good Grief" articles or worksheets linked above.
- Ask how the co-parents are doing with the
custom-education process so far, and if they're ready for more. If so,
continue with ...
Courtship Intervention 9) - Raise
co-parents' awareness of stepfamily uniquenesses and realities.
Premise: most courting pairs of co-parents have little or no knowledge of how
different and complex stepfamily relationships are. Therefore, they
under-appreciate the high need for co-parent teamwork, for long term success.
Continue this overview of the four-part clinical model with more
"custom-education" interventions for typical courting-stepfamily (type
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May 07, 2014