Law and Mental Health in Vienna

Vienna July 2015Last week I was in Vienna, Austria, for a large conference and a small group training. The conference was the International Academy of Law and Mental Health, held at the Sigmund Freud University in Vienna. It was really great to see a real mix of presentations (about 16 per day), professionals (maybe 400) and languages (primarily English, but lots of German, French and Italian). The topics spanned divorce to criminal law to street youth to domestic violence. It’s amazing to see how similar law and mental health problems are around the world – and the usefulness of information that was exchanged and discussed. I s Those in attendance included judges from Canada and Australia – the two most advanced countries in finding less-adversarial alternatives for separating couples. They liked the method and we’ll be talking further – especially since New Ways has already been in use in Canada (especially Alberta) and I’ve given one training already in Australia. With our new online program (up to 12 class sessions), New Ways skills can now be learned (and court-ordered) almost anywhere in the world. (See http://newways4families.onlineparentingprograms.com.)

The day after I spoke at the conference, I was a tourist and visited the home of Sigmund Freud, where he lived and worked for forty years, before he had to flee Austria when the Nazis invaded in World War II.  (He escaped to England, but wasn’t able to save his sisters who died in the concentration camps). It was inspiring to walk around the rooms where he saw patients and wrote his books. It was disturbing to read about how much enlightenment there was about mental health in the 1930’s, yet at the same time there was the rise of Hitler and the Nazis and deadly persecution of Jews and other groups. It was sobering to realize that this part of history was so recent in the development of modern civilization.

The next day I gave an all-day training to collaborative practitioners and mediators (who were all lawyers) in Vienna. Fortunately, they all spoke English and they seemed to enjoy practicing our techniques despite the language differences – like BIFF Responses  and asking each other “so, what’s your proposal?” (learn more about this technique). See photo with some of those in attendance.

Overall, I had a great visit to Vienna and look forward to possibly returning in the future!

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Bill Eddy is a mediator, lawyer, therapist and the President of the High Conflict Institute based in San Diego. High Conflict Institute provides consultation for high-conflict situations, coaching for BIFF Responses (written responses that are Brief, Informative, Friendly and Firm), and training for professionals in managing high conflict disputes in legal, workplace, healthcare and educational settings. He is also co-author with L. Georgi DiStefano, LCSW, of the Axiom Award-Winning new book: It’s All Your Fault at Work! Managing Narcissists and Other High-Conflict People. For books, videos for anyone, free articles or to schedule a training: www.HighConflictInstitute.com.