Working With Stepfamilies
For individuals in the U.S. & U.S. territories
In Working With Stepfamilies, Dr. James H. Bray shows his approach to counseling stepfamilies or remarried families—families created when two spouses who already have children get married. This is a complex form of therapy—as there are usually many people involved—including the parents, their respective children, the nonresidential parents of those children, grandparents and other members of the extended family, and children born to remarried ex-spouses. The goal of this therapy is to help the family blend together by improving their functioning in four areas: parenting, disciplining, strengthening the marital relationship, and working to include nonresidential family in the stepfamily.
In this session, Dr. Bray works with a couple who, although they have been involved for 5 years, have only recently married, and are dealing with the bickering and acting out of their children from previous marriages. Dr. Bray works with the couple and their children, attending to the needs of each member of the family, focusing especially on parental disciplining skills, communication skills, and blending of family traditions.
Stepfamilies involve the blending of anywhere from two to four different families, making therapeutic work with these families very complex.
Stepfamilies usually come to therapy needing new skills in the following areas:
- marital relations
- ways to involve nonresidential family members (divorced spouses not living with the stepfamily) in the stepfamily
The skills a therapist should be prepared to impart include communication, problem-solving, and parenting skills.
This approach obviously uses a family systems theoretical model, but it is also important to understand developmental theory, including both child development and family development.
Dr. Bray has performed a large, long-term study of stepfamilies—including how they develop and how they deal with different life challenges—so his approach has a solid empirical basis. He suggests that therapists interested in working with stepfamilies read articles and books about working with them and that they look for a training program from which to get some supervision.
James H. Bray, PhD, is director of family psychology programs and associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas. He received his doctorate in clinical psychology from the University of Houston in 1980. He has received numerous awards, including election into the National Academies of Practice for Psychology, the Karl F. Heiser American Psychological Association (APA) Presidential Award for Advocacy on Behalf of Professional Psychology, and the 1992 Federal Advocacy Award from the APA Practice Directorate.
He has published and presented numerous works in the areas of divorce, remarriage, adolescent substance abuse, intergenerational family relationships, and collaboration between physicians and psychologists. As a family and clinical psychologist, Dr. Bray conducts research and teaches resident physicians, medical students, and psychology students, and directs the faculty development program.
In addition to his internationally recognized research, he maintains an active clinical practice focusing on children and families, behavioral medicine, and child custody issues. He is the coauthor of Family Psychology: Science-Based Interventions (with H. A. Liddle, D. A. Santisteban, & R. F. Levant), published by the APA in 2002.
- Bray, J. H. (1999). From marriage to remarriage and beyond: Findings from the Developmental Issues in StepFamilies Research Project. In E. M. Hetherington (Ed.), Coping with divorce, single-parenting and remarriage: A risk and resiliency perspective (pp. 253–271). Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.
- Bray, J. H. (2001). Therapy with stepfamilies: A developmental systems approach. In D. D. Lusterman, S. H. McDaniel, & C. Philpot (Eds.), Integrating family therapy: A casebook (pp. 127–140). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
- Bray, J. H. (2005). Family therapy with stepfamilies. In J. Lebow (Ed.), Handbook of clinical family therapy (pp. 497–515). New York: Wiley.
- Bray, J. H. & Easling, I. (2005). Remarriage and stepfamilies. In W. Pinsof & J. Lebow (Eds.), Family psychology: The art of the science (pp. 267–294). New York: Oxford University Press.
- Bray, J. H., & Harvey, D. M. (1995). Adolescents in stepfamilies: Developmental and family interventions. Psychotherapy, 32, 122–130.
- Bray, J. H., & Kelly, J. (1998). Stepfamilies: Love, marriage, and parenting in the first decade. New York: Broadway Books.
- Hetherington, E. M., Bridges, M., & Insabella, G. M. (1998). What matters? What does not? Five perspectives on the association between marital transitions and children's adjustment. American Psychologist, 53, 167–184.
- Visher, E. B., & Visher, J. S. (1988). Old loyalties, new ties: Therapeutic strategies with stepfamilies. New York: Brunner/Mazel.
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- Stepfamily Therapy in Practice
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