New-Orleans-blog-4-30-142It’s the busy travel season! Over the past month, I was in five cities (in four time zones) giving seminars on managing high-conflict personalities. First, I was in New Orleans, to present to their new AFCC Chapter there (see photo with organizers). I saw old friends and met many new ones, as we discussed key issues in managing high conflict parents (and an occasional high-conflict professional) in separation and divorce cases. I emphasized recognizing patterns of high-conflict personalities, so that professionals will use different methods to help them – not to diagnose them.

I encouraged having a “private working theory” which includes not trying to force insights on high-conflict people (HCPs) – just forgedaboudit! – because this just creates an unnecessary tug of war that frustrates the client and the professional. Instead, I gave four key skills to use, which focus on future behavior and decision-making: Connecting with Empathy, Attention and Respect; Analyzing Alternatives (making proposals, etc.); Responding to Misinformation or hostile emails (BIFF Responses); and Setting Limits. Of course, I got in some New Orleans jazz, gumbo and scenery – and I look forward to the AFCC International conference there in 2015!

Next, I spoke at a children’s hospital and gave them similar tools. The staff especially liked the BIFF Response method for dealing with angry emails and letters. We practiced responding to parents in conflict over their child’s treatment. Most people don’t realize that working with children in any setting these days involves dealing with separated and divorced parents, some of whom remain extremely angry at each other and carry out their conflicts into the children’s healthcare treatment, education, recreation and other activities. I was very pleased to work with such dedicated professionals who are willing to work with ill children – and their high-conflict parents.

Then, on to Calgary in Alberta, Canada. There I spoke to the Alberta Family Mediation Society and their new AFCC Chapter, for a combined day and a half of presentations on (you guessed it) high-conflict personalities in separation and divorce. I gave them the same tips and tools I gave the New Orleans AFCC chapter, as well as more specific mediation techniques for managing high-conflict people. I emphasized teaching mediation clients simple skills to use and reinforcing those throughout the process: asking the mediator questions, making their own agenda, making proposals, asking questions about proposals and making decisions – a method I am now teaching as “New Ways for Mediation.” I especially enjoyed seeing many friends in Alberta, including those running the New Ways for Families programs in Calgary and nearby Medicine Hat. These programs are thriving at teaching parents new skills to help them make their own decisions out of court. We hope to have research results published next year from three years of experience, as well as expanding into other cities in Alberta.

Next Blog: On to Pennsylvania and Ohio

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Bill Eddy is a lawyer, mediator, therapist and the President of the High Conflict Institute based in San Diego. He is the developer of the New Ways for Families method and the New Ways for Mediation method, as well as the author of several books including The Future of Family Court and It’s All Your Fault: 12 Tips for Managing People Who Blame Others for Everything. This year he is working on materials for the New Ways for Work method of coaching potentially high-conflict employees – or anyone – to use the same “new ways” skills for greater success in the workplace. For books, video training and free articles, visit us at www.HighConflictInstitute.com.

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Family systems theory has been around for decades, but there is little discussion of it today. Yet understanding how family systems work can help professionals and parents going through separation and divorce. In this article, I explain some of the basics, some of what happens to family systems in divorce and how to truly help families in divorce. I also point out why the adversarial process of family courts successfully managed family conflicts in the past, but is guaranteed to fail today’s high-conflict family systems (regardless of procedural changes within the adversarial structure) – whereas skillful family mediation and other non-adversarial processes can succeed.

Family Systems Theory

Family systems theory describes families as operating like the solar system: each member of the family has a “pull” on every other member of the family – like gravity pulls planets towards each other and other forces push them away, so that they stay in balance spinning around each other in a predictable orbit. Family systems have many common characteristics, including the following:

They are powerful: Family systems are a powerful source of support. You can take them for granted. Family members will consistently act in predictable ways, so you don’t have to guess each day. You can focus on what your tasks are and respond fairly automatically to each other. In this regard, a family system is like a personality – very predictable, so that you know what you can get from whom, when and where without putting a lot of energy into thinking about it. Family systems have built houses, companies (family businesses are everywhere) and nations (dynasties). For example, most successful Olympic athletes, musicians and actors had strong family support – from a very young age. The family system organized itself around their success.

They seek stability: A family system develops standard ways of doing things. The whole family participates in enforcing its code of conduct, values and roles people play in it. Even young children tell each other, their parents and their toys how they should or shouldn’t behave, which helps them learn the rules of the family system and follow them. Family secrets are kept, so that the family system is not thrown off balance. The more dysfunctional the family, the more rigid the roles to help keep it stable, the more extreme behavior and the more secrets to keep it as stable as possible. Everyone is part of the family system – no member is an “island.”

They create roles: In every family system, everyone develops a role. One member talks a lot and another may be quiet. One person is highly competent at one skill and another is good at something else. In traditional family systems, especially in rural societies, the roles have been very clear-cut. In modern times, roles are more flexible and may overlap, as family members interact with the larger society. This can cause instability, so that the family may spend more time arguing over roles or members may simply leave the family system and have little or no contact.

