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

Help clients improve their
parenting effectiveness

By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council

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        This article is one of a series on effective professional counseling, coaching, and therapy with (a) low-nurturance (dysfunctional) families and with (b) typical survivors of childhood neglect and trauma. These articles for professionals are under construction.

        This series assumes you're familiar with:

        Before continuing, pause and reflect - why are you reading this article? What do you need?

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       This article is one of a series on effective clinical interventions with low-nurturance family clients. A "low nurturance family" is one in which members seldom get their primary needs met in wholistically-healthy ways. An effective intervention is an instinctive or intentional behavior of the clinician which significantly raises the family's nurturance level in the opinion of all involved. This article covers...

  • preparations needed to get the most from these interventions

  • an explanation of why Lesson 7 exists,

  • basic Lesson 7 interventions, and

  • special Lesson 7 interventions


        To get the most from this article, first read:

  • this introduction to professional family clinicians and educators,

  • this slide presentation on the [wounds + unawareness] cycle that is a root stressor with typical low-nurturance families (best viewed with Internet Explorer or Netscape browsers)..

  • this overview of the clinical model on which these articles are based;

  • this summary of requisites for effective professional service with these clients;

  • scan these terms which are liberally used throughout these clinical articles;

  • this overview of effective clinical assessment of these six types  of client families; and...

  • this introduction to effective interventions with low-nurturance families and individuals recovering from psychological wounds; and...

  • this overview of Lesson 7, and scan (a) this Lesson 7 link-index and (b) the table of contents of the Lesson 7 guidebook "Build a Co-parenting Team after Divorce and Remarriage."

Why Does Lesson 7 Exist?

        This model focuses on providing effective clinical service to typical divorcing families, stepfamilies, and wounded persons recovering from childhood neglect and trauma. "Effective clinical service" with all clients aims to raise their family's nurturance level - i.e. to help their family adults successfully fill the primary needs of all their members much of the time. Typically, divorcing co-parents and stepfamily co-parents have trouble forming a cooperative, harmonious team in and between their related homes. This trouble can come from...

  • (a) significant "unfinished business" (nurturance barriers) between divorcing parents, and/or (b) incomplete grief from losses (broken bonds) related to divorce and/or a prior mate's death;

  • adults being unable to communicate and problem-solve effectively as co-parenting teammates; and/or...

  • adults not understanding stepfamily norms and realities, including the special adjustment needs of typical minor kids, stepparents, and relatives.

Basic Lesson 7 Interventions with typical divorcing-family and stepfamily clients. The overall goal of these interventions is to (a) inform family adults on their nurturance-level and it's impacts, (b) inform them on their options as nurturing teammates, and (c) facilitate their raising their cooperation and family's nurturance level over time.

        The several steps and options comprising each intervention are outlined below. The & symbol below indicates a handout useful for client homework. Note that most handouts below are integrated in the Lesson 7 guidebook "Build a Co-parenting Team after divorce and remarriage,"' by Peter Gerlach, MSW (Xlibris, 2001)

1)  Propose that families exist to fill members' needs, and explain the concept of nurturance levels. 

2)  Review typical minor kids' needs and how to assess kids' needs-status  

3)  Review participating adults' definition of who belongs to their family - Option - review their genogram (Project 3 intervention).

4) Ask clients to assess their family's nurturance level, and discuss the results. Option - review the client-family's current strengths.









1)  Propose that families exist to fill members' needs, and explain the concept of nurturance levels.

a)  Review the concept of human surface and primary needs (mental, emotional, spiritual, and bodily discomforts) as appropriate

b)  As appropriate, review and discuss the premise that families exist because they are most likely to fill members' primary needs well enough, often enough;

c)  Propose or refresh the clients on the concept of a family nurturance level (low to high), and discuss as appropriate.

2)  Review the concept of a personal and family developmental cycle

a)  Review and this article & as appropriate. Option - ask clients to identify where they are on the cycle. Options - if the client is a stepfamily, review these articles on stepfamily mergers, typical merger-adjustment tasks, and managing major family-system changes. Then discuss where the family is in their biofamily merger-adjustment process.

b)  Review the concept of surface and primary needs (mental, emotional, spiritual, and bodily discomforts) as appropriate (see Lesson 2 interventions)


3)  Review minor kids' typical needs, how to assess kids' needs-status

a)  Review and discuss typical minor kids' developmental needs & as appropriate

b)  Review bonding, loss, and healthy-grief basics as appropriate (Lesson 3 interventions)

c)  Review and discuss typical kids' family-adjustment needs & to (a) parental death or divorce and (b) re/marriage (stepfamily formation)

3)  Review typical family adult developmental and family-adjustment needs as appropriate

a)  Review  typical co-parent develpmental needs

b)  Review typical primary-partner needs

Review typical co-parent family-adjustment needs during biofamily reorganization (e.g. separation and divorce, adult dating, and stepfamily commitment and cohabiting)

3)  Review participating clients' definition of who belongs to their family

4) Invite the participating adults to assess their family's recent nurturance level, and discuss the results.




 Special Lesson 7 Interventions



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Updated April 30, 2013