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109 | Preparing to Blend: Effective Pre-stepfamily Counseling with Couples and Children

Family Health, Stepfamilies, Millennials, and Generation Z, Thursday 9/14 8:45 – 10:00 AM, Workshop Tracks


Ron Deal, M.MFT.



Approved For CE

Licensed Professional Counselors, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, Pastors, Pastoral Counselors, Lay Counselors, Coaches

Approved For CME/CEU




In blended families, the rules are different, but the majority of dating and engaged couples walk into their wedding with both eyes shut; a full 75% of couples forming blended families get no premarital counseling at all—and those that do usually receive the same counseling a couple marrying for the first time would receive. Licensed mental health professionals, marriage coaches, and ministry leaders alike have the opportunity to help heal previous attachment injuries and equip couples and children for successful stepfamily living. Still, they must understand competing emotional attachments, loss and loyalty issues in children, parenting across multiple households, and the ambiguous relational dynamics of stepfamilies. In addition, the structure of pre-stepfamily counseling must vary from traditional premarital counseling. In this workshop, participants will learn how to help couples have realistic expectations in marriage, work through past hurts and losses to not bring them into the new marriage, and aid the couple in bonding with children in the stepfamily. Specific interventions for these types of families will be discussed.

Learning Objectives

1. Describe how unrealistic premarital expectations set couples up for relational distress—and articulate how to help couples adjust their expectations before marriage
2. Analyze how previous losses and loyalty conflicts in children interfere with bonding in stepfamily relationships
3. Describe specific interventions designed to help couples and children co-create a new family identity
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