Help clients break the
lethal [wounds + unawareness] cycle!
Effective Clinical Work with
Focusing on Relationship Problems
By Peter K. Gerlach, MSW
Member NSRC Experts Council
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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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This article continues a series
of intervention-summaries with
six types of low-nurturance family-system clients. It focuses on
effective interventions with stepfamilies with
a couple seeking clinical help for primary-relationship (and other)
"problems" (unfilled needs). The series is modular, so expect
some redundancies. This article covers...
How to get the most
from this article;
Definitions of key
Perspective on these
client families and their primary needs;
Outlines of primary
systemic interventions with these complex clients;
This clinical model and
its interventions (below) are based on a family-systems
paradigm. A typical nuclear-stepfamily metasystem
is composed of...
each family member's inner family
of personality subselves,
one or more
committed-adult couple subsystems, and...
the subsystem of
(usually) three or more active co-parents (bioparents and
stepparents), living in two or more
one or more subsystems
of separated, divorcing, and/or dead biological parents and kids;
a subsystem of one or
more stepkids and stepsiblings, and perhaps half-siblings; and...
subsystems of genetic and legal relatives of each client co-parent
From this perspective, doing "effective couples work" with stepfamily
co-parents requires (a) maintaining a clear view of multiple interactive
systemic stressors, (b) prioritizing them with the clients' agreement,
and (c) staying focused primarily on improving the couple's system while
stabilizing and maintaining other dynamic systemic problems.
- teaching couples how to improve and keep the quality of their
relationship (filling their respective primary needs), and
concurrently encouraging them to understand, accept, learn, and work
at Lessons 1 thru 7.
Effective clinical work
with typical stepfamily couples requires knowledge of - and experience
with (a) working systemically with couples in general, (b)
stepfamily-system basics, and (c) typical (surface) and primary
co-parent couple stressors.
To get the most
from this article, first scan or read these if you haven't recently...
Perspective on these Clients
Paradox - doing "effective
couples work" with committed stepfamily mates is no different than in
any other family system, and at the same time it presents many
unique environmental, structural, and dynamic differences that require
clinical awareness, focus, and skillful dynamic triage to stay balanced,
and promote systemic progress over many sessions..
Primary Systemic interventions
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September 30, 2015