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Divorce Therapy

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Divorce Therapy: Helping Families Separate and Reorganize

Divorce Therapy: Helping Families Separate and Reorganize

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    Divorce Therapy Divorce Therapy Presentation Transcript

    • Divorce Therapy: Helping Families Separate and Reorganize Greater Washington Society for Clinical Social Work Jonah Green, MSW February 20, 2009 Topics:  The Why and What of Divorce Therapy  How Divorce Therapy Happens  A Brief History of Divorce and Divorce Therapy  The Impact of Divorce  Impasses of Divorce  Principles for Practicing Divorce Therapy  Stage I: Managing Pre-Separation Crises  Stage II: Facilitating Uncoupling, Part I  Facilitating Uncoupling, Part II: A Quick Legal Primer  Stage III: Building a new organization: the sibling relationship  Stage IV: Building a new organization Towards Co-Parenting  Stage V: Strengthening Individual Households  Special Problems: Arresting Disengagement by Parents  Special Problems: Combating Parental Alienation  Special Problems: Addressing the Abuse Issue  One-Person Divorce Therapy: Work with Individual Adults  One-Person Divorce Therapy: Work with Individual Children  Towards the Future 1
    • The Why and What of Divorce Therapy ___________________ -Why: How the separation and divorce ___________________ occurs tends to set the stage for future family functioning ___________________ -Families have several tasks: dealing ___________________ with grief, reorganization, finding ___________________ new ways of communicating, making new goals with new ___________________ relationships. Without help, there ___________________ are typical impasses. -What: Treatment which aims to move ___________________ the family through a process which ___________________ recovers, restores and reconfigures family relationships and the ___________________ functions of parent, child, sibling ___________________ -You are helping families reorganize into a functional “two-home family”. ___________________ Some peoples’ ways of relating, levels of intimacy, degree of power, 2 and roles may change.
    • How Divorce Therapy Happens ___________________ -The “Cleanest Way” is when a couple comes after trying ___________________ couples therapy asking how to ___________________ divorce in a way that works for ___________________ everybody ___________________ -The “Second Cleanest” is when couple comes to you asking you ___________________ to focus on the child during the ___________________ divorce ___________________ -Can also come out of child/family ___________________ or couples work if family starts to separate ___________________ -Sometimes you can help reorient a ___________________ family that is already separating ___________________ -You can also utilize the principles of divorce therapy when working 3 with an individual adult
    • A Brief History of Divorce and Divorce Therapy ________________________ -Changes which led to more divorce in ________________________ the 1960s: economic mobility, the ________________________ sexual revolution, more women in workforce, rise of no-fault divorce ________________________ laws ________________________ -Custody over last 30 years gradually ________________________ linked to qualifications, linking of custody, child support, rise of high- ________________________ conflict divorce ________________________ Rise of mediation, interest in “the Good ________________________ Divorce”, Montalvo’s structural approach ________________________ -Dozier’s “two-home family” approach ________________________ ________________________ 4
    • The Impact of Divorce _______________________________ -The Family Experience (Trafford): even in _______________________________ the best divorces, the effect is usually _______________________________ “crisis, crazy time, and recovery”. _______________________________ Reaction to crisis can be numbing as _______________________________ opposed to acting out _______________________________ -The Individual Adult Experience: can be _______________________________ _______________________________ conceptualized as a mourning process _______________________________ (Kubler-Ross), but usually one in which _______________________________ people cycle through extreme emotions _______________________________ (Love, anger, sadness). Can be at risk _______________________________ for depression, substance abuse, _______________________________ regression/acting out. Different for leaver _____________________________ vs. left -Children’s well-being is tied to how adults communicate and function, relationship with each parent, individual resources. Normal adjustment takes up to a year. Adolescents are at risk for depression, conduct and drug problems 5
    • -Impasses of Divorce: _________________________ _______________________ -Intrapsychic: stuck in hurt, _______________________ fear, anger, shame, _______________________ -Interactional: cross- _______________________ generational alliances, extreme enmeshment, dramatic, hurtful _______________________ showdowns, _______________________ -External/Social: Focus on _______________________ “justice” by family, lawyers, _______________________ broader society _______________________ _______________________ -Divorce therapy is about helping _______________________ individuals and families to contain the chaos, get unstuck _______ on focus on the needs of the whole family system 6
    • Principles for Practicing Divorce Therapy: -Keep the Focus on the whole family-- attend to individuals and families within that context -Focus on more than one affect and perspective—especially if one seems too ________________________ prominent -Make sure the loss is acknowledged and ________________________ addressed -Assist family members in seeing their ________________________ contributions—point out “feedback loops” ________________________ -Prioritize parental communication—look for a “business relationship” as an ideal ________________________ -Work for the success of both parents—watch for the well-being of kids as a “red herring” ________________________ -Strengthen sibling and “new home” sub- systems—this may involve different roles for ________________________ certain kids -Limit influence of antagonistic groupings ________________________ -Control potentially hostile encounters—break up negative interactions ________________________ -Promote equal power among ex-spouses ________________________ -Support functioning—get supports, services, build skills -Avoid triangulation—don’t deliver messages -Keep clear about your role (testimony, etc.) -Proceed in stages -Make sure the legal process is as constructive as possible -Support gradual use of constructive social 7 supports