They are part of larger social systems: Family systems, like “nuclear families” (two parents and their child or children), are part of larger extended families, which are part of communities, which are part of regional cultures, which are part of nations and world social systems. The values, rules and behaviors of these larger social systems strongly influence smaller family social systems. As one changes, so do the others – but not necessarily happily so.

They are resistant to change: In times of threat from outside of a family system, the family can be very powerful, because everyone automatically knows how to behave and what their roles are. Regardless of internal squabbles, family systems can be strong in jointly warding off danger – especially threats to the family system. This includes resistance to positive changes. They maintain the status quo at all costs. They don’t let people change their behavior very much. They are always aiming for stability, like a ship at sea trying to balance itself in a storm.

Today’s Social Changes Regarding Marriage

Since about 1970, there have been dramatic changes in our larger social systems and within families around the world. We are shifting from fairly rigid family structures to quite flexible family structures. Freedom to divorce, gay marriage, multi-racial households, children born to unmarried parents, people living alone and a multitude of other changes are having unpredictable affects on the future of family systems and larger social systems.

In terms of the separation and divorce process (we now speak of “separation and divorce” because so many couples no longer get married), the relationship of Family Court to family systems has changed dramatically in the past few decades.

Individual over the family: Divorce laws gave social permission for people to get divorced at will, simply due to “irreconcilable differences.” If one person wants a divorce, they will have it. This creates an ease of disruption that impacts the whole family system. Rather than having skills to cope with these significant changes, many families instinctively put all their energy into resisting these changes in order to stabilize the family system – either by engaging in abusive behavior or publically blaming each other in an effort to get the public to force them to behave.

Lack of continuity: Families don’t last to raise the children in one household. The average age of children when their parents divorce is around 6 or 7 today. This means that they will be raised in two households longer than they were raised in one household all together.

Equal roles: In the past, one family member was the “breadwinner” and the other raised the children. In divorce 20-30 years ago, one family member often left the family system and the remaining parent raised the children. Now, both parents are expected to work and both want to raise the children. Both need new skills for cooperating in ways they never did before.

The Changing Role of Family Court

From approximately the 1970s to the 1990’s, family courts have been setting divorce policies that define these changes. Parenting is supposed to include “significant time” with both parents. Both parents are supposed to earn an income and child support and spousal support are supposed to adjust for differences in earning ability. Former spouses are free to engage in sexual activity of their own choosing. “Get over it” is a common expression heard in family courts, when one party resists the changes of the other. The individual is primary now. During this time period, the divorce rate rose to about fifty percent of marriages. Courts made decisions, the parties’ followed the court’s authority and new family routines were established.

Starting around the 1990’s, surprising changes occurred. Methods such as mediation and attorney negotiation took over the role of courts in family decision-making. Lawyers and mediators simply educated the parties about the laws that had been established over the prior 20 years and the parties started avoiding court all together.

But at the same time, the remaining cases in family courts started to focus on family violence, restraining orders, child alienation and supervised visitation. These were the families who were unable to make the shift to the “new world family order.” Much of the family violence was perpetrated by men who saw themselves in the traditional role of being “head of the family.” Their violence (often reactive and unplanned) was aimed at keeping their wives in the family and under their control. Much of the alienation and false allegations were perpetrated by women who saw themselves in the traditional role of “in charge of the children.” Their efforts (often unconscious) seemed to be to resist the changes to equal roles in shared parenting.

Why the Adversarial Process Fails Today

Today, the family court process of litigation has been abandoned by most families, who can make their decisions out of court – with or without professional assistance. They have the skills to cooperate at a level that can manage the transitions that go with their new family structures. The families who are going to court today are those who do not have the negotiation skills nor the emotional healing skills to manage on their own. Yet putting them through the traditional litigation process simple exaggerates their resistance to everything – changing roles, loss of partners and shared parenting. Many of these families have one or two parents with personality disorders – which are increasing during this time of rapid change in our society. The adversarial process makes them behave worse and does little to truly understand their underlying problems.

Non-adversarial methods are needed for today’s family court cases. That is why methods such as mediation, collaborative divorce, attorneys assisting in negotiations and judicial dispute resolution are the way of the future – especially for these family systems in pain and resistant to the changes of the larger society. This is why skills training is needed for the whole family to help the whole family system go through these changes and into new forms.

Family systems – especially dysfunctional family systems – will resist family courts until we learn these lessons. This is not to say that there is not a role for family courts – it’s a different role which needs new knowledge and skills for understanding and managing dysfunctional family systems and their common mental health issues today.

Part 2 of this article will focus on managing mental health issues in family court and out of court with non-adversarial methods, including mediation and collaborative divorce.

