Sep 29

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Finding the Right Stepfamily Therapist: 5 Questions you must ask

Being in a stepfamily is hard.   Some experts estimate that the stepfamily constellation is the fastest growing type of family in our population.  We already know that RE-marriages, particularly remarriages with children from previous relationships, are vastly more prone to divorce than first marriages.  And in our divorce-happy culture, that’s pretty scary.

The good news is that some studies are showing that couples who engage in pre-marital therapy, or consult a qualified stepfamily therapist for assistance actually have marriages with a better-than-average survival rate.  But then the question becomes, who is qualified?

It’s a good question.

Social psychologist and stepmother Elizabeth Church, Ph.D. notes in her book Understanding Stepmothers,  that it’s possible that a therapist treating a couple in a repartnership with kids will do more harm than good. Church details that many of her patients came to her after being treated by therapists with no training, familiarity, or real experience helping remarried couples with kids. The results were unfortunate: therapists telling women to “treat stepkids just like they’re you’re own” and otherwise importing a first-family model to address stepfamily or stepcouple reality. Since stepfamilies are different, that doesn’t work. These couples understandably became frustrated, discouraged, even hopeless before finding real help.

In her blog post “Get Thee to a Therapist”, Kela Price, a therapist and stepfamily coach, provides the following questions for couples seeking assistance with stepfamily issues.

Interview Questions for Your Stepfamily Counselor Candidate
1. Specifically, what kind of stepfamily training have you had?
2. Do you treat stepfamilies different from first families? If the candidate says, “No, the stepfamily operates much like a first family and so the treatment is the same,” keep looking!
3. Have you ever been divorced and/or remarried and experienced stepfamily life yourself?
4. What are some of the unique challenges that stepfamily co-parents face, and (specifically) how do you handle those?
5. Why do you feel that so many remarriages fail as opposed to first marriages, and what specifically do you do to help strengthen the remarriage?

It is vital that a person living in (or contemplating living in) a stepfamily receive assistance from someone familiar with the experience of living in a stepfamily.  Love itself might not conquer all, but if you arm yourself with realistic expectations, education and appropriate support, LOVE can definitely win in the end.


Brenda Snyder, LCSW is a therapist currently practicing in Peoria, IL  She sees stepmoms and their families all over the world from the privacy of their own homes via the web.  Brenda is accepting new clients at Glen Manor Counseling (309-693-2749).  Brenda has been a residential stepmother since 1998.


Permanent link to this article: http://www.stepmothersupport.com/can-therapy-help/

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