    • Stage I: Managing Pre- _________________________________ Separation Crises _________________________________ _________________________________ -Meet with the Spouses: focus _________________________________ _________________________________ on problem-solving, needs of _________________________________ children _________________________________ _________________________________ -Modulate tension and take _________________________________ _________________________________ charge _________________________________ _________________________________ -Meet alone with each spouse _________________________________ to solidify alliances _________________________________ _________________________________ -Help spouses look at _________________________________ _________________________________ context of decision _________________________________ _________________________________ -Bring children in if appropriate _________________________________ _________________________________ -Assess alternatives: re- committing, staying together temporarily, marital vacations, trial separation, 8 etc. Aim for clarity
    • _________________________________ Stage II: Facilitating Uncoupling, Part I _________________________________ _________________________________ 1) -Set up guidelines for disengagement, establish _________________________________ explicit rules _________________________________  Defining the Post-Divorce Relationship— _________________________________ Guidelines for contact, roles _________________________________  Setting up a practical short-term parenting plan _________________________________ (agree that not to be basis for custody agreement) _________________________________ -considerations for scheduling: children’s _________________________________ developmental needs, special needs, practical _________________________________ needs. Avoid either too frequent transitions or _________________________________ too little contact with each parent _________________________________ -The approximation rule: the child’s life should _________________________________ approximate as close as possible the life before _________________________________ the separation _________________________________ _________________________________ Telling the Children: Get story straight, minimize _________________________________ blame, tell what need to know, be emotionally _________________________________ available _________________________________ _________________________________ If possible, have “less close” parent move out, as close as feasible, with rooms for children, with pictures of other parent in rooms of kids at both houses -minimize the drama while moving out 9
    • Uncoupling, Part II: Get Partners to take charge of  _________________________________ the Legal Process _________________________________ Frame process as finding what works for everybody instead of “justice” _________________________________ Aim for expeditious and deliberate, without surprise attacks _________________________________ A Quick Legal Primer: _________________________________ -Contested vs. uncontested divorce _________________________________ -aiming for separation agreement: property and custody _________________________________ -legal (decision-making) vs. physical custody _________________________________ -Parenting plans vs. custody plans _________________________________ High drama: _________________________________ -restraining orders -orders to vacate _________________________________ -contempt of court _________________________________ -motions for injunctive relief (freezing assets) _________________________________ -The 95% rule _________________________________ Custody evaluators, best interest attorneys and _________________________________ parenting coordinators tend to be appointed in high- conflict divorces _________________________________ Options for Alternative Dispute Resolution _________________________________ Procedures _________________________________ -Mediation—without lawyers, usually cheapest and most _________________________________ constructive, but not appropriate if there is high-conflict or _________________________________ power imbalance -Collaborative Law—initially more money than mediation, _________________________________ but may be able to contain difficult divorces -Arbitration for financial issues -The “do it yourself” divorce 10 Remember that even with litigated divorce it is important to remind spouses that they are in charge
    • Stage III: Building a New Organization Part I: ________________________ Strengthening the Sibling ________________________ Relationship ________________________ -Meet with kids as soon as possible ________________________ -Offer education, clarification ________________________ -Encourage balanced, “gray” ________________________ thinking ________________________ -Watch for “choosing up sides” ________________________ -Realize that siblings are both a ________________________ cohesive unit and part of ________________________ different sub-systems— ________________________ encourage adaptability -Indications for individual work: extreme conflict between sibs, or individual disturbances 11
    •  Stage IV: Building A New Organization  _________________________________ Part II: Setting Up Co-parenting _________________________________  Setting up mechanisms of _________________________________ communication, identify what they will _________________________________ communicate about _________________________________  Hold limited sessions if necessary to “put _________________________________ the past behind” _________________________________ _________________________________  Cooperative Parenting for relatively _________________________________ amicable separations: open, frequent _________________________________ communication, maximum consistency _________________________________  Parallel Parenting for higher conflict: _________________________________ communicate around emergencies, _________________________________ deviations from plan _________________________________  Strategies for “Sporadic and Scared _________________________________ Fighters: Controlled, planned encounters _________________________________  Strategies for “Frequent and Direct _________________________________ Fighters”: monologue, highlight _________________________________ consequences of fighting _________________________________ _________________________________ _________________________________ 12
