ImageThe 49th Annual Association of Family and Conciliation Courts Conference (AFCC) was another fantastic opportunity for Judges, Lawyers, Psychologists and Social Workers to get together to find clues about unraveling the puzzle of high conflict divorces. With this year’s theme “Attachment, Brain Science and Children of Divorce” a lot of research was presented pertaining to attachment.

Two things struck me from the conference. The first point was how lucky AFCC members are to have a forum for learning about the most up-to-date research and practices. The second point was despite all the work being done, that we have only begun to understand the complex dynamics of high conflict divorce and that research is desperately needed pertaining to interventions with high conflict families.

Unfortunately, even the best laboratory research may not generalize to the “real world” and people are so complex that no two families are alike.

My view of families is that they are stuck in a brick outhouse, and a ripe one at that. To explain this, each “brick” is a separate problem, whether the parents own issues from before the relationship, problems in the relationship, communication or problem solving weaknesses, extended family interference, mental illness, or a multitude of other possibilities. Solving issues in such high conflict families involves chipping away at one brick at a time while also teaching the family new skills and processes.

As professionals, we are obliged to keep up with the best possible knowledge of the day, while using “clinical judgment”, which is more of an art than a science, to meet the unique needs of each family we work with. The vast number of excellent programs emerging for working with high conflict divorces is both reassuring and overwhelming. Each program is a tool for the professional’s tool belt, and no one thing is, or ever will be, a cookie cutter solution for such families. This is one area where we do not have to worry about being replaced in the foreseeable future by computers and videos.

Even though professionals in the midst of divorce proceedings appear adversarial, including the mental health professionals at times, events such as the AFCC conference show that we are all on the same team – the one aimed and helping kids be their best.

About our Guest Blogger

ImageStephen Carter, Ph.D., is a Registered Psychologist based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, specializing in counseling and assessments with adolescents and children, and assessments and interventions with divorcing families. He is the author of Family Restructuring Therapy, which is available for sale via unhookedbooks.com  This book is a “how to” manual for working with families in separation and divorce using an active, directive therapeutic process called Family Restructuring Therapy. This philosophy and effective process works well for the “normal” divorced family who need to learn new practices and patterns, and for the “high-conflict” family whose behavior patterns have become so maladaptive that the children’s well-being is at risk.

A valuable resource for mental health professionals, and also for lawyers and the Court when trying to decide what can be done with challenging parenting battles. It is clearly not a passive approach to counseling. If you’re tired of witnessing the damage that conflict has on children and want to engage in the highly satisfying work of helping parents communicate effectively and seeing children relieved of the burden of picking sides, devour this book and get to work!

To learn more about Dr. Carter, or to explore family counseling options, please visit www.familyrestructuring.ca or send him an email at carter@chvbv.ca.

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