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Archive for March, 2012

Explosive Anger: Managing Anger Outbursts and Anger Issues in Children

Saturday, March 31st, 2012

Being the parent of a child with explosive anger is not easy. You try bribes, compromises, and strategies to avoid triggers. Too often, because of their anger outbursts, these children also end up with serious discipline problems at school. All of this may leave you feeling overwhelmed.  Here a few tips that may help.

First, let your child know it is okay to feel anger and it is the behavioral reaction that makes the difference between out-of-control explosive anger and positively dealing with the angry feeling.  Teach your child that when he or she is angry it is okay to say “I’m angry,” but anger outbursts that result in the child acting violent, hurting self or others, or breaking things is NOT okay.

As a parent, when you hear your child expressing anger verbally, show empathy by stating “It looks like you are angry.  Can you tell me about it so I can help?”  If your child is behaving inappropriately (hitting, biting, etc.) simply state that the behavior is not allowed. Next, direct your child to a cool down period separate from the action.  Repeat, “We don’t hit.  Hitting hurts.”

Further, help your child express his feelings by teaching “I” statements.  Have your child complete this sentence frequently, even when not angry, to get accustomed to expressing feelings:  “I feel (sad, mad, afraid) when _______  happens because_______.”  Take turns with your child and use different feeling words like, “I feel proud when you pick up your clothes because you are helping me out,” or “I feel angry when I lose my keys because we might be late.”

Finally, check your own reaction to anger.  Anger issues in children are often the result of modeling what they see and hear, so if you are expressing anger over the driver who cut you off, your child may copy you.  Never become abusive or violent.


Jennifer Meehan, M.Ed., LPC, NCC 

Blended Family Counseling: Using the Developmental Model for Addressing Blended Family Issues

Wednesday, March 21st, 2012

In order to assist blended families, counselors can use the Developmental Model by Patricia Papernow (1993) as a means to understand the specific issues that a blended family encounters. This model allows for movement back and forth through the stages of blended family counseling, since crises may precipitate movement to the earlier stages.

Papernow’s (1993) model for addressing blended family issues consists of three main stages, with substages existing within each of the major stages. The first is the Early Stage, with Fantasy, Immersion, and Awareness as the substages of this level. The second is the Middle Stage with Mobilization and Action as the substages. The third stage is called the Later Stage with Contact and Resolution as the substages.

The pace of families moving through these stages depends upon the support for the family. Faster families can move through the model in four years, but this would be the minority of families. The average blended family will take seven years to move through the stages, and they usually spend two to three years in the earlier stages. For slower families, they may spend up to four years in the earlier stages, and it may take them up to 12 years to complete the cycle. Without blended family counseling, some families may stay stuck in the earlier stages, and this can end in divorce.

The model examines the losses that all members encounter in the Early Stages and the wishes (especially of children) to return to their prior family structure. The biological relationships are stronger at this point, and stepparents are considered as outsiders. During Mobilization, all parts of the family system begin to find their voice. This leads to Action when the family decides to form a step family structure. In the final stages, the members of the blended family form meaningful relationships with one another.

Counselors can access this model to plot where the blended family may be stuck, where the loss issues are, and also what needs to happen to help this blended family function as a system.


Papernow, P. (1993). Becoming a stepfamily: Patterns of development in remarried families. Gestalt Institute of Cleveland Press.

Family Traditions and Rituals

Wednesday, March 14th, 2012

            When providing family therapy services, it is important to understand how a family system functions. An important assessment of this is the presence or absence of rituals. Rituals in families have many purposes. They can tell us how people relate to one another, what rituals are used to help the family heal, how people identify themselves and accept change, what families believe and how families celebrate.

            It is also important to understand the parts of a ritual. People can use symbols that are meaningful to them, and with these symbols, there is a symbolic action to carry out the ritual. A symbol can have structured parts and/or open parts. Rituals can be carried out in a special time and/or a special place.

            There are also types of rituals such as those we do on a daily basis. These rituals can be simple and spontaneous or very intentional and unique. There are lots of possibilities to change these kinds of rituals. Some examples of daily rituals include saying grace at dinner or where people sit at the dinner table. Another example of a daily ritual is how people say goodbye to each other or how they greet each other. A third example is what happens during bedtime with children.

            The second type of ritual is family traditions. These are the family days that are written on calendars. Others outside of the family may not recognize the time and space of these family traditions, and the people within the family usually go to work or school on these days. Families can have flexibility with these family traditions. Examples of these rituals include birthdays and anniversaries. It is important to ask people if there are cakes, special dinners or parties with people outside the immediate family.

            The third category is family holiday celebrations which can be complicated, because the media and culture and dictate how people “should” celebrate. There is often much pressure on families during these rituals. These are the rituals that are already stamped on a calendar such as Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc.

            The last category of rituals is the life-cycle rituals. These are the rituals that help people pass through life. They help to mark the beginning and ending of relationships. Examples of these are births, deaths and funerals, and weddings.

            Counselors and therapists of family therapy services help families whose rituals are minimized, interrupted or unflexible. Therefore, the best family therapy techniques will consider what the family’s ideal rituals and traditions may be, and how the members can be returned to celebrate them once again.

Dr. Judy DeTrude is licensed in Texas as a Professional Counselor (LPC) and a Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and is an Authorized Supervisor for each of the licenses.


            Black, Evan Imber and Roberts, Janine (1998). Rituals for our times: Healing and changing our lives and relationships. Jason Aronson, Inc.

Stages of Grief and Loss Counseling Techniques: Ritual in the Grief Cycle

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012

Researchers (Holmes and Rahe, 1967 ) have studied grief cycle processes and assigned stress levels to items. Loss of a spouse and loss of a child are the highest stress levels. Others that we may not often think about are losses that occur with moving, changing schools, financial issues, and health problems.

We cannot generalize about the grief cycle or expect everyone to process through stages of grief and loss in the same way. For example, loss of a spouse is rated the highest for causing stress, but consider it from different perspectives. A spouse who dies suddenly may cause more of a loss than the spouse who has been ill for some time. There is no road map for grief, and each loss must be examined aside from any others. Couples may experience the same loss, but they may grieve very differently. When one spouse does not understand the grieving process of the other, marital problems can surface.  Different grief and loss counseling techniques are often utilized by therapists to be sensitive to the varying needs of couples going through the grief cycle together.

Grief and loss counseling techniques for couples and families can often find a unifying strength in rituals. Rituals are such an important part of our lives. We often take them for granted and do not even realize that we have rituals, or recognize how they impact our lives. This is also true of rituals surrounding death. Every culture approaches death differently, and every family within those cultures may have its own way of experiencing death. We can make statements and generalize to cultures and groups and how they deal with death and how they ritualistically process stages of grief and loss, but we know many divert from the expectations.

An example of a ritualistic approach to addressing stages of grief and loss is the NAMES Project. The NAMES Project began as a way to affirm the life of every man, woman, and child who had died of AIDS. It was a healing grief cycle ritual where people added squares to a quilt, each square representing a person who had died.

Dr. Judy DeTrude is licensed in Texas as a Professional Counselor (LPC) and a Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT) and is an Authorized Supervisor for each of the licenses.


Holmes and Rahe ( August,1967). Social readjustment rating scale. Journal of Psychosomatic Research, 11(2).

Walsh, F. and McGoldrick, M. (2004). Living beyond loss: Death in the family.W.W. Norton & Company: N.Y.

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