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Bill Eddy is a lawyer, mediator and clinical social worker, and the President of the High Conflict Institute. He is the author of several books including The Future of Family Court: Structure, Skills and Less Stress and Splitting: Protecting Yourself While Divorcing Someone with Borderline or Narcissistic Personality Disorder. He is also the developer of the New Ways for Families method of teaching skills to family systems (both parents and the children) and New Ways for Mediation for managing potentially high-conflict families. His website is http://www.HighConflictInstitute.com.

We believe in supporting good causes and our friends. Our friends at PDAN have a wonderful fund raiser going and we’d love to help as much as possible.

 

Dear friends,  

For the past month, PDAN has been working on helping children with emotional challenges living in foster care in the US.  We received a generous grant from a healthcare company to assist us with this. The project is called “A Book for Alex”. Our goal is to give free books to foster care centers, for children who may have a predisposition to personality disorders. Our primary focus is the needs of children having traits of attention deficit and/or hyperactivity. In general PDAN is targeting all children with higher risk of developing emotioImagenal dysregulation or a personality disorder in the future, due to biological or environmental factors. 
Based on recent data, over 22,500 children aged 6-12 with serious emotional problems live in foster care institutions in 10 states: Georgia, Virginia, North Carolina, Minnesota, Indiana, Arkansas, Ohio, Wisconsin, New York and Pennsylvania. (Data from Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) 2012 by the US Department of Health, Human Services, Administration for Children and Families. These 10 states are the states with a higher percentage of children living in foster care with serious emotional problems.)

Thanks to the grant we received, we’ll be able to address the needs of just over 2,000 children. Our next goal is to find the funds to give away 5,000 books. This would still be only 1 book for about 5 children in need. We have develop a good system to reach children institutions. We would love to have the opportunity to apply our team’s efforts to a larger number of foster care centers, special needs schools and children or family shelters 

Cost of this project: Each book cost us after printing, packaging and distribution about $4.25 per book. With $21,250 in donations, we will have the funds needed to distribute 5,000 books to children in USA. We would appreciate so much if you would take a few minutes to make a donation for these children in needs. If anyone in your family has experienced serious emotional problems, you know the deep impact this condition has on the lives of individuals and families. Please help us help these children!
Thank you for your support, 
The PDAN Family

 

PDAN is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to increasing public awareness of personality disorders, mitigating the impact of personality disorders on relationships, and preventing the development of personality disorders in children. pdan.org

By Angela Gonzales

It’s a good day for Chick Arnold.

And if that name sounds a little familiar to you, it’s because it has been in and out of the news in Arizona for about three decades.

He’s the Arnold in the 30-year-old Arnold v. Sarn lawsuit that has been fighting on behalf of people with mental illness.

Gov. Jan Brewer announced today that a final agreement has been reached in the case regarding care and services for individuals with serious mental illness. The settlement will provide a variety of community-based services and programs including crisis services, supported employment and housing services, assertive community treatment; family and peer support, life skills training and respite care services.

An independent contractor will conduct annual quality service reviews to make sure the state is delivering proper care to the SMI population.

The governor called it a landmark case, keeping the state accountable.

Arnold, an attorney with Frazer Ryan Goldberg & Arnold LLP law firm in Phoenix, said it’s been a long fight.

“It’s a positive time for folks with mental illness and their families,” he said. “I’m just giggly over it. I’m just really happy.”

By no means is his work done, he said.

Now that Mercy Maricopa Integrated Care is moving forward as the new Regional Behavioral Health Authority for Maricopa County, there will be a lot of bumps in the road, he said.

Last month, the Arizona Department of Administration dismissed Magellan Health Services,Inc’s. bid protest for the $1 billion mental health contract for Maricopa County, giving Mercy Maricopa Integrated a chance to get started on the new contract.

“Every time there’s a transition to the new guy it’s bumpy,” Arnold said. “Families sometimes get lost in that transition process. I’m not worried about finding stuff to do.”

Even though Magellan has lost the bid protest, Dr. Richard Clarke, CEO of Magellan, said he plans to continue to appeal.

Arnold said things are finally starting to look positive for the SMI population, given that Arizona is expanding Medicaid coverage to 300,000 people who are currently uninsured and the state health department has revamped its health facilities rules to allow behavioral and physical care to be provided under one roof.

With the settlement agreement emphasizing housing opportunities for this fragile population, the SMI population will be get the services they need, Arnold said.

“Supported housing is one of the critical components of this agreement,” he said. “Another critical component is supportive employment. You can’t have housing if you don’t have a job and a way to pay for it. The notion of helping people pull themselves up to have a chance at success is really exciting.”

Via Phoenix Business Journal

About Unhooked Books
Unhooked Books is the one place for people to find the best and most current information and resources available on personality disorders, high-conflict personalities, divorce, parenting, co-parenting, living healthy, eating healthy, and managing your life. Founder & CEO, Megan Hunter, established one place for people in any type of relationship to find tools to enhance relationships, prevent relationship disaster and handle relationship transition. Her firm belief is that with just a little education, most people can resolve most relationship issues.