    •  Stage V: Setting Up a New Organization Part III: _______________________ Strengthening Individual _______________________ Households _______________________ -Supporting the hierarchy: limit _______________________ setting, chores, etc. _______________________ -New rituals _______________________ -Strengthen particular parent- _______________________ child relationships _______________________ -Look for “deputies” to take on _______________________ parenting functions _____________ -Weakening divisive coalitions: i.e., support kid identifying with “bad parent”, support parent in being firm with kids on “their side.” 13
    • Special Problems: Arresting Distancing and Disengagement _______________________ Between Parents and Children _______________________ -Re-imposing Nurturance: ally with _______________________ abdicating parent (assure of _______________________ relevance), highlight child’s needs, use more nurturing parent to _______________________ support process _______________________ -Re-imposing Discipline: highlight _______________________ protective, caring aspect of rules to _______________________ abdicating parent; challenge _______________________ child/adolescent’s manipulations _____________ -Utilize the “closer parent” in addition to abdicating parent for both of these tasks; challenge undermining: focus on parental unity 14
    • Special Problems: Combating Parental Alienation _______________________ -80% of parents in high-conflict divorces _______________________ practice some form of alienation _______________________ -Working with the allied parent: educate about dangers for child, challenge _______________________ enmeshment: support in managing _______________________ anxiety/loneliness, tolerate negative _______________________ feelings that come with setting limits _______________________ -Working with the estranged parent: _______________________ help to focus on child’s plight, encourage non-intrusive “affinity- _______________________ seeking” to start _______________________ -Working with the alienated child and _______________________ siblings: encourage gray thinking, _______________________ individuation from allied parent, broach range of memories 15
    • Special Problems: Addressing the Abuse Issue _______________________ (parents and children) _______________________ -Take a considered approach to _______________________ assessment: look at severity, _______________________ context, frequency, intention, _______________________ etc., be aware of legal/emotional function of false _______________________ allegations _______________________ -Remember that unless there is _______________________ absolute danger, children do _______________________ best with ongoing contact with _____________ parents and families do best when ex-spouses communicate -Even with severe abuse, controls can usually be put in place for contact 16
    • One-Person Divorce Therapy: _______________________ 1) Work with Individual Adults _______________________ _______________________ -Aim for movement through _______________________ stages and balanced thinking _______________________ -Combat paralyzing fear, _______________________ helplessness, shame, anger _______________________ by focusing on the present _______________________ and future and looking at _______________________ context _______________________ -Help them look at their _______________________ contributions to family _______________________ functioning -Generally void “uncovering” feeling work, particularly during crisis 17
    • 2) One Person Divorce Therapy: _________________________ Work with Individual Children _______________________ -Indicated in case of particular _______________________ disturbances, but don’t give up _______________________ on family work _______________________ -Establish and maintain contact with _______________________ both parents—get both _______________________ signatures! _______________________ -Don’t “grill” for facts _______________________ -Support “gray thinking” and respect _______________________ for both parents within context of _______________________ empathy _____________________ -Encourage appropriate assertion of  _______________________ needs and practical coping -Facilitate organized play; expand _______________________ emotional vocabulary _____________________ -Utilize psycho-education and games, books: My Two Homes, Dinosaurs Divorce, etc. -Focus on what they can control 18
    • Conclusion: Consolidating Gains and Moving Towards the Future _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ -In summary, you are helping the family to _______________________________ establish clarity about the future, _______________________________ mourn their losses, establish stronger _______________________________ (and in some cases, new) sub- _______________________________ systems, help the ex-spouses form a _______________________________ new kind of alliance as co-parents and _______________________________ as co-leaders of a “two-home family” _______________________________ _______________________________ -You want to make sure that parents have _______________________________ mechanisms to adjust _______________________________ communication/parenting plan as _______________________________ circumstances shift: kids grow, _______________________________ partners enter picture _______________________________ _______________________________ _______________________________ -Remember, one or both parents will re- _______________________________ partner within 5 years. Advise parents _______________________________ to find new activities, friends, but _______________________________ move slow and recognize the _______________________________ complexity of the tasks involved. _______________________________ _____________ 19
    • Bibliography (clinical in bold) 1) Ahrons, Constance: The Good Divorce Harper Perrenial: 1994 2) Appell, Jane Divorce Doesn’t Have to Be This Way Impact Publishers: 2006 3) Dozier, Brenda: Two Home Families: A Family Systems Approach to Divorce Therapy iUniverse Inc., 2004 4) Emery, Robert Renegotiating Family Relationships Guilford Press: 1994 5) Emery, Robert The Truth About Children and Divorce Viking Penguin: 2004 6) Gaulier, Et. Al. Defusing the High- Conflict Divorce Impact Publishers: 2007 7) Heatherington, Mavis For Better or for Worse: Divorce Reconsidered Norton: 2002 8) Isaacs, Et. Al. Therapy of the Difficult Divorce Book-Mart Press: 2000 9) Margulies, Sam Working with Divorcing Spouses Guilford Press: 2007 10) Textor, Martin The Divorce and Divorce Therapy Handbook Jason Aronson: 1989 11) Wallerstein and Blakeslee Second Chances Houghton Mifflin: 1996 20
    • _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 21
    • _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ _______________________________________ 22
    • _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ _______________________________________________ ___________________________________ 23
    • ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ ____________________________________________ 24