FINAL_DSC_7171-819x1024Mediating divorce cases can be stressful and draining on the mediator. But what happens when a case shifts gears suddenly and becomes a classic “high-conflict” case in which tensions rise, and you quickly feel like you’ve lost control of the mediation and may not be able to rescue it.

What can you do?
Building structure within each basic mediation step
Step 1 : Signing the agreement to mediate
 spend more time bonding with clients during this stage
 establish that you will have tight control over the mediation process
 thoroughly explain the process and rules of communication
 let them know you’ll pay equal attention to their concerns and proposals
Step 2 : Making the agenda
 have clients raise the issues – not you
 emphasize that it is the parties’ dispute and decisions to be made, not the mediator
 encourage each party to look at and speak to the mediator instead of each other
Step 3 : Making Proposals
 begin the proposal process earlier than usual mediations, to keep highly intense emotions from taking over
 focus on understanding a proposal before allowing the other person to respond
 manage the process with a very direct approach, while not taking responsibility for the outcome
Step 4: Finalizing Your Agreements
 remain calm and remind yourself and the parties that you are responsible for the process, not the outcome
 remember that high-conflict cases may take twice as long to reach final agreement
solving and the other is focused on relationship defensiveness – this may cause them to go round and round several times before signing the agreement
It is possible to help parties in high-conflict cases reach agreement and develop solid parenting plans by using a highly-structured method like this new resource

New Ways for Mediation: More Structure, More Skills and Less Stress for Potentially High-Conflict Cases

Is Divorce Mediation for You?

 

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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.

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TRAINING OPPORTUNITIES
Working with High Conflict Clients – Bill Eddy
August 6-10, Wisconsin, US
Click here for full version.

My most recent seminars were in Burlington, Ontario, on Lake Ontario. The summer weather couldn’t be better and I really enjoyed walking along their boardwalk in the evenings.

Day One focused on “Managing High Conflict Clients: Ethics and Risk Management.” We had over 80 people from a wide variety of professions: domestic violence program counselors, therapists, social workers, child welfare, government agencies, court-related staff, human resources, etc. I have found that this program really appeals to a broad range of professionals, because nowadays we all are facing more “high-conflict” clients. Handling them ethically involves treating them with respect and setting limits with empathy, no matter how awful they may treat us. We have learned that there is no conflict between using Empathy, Attention and Respect (EAR statements) AND having clear boundaries, limits and responsibility on the client’s shoulders. These are concepts that most people get backwards in the larger culture, as most people over-react, by becoming defensive and blaming the client. The skills we have developed at High Conflict Institute really do seem to work and I was glad to share them with this group.

Day Two focused on the “New Ways for Families” method that we have developed for family court systems, therapists and counseling agencies. In many ways this is also a counter-intuitive method for professionals. Instead of “counseling” the client by discussing their feelings and guiding them toward solutions, this method teaches them skills for managing their own feelings and building their own solutions. It is a significant shift for counselors, but we have found that those who train in this method and really practice it are successful with some of the most difficult clients. But it is important to realize that this is not a personality change method, but rather a set of skills that potentially high-conflict parents can learn to use when guided by professionals. They often do not practice these skills unless their professionals provide structures within which to use them. One of the common fallacies about high-conflict people is that they could self-manage themselves, but just choose not to. We believe that they really lack the skills of self-management (especially when they are upset) and so we teach them those skills and provide structures for them to succeed.

For those interested in the New Ways for Families method, we are looking at expanding its use in 2013 to more court systems and more counseling agencies and individual counselors. Please see our website for this method: www.NewWays4Families.com. It’s an integrated method which all professionals can use in managing potentially difficult clients and helping their children, whether involved in court or any family decisions.

High Conflict Institute provides training and consultations, as well and books, DVDs and CDs regarding dealing with High Conflict People (HCPs) in legal, workplace, educational, and healthcare disputes. Bill Eddy is the President of the High Conflict Institute and the author of It’s All Your Fault!, Splitting, BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Hostile Emails, Personal Attacks and Social Media Meltdowns and Don’t Alienate the Kids! He is an author, attorney, mediator, and therapist. Bill has presented seminars to attorneys, judges, mediators, ombudspersons, human resource professionals, employee assistance professionals, managers, and administrators in 25 states, several provinces in Canada, France, Sweden, and Australia. For more information about High Conflict Institute, our seminars and consultations, Bill Eddy or to purchase a book, CD or DVD, visit: www.highconflictinstitute.com

NEW WAYS FOR FAMILIES is a new method developed by High Conflict Institute, which integrates many of the principles described in this book (The Future of Family Court). It is an interdisciplinary method that teaches and reinforces relationship conflict resolution skills for potentially high‑conflict parents.

New Ways for Families emphasizes short-term counseling to reduce the impact of conflict on the children in potentially high-conflict cases. It can be used whenever a parent or the court believes one parent needs restricted parenting (supervised, no contact, limited time), at the start of a case or any time a parent requests restricted parenting – including post-judgment litigation.

This method emphasizes strengthening skills for positive future behavior (new ways), rather than focusing on past negative behavior – while still acknowledging it. It is designed to save courts time, to save parents money, and to protect children as their families re-organize in new ways after a separation or divorce, for married or never-married parents. This method can be used in family court, mediation, collaborative divorce, or even post-divorce with the assistance of a Parenting Coordinator.

Goals of New Ways for Families™

  1. To immunize families against becoming high-conflict families during the separation and the divorce process.
  2. To help parents teach their children resilience in this time of huge and rapid change in the foundation of their family life
  3. To strengthen both parent’s abilities to make parenting decisions, while relying less on experts and the courts to make their decisions for them.
  4. To assist professionals and the courts in assessing both parent’s potential to learn new, positive ways of problem-solving and organizing their family after a separation or divorce.
  5. To give parents a chance to change poor parenting behaviors (including abuse and alienation) before long-term decisions are made. This method emphasizes learning new skills for positive future behavior.

