Stepfamily Training For Counselors

10 09 2009

The folks at the National Stepfamily Resource Center have joined forces with two other groups to offer a training session for clergy, therapists, counselors, and coaches led by stepfamily experts Dr. Scott Browning, Dr. Patricia Papernow and one of the leading researchers in the field, Dr. Kay Pasley. If you haven’t been to one of their trainings and are working with stepfamilies, you really should. It’s worth it! Here’s all the info:

The National Stepfamily Resource Center, the Alabama Community Healthy Marriage Initiative, and the Florida Association for Marriage and Family Therapy present an:


 October 2-3, 2009

Lake Mary Marriott Hotel Lake Mary, Florida (near Orlando)

The intense challenges created by stepfamily dynamics are woven through every clinician’s practice. Your clients may be stepfamilies, stepcouples, individual stepparents, kids, single parents who have recoupled, or adults who grew up in a stepfamily. Don’t miss this opportunity to hone your skills with this critical population with two of the country’s preeminent stepfamily clinicians, Dr. Scott Browning and Dr. Patricia Papernow and one of the leading researchers in the field, Dr. Kay Pasley.

$150 ($75 for students) 13.5 CEU’s (The NBCC has approved these CEU’s as core hours for both LMFTs and LPC’s in Georgia and Alabama)

You will learn about:

  • 5 normal challenges created by “stepfamily architecture” and the ways in which these challenges impact adults and children and their relationships with each other
  • Evidence-based strategies that meet each of these challenges.
  • What children need from adults to adjust to stepfamily living
  • “The Loyalty Bind Talk” and the “Toxic Ex-Spouse Talk.”
  • The differences between effective parenting and effective stepparenting.
  • Easy errors in working with people in step relationships.
  • Psychoeducational, interpersonal and intrapsychic levels of clinical work with people in step relationships.
  • Interpersonal skills that help stepfamily members meet their challenges.
  • The art of psychotherapy with stepfamilies.
  • The most current research findings on this important family form

The workshop includes live demonstrations of therapy with a stepfamily and a stepcouple by Dr. Browning and Dr. Papernow

 HOTEL RESERVATIONS: Lake Mary Marriott, 1501 International Parkway, Lake Mary, FL. Call 407 995-1100 and ask for Family Therapy Association special rate of $99 per night.

REGISTRATION: For more information and the registration form:,,  or

Your Questions Answered

10 09 2009

Hi, I am glad I came across your site. I am hoping for some insight. I had dated my husband for eight years before getting married six months ago. He has three children and our relationship has been nothing but full of love from the beginning. I do not have children and treat them as my own but understand and respect the fact that they do have a mother and I am not taking her place. However, just naturally, I have played the mother role when the kids are with us.

Everything has been great and six months ago before we got married, my middle stepson that lives with us, age 16, said that people said that things will be different and he said I don’t see how they will be different.

Well, he just returned from spending two months with his mom and I noticed since he’s been back something is different with him. He seems a little uneasy, very subtle changes but I am very intuitive of these things. On top of all this we are moving to a house and there is a lot of stress in the house which might be amplifying things.

Well, tonight things blew up he spoke disrespectfully to me, which he usually doesn’t do and my husband told him to apologize. He apologized and said that he is just going through something. It’s nothing that I am doing, he says it’s just that he is worried that I am going to become his mother. He is afraid of not being loyal to her and perhaps loving me as his mom since I am taking the mom roll day in and out.

I so feel for him and am not sure what to do to make him feel better and I dont know what roll to take. My instinct is to back off from him and be in outsider but I know that is not right. Please advise…

Dear reader:

What you and your family are experiencing are a completely normal part of stepfamily development. No matter how long you dated your husband before you married, things do change when you marry and live together as your stepson so wisely said. (He sounds very mature for his age, by the way! Few stepchildren can articulate what he did to you. What a gift!)

He is talking to you about what stepfamily experts call a loyalty bind. He fears that if he likes or even loves you it will be taking away love from his mother or make her hurt or even angry. The best way to deal with loyalty binds is for the adults in the situation to sit down with your stepson and say something like, “You know what, you can love me and you can love your mom and that’s totally okay. Your mom is your mom and always will be no matter what. She loves you. I’m your stepmom and that’s different. You and I get to figure out what that means to us together.”

If both of your stepson’s biological parents reinforce this message, it will make your stepson feel a lot better and quickly, too. Stepchildren are often discouraged to talk about their negative or challenging feelings out loud so the fact that you are already discussing this openly with your stepson is a BIG deal. Congrats to you.

As for your role. You are describing what is called role ambiguity. You are trying to find out what being a stepmother means to you and your family. Some women choose to occupy what Dr. Patricia Papernow calls an “intimate outsider” position. They are a part of the family, but they leave the bulk of the parenting to the biological parent. Some women choose a more active role. Some act like a teacher or a coach or an aunt figure.

How you configure your role in your stepfamily has a lot to do with what you are comfortable with, the level of involvement of the biological mother, the support you receive from your spouse, and what the children will accept from you. You can read more about this in my book where I devote quite a lot of space to the topic of role ambiguity.

 In the meantime, the best thing you can do is to continue to talk with your family about what it feels like for each of you to be a new member of a stepfamily. The more you can communicate in these early stages the better off you’ll be.

Class for Minnesota Stepmothers

10 09 2009

If you live in the Twin Cities and want to meet other stepmoms and learn about stepfamily dynamics from one of the best, check out Dr. Ann Orchard’s upcoming workshops for stepmothers. I took the class myself when my husband and I first discussed marriage and it was a life saver!

The class will be held on Tuesday nights from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at the Colonial Church of Edina in Edina, Minn. from September 22 to October 27.

If you’re interested, call 952-848-2297, email or visit Orchard Psychologists.

New Podcast: Self-Care for Stepmoms with Pilar Gerasimo

4 09 2009

stepmomcircles3Another episode of the Stepmom Circles podcast is ready for your listening pleasure and just in time for the holiday weekend. Listen to my free podcast with Pilar Gerasimo, the editor of Experience Life magazine, a whole life health and wellness magazine as we discuss self-care for stepmoms.

You all know how important it is to take care of yourselves. I do, too. But I had no clue how bad it is for our bodies when we don’t do things we love to do! You’ll learn how important it is to increase the pleasurable experiences in your life. And if you’re living in a high-stress stepfamily situation, then you really need to listen to this and put the advice you’ll hear into practice right away!

During the interview we discuss a few articles that ran in Experience Life. Here they are for your reference: Take Care of Yourself and A Real Pleasure.

A big thanks to the sponsor of this podcast: Stepchicks, an online community for stepmothers who are debunking the wicked myth one woman at a time. The community includes forums and blogs where soon-to-be, new or veteran stepmoms from around the world can go for support, camaraderie, and valuable advice.

To browse all of the Stepmom Circles shows, click HERE.