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This article is one of a series on
professional counseling, coaching, and therapy with (a) low-nurturance
(dysfunctional) families and with (b) typical
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
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The Web address of this article is
This article focuses on clinical considerations for effective work
with the stepfamily of a couple who is somewhere between
psychological re/divorce and post-decree grieving and restabilizing.
Clinical goals vary, depending on where the client
family is on this continuum. This
key definitions and
special client assessment
typical intervention goals
with these complex clients.
To get the most from this
article, first study...
introduction to these clinical articles, and this overview of the
they're based on;
this definition of
this slide presentation on
the [wounds + unawareness] cycle
which promotes psychological and legal separation and divorce. If you
have trouble viewing the slides, see this.
these summaries of
requisites for satisfying
relationships, and typical
mates seek to fill by their primary relationship;
these summaries of five
and three common stepfamily stressors;
proposal about surface ("presenting") problems and the underlying
problems that cause them;
this perspective on
effective clinical assessment of
divorcing-family and stepfamily client.
this summary of typical
assessment targets with these complex
Here divorce means (a) the multi-year sequence of psychological +
spiritual + social + financial + legal disintegration of the relationship
between two committed partners, and (b) the interrelated effects of this
disintegration on their (step)family
Each person has a unique definition of this term, which can mean many
different things. Re/divorce occurs when one
or both mates have divorced psychologically or legally before.
Implication - effective clinical work is more likely if the clients and
clinician evolve a common definition of what divorce means in their
clinical metasystem's context.
The multi-year divorce process can be framed by human-service providers and
each family member as negative (a stressor), positive
(a stress reliever), or both, depending on how it affects various family
members. It can also be framed as "very difficult" to "successful,"
reflecting the overall degree of conflict, loss, hostility, blame, and
Divorce-adjustment includes (a) each family-member's personal
stabilizing to divorce-related changes and
and (b) the client family system's stabilizing to these. Each member of a
re/divorcing family system will be at their own unique point on the
continuum between not-adjusted to fully-adjusted and stable. A vital
variable in true divorce adjustment is the multi-loss, multi-level grieving
process in each person and the whole system.
Generally, effective clinical service means "adequately
filling the short and long-term
of (a) affected client-family members and (b) the human-service providers
involved in the case. For re/divorcing client families, the definition of
effective clinical service depends on (a) the mix client-adults respective
primary needs and (b) the clinician's values about "divorce." For instance,
clinicians who feel responsible to "save this marriage" will have a
different definition than one who feels "I want to help this family
understand and accept their reality, grieve their losses, and stabilize
their reorganized family effectively."
Re/marriage - can mean
different things to each person in the clinical metasystem. Effective
service is most likely if the clinician works to see that everyone is clear
on what this term means.
Primary relationship implies that each mate puts their relationship
above all other human (vs. spiritual) relationships, including those with
any dependents. Psychologically-
may have some subselves who choose this priority, and other subselves who
don't. Where true, this promotes in behavioral
confusion and distrust, and
communication and problem-solving.
What's Unique About Re/divorcing Client Families?
Key Assessment and Intervention Considerations
The first thing to assess is your own and any supervisor, co-therapist's,
and/or consultant's attitudes about divorce and working with divorcing
couples and families. Then assess is whether each mate is ambivalent
about separation and divorce, committed to it, or resistant to it. These
will shape your clinical goals and strategy.
Variable Assessment Options
Setting Clinical Objectives