This continues perspective on using
the model with typical divorcing-biofamily clients.
Key Clinician Attitudes
To optimize objectivity and empathy,
clinicians, supervisors, and case managers need to review key attitudes
that may affect working with these multi-problem client families - e.g.
Members of typical divorcing families are apt to in/directly include mental,
verbal, sexual, and/or physical
as a reason to separate. In my clinical experience,
many lay people and some clinicians
misunderstand and harmfully mis-use this provocative term. The
clinician's knowledge of and attitude about family "abuse" will affect the
If clinicians and/or supervisors don't (a) differentiate abuse and aggression and
teach the client to do the same, and (b) see
and aggression as symptoms of psychological wounds + unawareness + ineffective
communication, then clinical effectiveness will drop.
many U.S. divorcing
families are stressed by past or current
(compulsive self-medication to mute
in one or more members. Until they hit true personal bottom - often in middle
age - typical divorcing adults'
symptoms of false-self
and what they mean.
Effective outcomes are most likely
if clinicians proactively
for past and present addictions and family
use their results to shape their intervention goals, plans, and priorities. This
model proposes that...
addictions are a
symptom of a low-nurturance
family (wounded, unaware adults), and that...
lasting reduction of individual psychological wounds requires
toxic compulsions (addictions) be stabilized for at least a year.
Clinicians may see
addictions as a (a) primary or secondary (b) individual or family stressor. This
model proposes that past or present addiction, including
(relationship addiction, or "co-addiction"), is an
unconscious attempt to self-medicate
and a sure sign of psychological wounds and early-childhood wholistic neglect.
also proposes that managing (vs. "curing") active addictions via some version of
12-step philosophy and support must
occur before true (vs. pseudo) personal
from false-self dominance (co-parent
divorcing partner is psychologically and/or sexually interested in another person
and children are involved, then this is a type-2 (pre-stepfamily)
client, not type 1. This makes assessment more complex, and will
usually justify some unique intervention goals, plans, and priorities. If
clinicians are c/overtly critical (disapproving) of spouses who have affairs, (a) a false self probably guides them, and (b) their
objectivity is compromised.
Child neglect: typical divorcing (wounded, unaware) parents can't
adequately fill their dependent kids'
developmental needs well enough, despite their best efforts. Child-related
presenting problems will complicate assessment and intervention strategies, and
merit clinician's staying focused.
Clinicians and/or supervisors who were raised in a
if their parents divorced - need to be alert for related
transference issues with these clients.
does the clinician see her or his role as a "marriage saver" regardless
of the client's values and needs, or is s/he objectively focused on empowering
client adults to make the wisest short and
long-range family decisions?
former is a toxic
attitude: "I know better than you do what you need." No matter how justified or
well disguised, this attitude will degrade clinical outcomes, specially with
(wounded) client adults.
the clinician have any c/overt biases about the moral, social, or religious
acceptability about divorce, and/or about spouses who "break their vows"? Does
s/he feel divorcing families are inferior in some ways to ideal intact first-marriage biofamilies? This model proposes that
compared to typical healthy, intact biofamilies, divorcing families...
are more apt to be (a)
significantly stressed (have multiple concurrent "problems");
can nurture as
well as intact biofamilies if the adults
genuinely commit to (a) admitting and
well, and (c) gaining requisite
divorcing families are
normal, and merit as much respect and empathy as any other type of family.
is the client? Does the clinician define the client as...
a divorcing couple
(marital system), whether both
participate in therapy or not;
the couple's present nuclear
or extended family systems, and/or...
their present and
families, including possible new mates, stepchildren, and unborn children?
This model proposes
that the last choice promotes the best
long-term clinical outcomes.
More key attitudes for effective
assessment and intervention of divorcing-family (type 1) clients:
Does the clinician
believe in successful divorce, or that divorce is always toxic,
negative, and "bad" for those involved? This model promotes the first
attitude, once the clinician judges that the couple has tried all practical
options to fill their primary
Option: edit these ideas to
define a successful first divorce for each divorcing client family.
participating clients and clinicians may focus
only on client problems (unmet needs).
and human assets
relative to their separation-adjustment process can have many benefits.
your family's attitude about your strengths - appreciation and
celebration? Taking them for granted? Minimizing (Yes, but ...")? Nourishing
(celebrating and expanding your strengths)? Now think of a nuclear or
extended family you feel is "strong" in adapting to adversity. What things
make them "strong"? Think of another family you feel is "weak" (vulnerable,
directionless, fragile, ...). What human characteristics, attitudes, and
abilities do they seem to lack?
Option - use some version of this
worksheet and/or this inventory to help
client families appreciate and affirm their strengths, as they work to fill
when kids are involved, do the client adults and clinician/s believe that
co-parent separation and divorce (a) reorganizes
their nuclear biofamily, or (b) creates two families? The latter view promotes inclusion-exclusion,
values, and loyalty conflicts, and divisive
relationship triangles which combine to hinder healthy divorce adjustment.
Premise: physical separation and legal divorce create a two-home
nuclear family system with
(e.g. about child discipline, meals, chores, and finances), and family roles.
