Advanced Skills for Managing High Conflict Families to the Association of Family Law Professionals in Ft. Myers

© 2011 By Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq.

On Oct. 21, I presented Advanced Skills for Managing High Conflict Families to the Association of Family Law Professionals in Ft. Myers, Florida. This was a great interdisciplinary group of about 70 lawyers, therapists, and judges. The four advanced skills for professionals included:

1) Providing Structure for High Conflict Parents;

2) Reinforcing Client Self-Management;

3) Guiding Parents to Teach Children Skills; and

4) Teaching Clients to Make Decisions.

This is a serious paradigm shift for family law professionals, who are used to making decisions for parents, especially high-conflict parents. And this was the ideal group for this new presentation and discussion (and they’re not shy!), who had previously had my 2-day presentation on understanding and managing high conflict people in Ft. Myers and Naples, Florida. Just as in Texas the week before, this was a very experienced group who are ready to try new, innovative methods. The hardest part, as they pointed out, was that it is very counter-intuitive to hold back and help parents struggle with learning decision-making skills, instead of just making the decisions for them. However, I gave them practice exercises and they said they were going to use some of this approach starting right away the following week.

I also showed them segments of the New Ways for Families® video, which demonstrates a judge, a lawyer and counselors using this approach of shifting the emphasis to helping parents learn small skills in small steps, rather than focusing on parents’ bad behavior or just making decisions for them. While there are no plans to try this comprehensive method here at this time, the advanced skills for professionals that it involves will be used individually. The judges present even plan to use some of these tips in their courtrooms.

I also introduced them to a new method for understanding and explaining patterns of high conflict behavior, called the EVDENSE Digital Diary. This is a brand new method of using a computer screen to show patterns of abusive behavior, false allegations, poor parenting decisions, and positive behaviors, for use in custody and visitation disputes. It really addressed the problem of family law professionals and the courts becoming excessively focused on one or two events and exaggerating or minimizing them, while missing the larger pattern of ongoing behavior. High Conflict Institute is partnering with the computer software company which developed the digital diary, and in November we will announce our plans.

Bill Eddy is a lawyer, therapist, and mediator. He is the co-founder and Training Director of the High Conflict Institute, a training and consultation firm that trains professionals to deal with high conflict people and situations. He is the author of several books and methods for handling high conflict personalities and high conflict disputes with the most difficult people.