It's an exasperating, exhausting cycle.
Each week, Michael spends a few days with his mom and then returns to his dad's house. Soon after his return, Michael's emotions explode into arguments and behaviors that cause a lot of frustration for his dad, Brian, and his stepmom, Julie. About the time things start to settle down, Michael returns to his mother's house, starting the cycle all over again.
Julie and Brian's marriage suffers under the strain. Clearly, this new blended family isn't working out as they had hoped, and they realize they are ready — past ready — for some help.
Every blended family has its ups and downs, and most couples in a second marriage could use some expert help right from the start. Counseling provides guidance and the kind of insight that's often difficult to muster on your own when you're in the midst of a stressful situation. And counseling offers opportunities to practice the kind of communication that's necessary to resolve issues. But how do you find a good counselor? Here are some things to bear in mind as you search:
Look for someone who is licensed by your state as a mental health professional.
These titles indicate qualifications: licensed clinical social worker (LCSW), Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.), licensed professional counselor (LPC), and licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT). You can find some good referrals from local blended-family support groups or by calling Focus on the Family or visiting our Christian Counselors Network.
The individual you select should be compatible with your family.
Make sure you're comfortable with your counselor. Part of finding the right fit includes asking the counselor if he or she understands the unique dynamics of blended families and has had experience working with challenges in both marriage and parenting.
Be aware that the cost of counseling can vary widely.
If possible, find a therapist whose services are covered by your health insurance.
Finally, understand that many counselors are extremely busy.
There's a good probability you'll be put on a four- to six-week waiting list.
Remember: Blended families can be fun, but they're always challenging. So don't be afraid or ashamed to ask for help.Daniel Huerta is a licensed clinical social worker and the executive director of Parenting and Youth at Focus on the Family.
Need help finding a counselor? For a trusted referral, call Focus on the Family's counseling department Monday through Friday between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. Mountain time at 800-A-FAMILY (800-232-6459).