Iishana Artra, PhD, CPC
What Does Success Look Like?
The Steps-4-Steps™ Approach Builds Safety and Wellbeing
Stepfamilies can become safe, stable, and caring environments where children and adults flourish. Stepfamily Services helps stepfamily members build their own resilience so that they can enjoy such experiences as:
- Feeling supported by friends, family, and/or others
- Kindness in the stepfamily
- Friendliness between stepchildren and stepparents
- Couple time is positive, reliable, and frequent
- A sense of teamwork for the couple
- A working relationship with non-resident parents
- The ability to make difficult choices with self-compassion
- Positive work performance
- Positive school performance
- Responds to stress in ways that strengthen the stepfamily.
Stepfamily members can also experience:
- A sense of belonging to the stepfamily
- Feeling respected by stepchildren, stepparents or others in the stepfamily
- Personal growth that makes life more meaningful
- A sense of purpose in the larger world with the stepfamily as a support
Outcomes of the Steps-4-Steps™ Approach
Our Steps-4-Steps strategy is based on what formal studies* show makes the most difference for stepfamilies. The main objective is to build resilience which strengthens self-care, partnership quality, couple stability and child well-being. We address thinking, emotions, and actions that impact stepfamily life. Many of the following outcomes are helpful for other types of relationships as well.
1. Getting Real
Realistic expectations that guide appropriate preparation and responses.
- Understand stepfamily dynamics
- Understand how these dynamics are playing out in your stepfamily
- Enough acceptance of stepfamily dynamics to respond in healthy ways
- Goals that are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound
- Know strategies that help stepfamilies best adjust
- Handle dynamics with ex-spouses/partners in constructive ways
2. Getting Help
Connected to appropriate sources of help.
- Understand the types of help
- Able to locate and use appropriate help
- Referred by StepFamily Services to appropriate help
3. Getting a Life
Healthy care of self.
- Understand the risks of stress
- Able to identify symptoms of stress
- Able to calm down, reassure self, and recover from stress
- Have a plan for supporting health and wellbeing during and apart from stepfamily situations
4. Getting Together
Healthy relationship between the stepcouple in the stepfamily.
- Commitment to one another
- Lack of domestic violence
- Quality time together
- Social support
Healthy relationships between the stepsiblings, and all children and step-parents and parents.
- Positive socioemotional functioning
- Age-appropriate cognitive functioning
- Age-appropriate academic functioning
Conditions that Impact Stepfamily Interventions
Conditions other than stepfamily dynamics and intervention also affect stepfamily adjustment. These conditions may also influence a first family. For example, consider the strengths and vulnerabilities each partner brings to the relationship and the social and economic contexts surrounding families. StepFamily Services provides referrals to appropriate services as needed and we help couples to better understand and manage the effects of these factors on relationships within the stepfamily.
Because of their financial circumstances, low-income couples typically experience more difficulties and stresses that can challenge the maintenance of healthy relationships and marriages.
Negative conditions affecting some stepfamily couples, such as substance abuse, mental illness, and low literacy skills, can be addressed, whereas other conditions (e.g., ages of children, stepfamily complexity) are either unchangeable or beyond the scope of a stepfamily program.
* The Steps-4-Steps™ design draws from effectiveness studies published by leading clinician/researchers in the field, such as Dr. Patricia Papernow; Elizabeth Einstein, MA, MFT; Ron Deal, Francesca Adler-Baeder, PhD, CFLE; Jeannette Lofas, PhD, LCSW; and the Administration for Children and Families of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. An excellent summary of the current literature and recommendations for stepfamily couples education can be downloaded here.