The genetic, historic, and psychological family of procreation remains intact, despite
and complex systemic adjustment tasks.
the professionals involved define "divorce adjustment" for (a) individual adults and kids
and for (b) their nuclear-family system? This model proposes that each affected
child and adult...
has a set of
concurrent adjustment needs to fill over time, based on three-level
of many tangible and abstract losses;
in order to...
resume their personal growth (development) and their systemic
to restabilize their family
rituals, resources, and
high does the clinician rank client
as an assessment and intervention focus - specially if the clients
aren't concerned about it (which is common)? This model proposes that the pace and degree of each family
member's divorce adjustment depends on...
of personality subselves,
person's individual and collective
knowledge, attitudes, and values about grieving - i.e. their family
More clinical factors shaping the work with divorcing-family clients...
Does the clinician
forgiveness are important assessment
and intervention targets for each divorcing adult and child - specially
if the adults don't focus on them? Restated: what is the clinician's attitude
about intrapsychic + systemic therapy?
Premise: the biofamily's
nurturance level and later success as a stepfamily are affected by (a) how
divorcing adults are of
each of these personal stressors, and (b) whether they
proactively seek to help each other reduce the stressors and forgive themselves and each
other for divorce-related hurts, disappointments, and betrayals.
Blame: is the clinician neutral to client-adults blaming each other or
themselves for their divorce, or does s/he proactively seek to help adults and
affected kids (a) objectively understand why the divorce is happening and (b)
release their (subselves') need to defend themselves and/or blame to someone?
doing the latter promotes healthy grieving, lower stress, and higher nurturance
levels, long term.
does the clinician feel qualified and motivated to assess
how (a) the adult's religious (vs.
beliefs and (b) the family's church community (if any) are affecting the
family's divorce decision and adjustment progress? Does
the clinician feel it appropriate to provide or suggest pastoral counseling?
This model proposes that personal spirituality (non-denominational faith
in a benign, responsive Higher Power, vs. church dogma) is (a) innate within every
person, and is (b) essential for wholistic health and
which promote divorce and
passing on the silent [wounds + unawareness]
Pause and reflect on what you just read. Can you think of other clinical
attitudes that will affect clinical outcomes with typical divorcing-family
clients? Recall that key personal attitudes are one of the
for effective clinical work with this model and low-nurturance clients.
Now let's shift gears and survey some
First-meeting Considerations with
Typical Divorcing-family Clients
these general intake options and
clarifying clinical logistics and procedural
learning initial client history and presenting problems (needs),
consider weaving these themes into the first contact
with typical divorcing-family clients:
Identify each attending adult's and child's
|vent about something
||clarify and/or learn something
||lower anxieties and/or guilts
||gain a clinical ally or advocate
|satisfy some third party
||demonstrate something to someone
||reduce other discomfort/s
and demonstrate the Lesson-2 skill of
to help discern these primary needs in the first and following meetings.
Encourage client adults to
maintain a long-term outlook as they adjust to divorce. Alert clients that...
usually extending well beyond legal settlements, and that...
their family members are
likely to become a complex psychological or legal
or more years, and...
and attitudes about divorce adjustment will significantly affect their odds
of long-term stepfamily happiness and success.
Repeat this encouragement
throughout the work, to promote co-parents' making wise (informed)
first-meeting theme is to...
Encourage each adult
to adopt a two-home nuclear family system viewpoint, and
assess any barriers to their adopting that view.
Significant "resistance" or ambivalence usually indicates (a) significant psychological wounds
+ incomplete grief + ineffective adult communication
Option: ask each attending client to name the people
that comprise their current family. This may disclose significant alliances
and coalitions, and/or disputes over family
membership, including legal and genetic relatives.
Ask whether anyone in the client
family has used, or is using, a single-parenting or divorce-support group. If
so, learn who initiated that, who goes, and why. If not, seed the idea that
adults can help them-selves
and any kids manage their family reorganization
by participating in a well-run support group. Effective clinicians will be
able to refer clients to local groups for adults and
kids (e.g. Rainbows), and may include
this in a first-meeting resource handout.
Note that there
are many Internet chat rooms and chat now for divorcing adults
and perhaps kids (?). Typical wounded
adults - specially men - will not attend
physical groups, despite acknowledging significant benefits. Options: use this
article on family support,
and/or this family-support worksheet as
Begin to break the [wounds +
by providing clients with selected handouts like these...
Begin to assess which other
family members will participate in or hinder the clinical process. A
useful first-contact question is
"Which family members do each of you feel are most affected by your family's
separating / divorcing?"
clients are court-referred, assess the degree to which each adult
is motivated to cooperate in the clinical process. See these
general considerations for more
The number of
general first-meeting options plus
those above suggests the value of clinicians
having a clear agenda before the first
This agenda will depend on what information was gained during client
This two-page article overviews effective work with typical divorcing-biofamily
clients using this unique experience-based systemic clinical
Similar articles overview clinical work with
of low-nurturance, multi-problem families.
defines "effective clinical work," how
these clients differ from other
families, suggests key assessment and
intervention topics and options
and hilights key clinician attitudes and
first-meeting topics. These aticles build on
suggestions about (a)
for effective clinical work, and (b) effective intake and first-meeting with
This model proposes that client assessment and
interventions begin during intake, and continue over
choosing an appropriate article from this clinical index, the site directory or
map, or searching the site for a particular topic. Option; see this
sample intake form for typical
Pause, breathe, and reflect: did you get what you needed from this article?
+ + +.