In reality, it’s easy to start ordering cases to use the New Ways for Families method. All you need are three therapists trained in the method (a 2-day training): one for the mother; one for the father; and one as the Parent-Child Counselor. Then they use the New Ways for Families workbooks to structure the counseling. If the court plays the role of follow-up, by quizzing the parents on what they have learned and on a new hypothetical parenting situation, then the parents may apply these skills to new problem situations. At the least, this method appears to slow down parents who are preoccupied with blaming their former partners, and many of them stop returning to court.

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The above was excerpted from The Future of Family Court THIS BOOK IS DESIGNED FOR family court judicial officers, although I realize it may be read by other professionals and individuals involved in family court themselves. It’s written from my perspective as a family lawyer and mental health professional, and as a trainer of judges in man-aging high-conflict people in court. I am not a judge and I do not presume to know how to do the difficult work judges do day in and day out. Yet I have represented clients in family courts for 15 years and I have heard many of the concerns of judges in my seminars and private conversations.

To learn more about New Ways for Families, please visitwww.highconflictinstitute.com to order a copy of The Future of Family Court, click here.

High Conflict Institute provides training and consultations, as well and books, DVDs and CDs regarding dealing with High Conflict People (HCPs) in legal, workplace, educational, and healthcare disputes. Bill Eddy is the President of the High Conflict Institute and the author of It’s All Your Fault!, Splitting, BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Hostile Emails, Personal Attacks and Social Media Meltdowns and Don’t Alienate the Kids! He is an author, attorney, mediator, and therapist. Bill has presented seminars to attorneys, judges, mediators, ombudspersons, human resource professionals, employee assistance professionals, managers, and administrators in 25 states, several provinces in Canada, France, Sweden, and Australia. For more information about High Conflict Institute, our seminars and consultations, Bill Eddy or to purchase a book, CD or DVD, visit: www.highconflictinstitute.com

 

Last week I had the opportunity to train 35 mediators, lawyers, counselors and workplace professionals in mediating high-conflict disputes in Victoria, in British Columbia, Canada. It was very rewarding to work with such an experienced and interested group. The theme of the two days was finding ways to engage one or two high-conflict people (HCPs) in helping resolve their own disputes. It is clear that HCPs need to learn skills to participate in effective decision-making. Up to now, many professionals (mediators, lawyers, judges and others) have tried hard to get HCPs to reach agreements quickly, so they can be done with them. But then the HCPs simply sabotage their own agreements. So instead, we discussed ways of putting the responsibility back on the clients to take a stronger role, by:

  • Managing their own emotions during the mediation – by avoiding taking things personally. (“The other person’s verbal attacks are not about you – they’re about the other person’s inability to manage their own emotions.”)
  • Helping clients make proposals – in many cases to make two proposals for solving any problem. Any criticism, blaming, frustration, etc. can simply be turned into a proposal.
  • Helping clients respond to proposals, with Yes, No or I’ll Think About It. This avoids getting into arguments about the wisdom (or lack of) of the other person’s particular proposals.

For mediators, this means constantly remaining vigilant to avoid doing too much of the work for the clients. This is a common problem with high-conflict clients (HCPs). They either don’t have the skills or the confidence to focus on solving problems. Instead, they unconsciously try to shift responsibility for their own behavior and decisions onto the mediator. They may get angry or sad, in an effort to get the mediator to do the decision-making for them. But then they blame the mediator for doing it wrong.

One of the most popular points of the workshop was the ways to reduce the mediators’ frustration and anxiety in dealing with high-conflict clients. We made a list of reminders, including:

  • Don’t work harder than your clients – or your high-conflict clients won’t work on their part of the problem.
  • You’re not responsible for the outcome – just the process.
  • The issue’s not the issue – the personalities are the issue, so the relationship with the clients is your focus.
  • Telling clients “You have a dilemma” when new problems arise, and educating them about their options rather than trying to direct the clients in how to resolve these new problems.
  • Many HCPs CAN reach realistic and lasting agreements – it just takes longer, sometimes three times as long.
  • Treat HCPs at all times with Empathy, Attention and Respect – and they will often calm down and become productive problem-solvers.

As I said, it was a very experienced group, which meant that I also learned a lot and enjoyed our collaborations in discussing ways to help our clients. I am more convinced than ever that mediation can be highly effective for high-conflict clients, if we use the right skills – and teach them some simple skills – in the process.

Mediation isn’t just an alternative to court – it should be the main method for resolving disputes – especially with high-conflict people. The techniques we discussed can offer them a chance to be effective problem solvers, rather than getting stuck in endless attack-and-defend battles in court over issues that are more about their personalities than the law.

High Conflict Institute provides training and consultations, as well and books, DVDs and CDsregarding dealing with High Conflict People (HCPs) in legal, workplace, educational, and healthcare disputes. Bill Eddy is the President of the High Conflict Institute and the author of It’s All Your Fault!, Splitting, BIFF: Quick Responses to High Conflict People, Their Hostile Emails, Personal Attacks and Social Media Meltdowns and Don’t Alienate the Kids! He is an author, attorney, mediator, and therapist. Bill has presented seminars to attorneys, judges, mediators, ombudspersons, human resource professionals, employee assistance professionals, managers, and administrators in 25 states, several provinces in Canada, France, Sweden, and Australia. For more information about High Conflict Institute, our seminars and consultations, Bill Eddy or to purchase a book, CD or DVD, visit:www.highconflictinstitute.com