Instructors: Carol Becker, PhD, and Sallyann Roth, LICSW
Location: Live on Zoom
Credits: 6 CEs
People become disconnected from each other in many ways; sometimes one person makes a unilateral decision, others want to re-connect but feel powerless to do so. Other times there has been ongoing rancor or continuous erosive misunderstanding, and people move away from each other believing that separateness will be easier than continuing painful or flat, non-contactful exchanges. Sometimes a difficult one-time event is experienced as creating damage that cannot be undone. The form and history of the cut-off or withdrawal does not have to shape the form for re-connection. Cornerstones of this work are careful and collaborative preparation—explorations of each person’s story, each person’s concerns about re-connection, and their desire to do so; collaboration between therapist and each separate, involved person on the content and process of meeting designs, and on actions that provide opportunities for meeting each other anew will be described, demonstrated and practiced.
Sallyann will illustrate a clinical approach inspired by experience with The Public Conversations Project (now called Essential Partners) that relies on the same set of core premises that undergird PCP’s work. The project, initiated and developed by four family therapists and a researcher, showed that family therapists do have something to offer in the public arena, where cut-offs, and destructive, alienating encounters tear the fabric of community cohesion and collaboration. Sallyann will share a clinical approach that brings what the PCP team learned working at institutional, social, and political levels, right back to work with families.
High conflict relationships are a challenge for individual, family and couple therapists. High conflict interactions pull and push the therapist, a challenge to holding their ground, and stay grounded. Corky will also draw on work from the Public Conversations Project, AKA Essential Partners, narrative therapy, and systemic ideas to create a framework for working with families caught up in the dynamics of a high conflict relationships including divorce. These polarized interactions create feelings of helplessness, shame, blame and rage. Using a strategy of panning for gold: the therapist’s focuses on and tracks the best intentions of the people involved to reduce shame and blame and subsequent helplessness and rage, and to draw on the intentions, values and commitments that people have even in the worst of times.
First, Corky will look at the impact of high conflict situations on therapists and how therapists can orient themselves to be effective and conduct a meeting with multiple people in intense disagreement. This includes enhancing the therapist’s capacity for self-regulation drawing on frameworks of neurobiology, mindfulness and meditation. It also includes how to maintain control of the session, guiding and directing the interactions in a tightly held facilitation.
Second, we will discuss strategies and stances to facilitate constructive conversations in each meeting. Each person in these interactive cycles sees themselves as a victim and the other person as the offender. Polarizing actions and narratives interfere with and negate clinician’s attempts and intentions to depolarize the interactions. Corky will describe a systemic framework which usefully conceptualizes the problem and the solution, integrating the individual, interactive cycles of aggression and defense, and the larger context. She will discuss how the narrative therapy framework offers ideas for reducing shame and blame and inviting people to step up and take responsibility for their own hopes, goals and intentions. The use of these ideas creates space for reflection and intention between stimulus and response.
Third, we will specifically focus on the challenges of high conflict divorce for relationships between parents, and between parents and children. Ideas about how to be creative and flexible will be described; this includes how to figure out who needs to speak to whom about what, and in what way. A model will be shared that allows the clinician to work with whoever is able and willing to work on their relationships to improve the life of the children and parents based on what needs to be spoken about, understood and repaired and the optimal context for doing the work. The focus is how to help people shift interactions and relationships that are stressful and antagonistic and create conditions in which people can speak constructively and safely. It is about turning from rupture toward repair.
Fourth, we will address what repair looks like including the role of shame and apology.
Outline for the Workshop
Understanding the Dynamics of Disengagement in Couples and Family Relationships
10:45 am to 12:30 pm
Preparing Individuals to Reconnect
1:30 pm to 2:45 pm
Understanding the Dynamics of High Conflict Couple and Family Relationships
3 pm to 4:30 pm
Preparation and Execution of Effective Communication In A Variety of Subgroups and Family Meetings
4:30 pm to 4:45 pm
Feedback and Evaluation - Completion of workshop evaluations
- Define two skills to prepare individual family members before joint meetings.
- Explain two aspects of a process that can shift assumption-driven negative encounters focused on changing or blaming the other, to curiosity-driven encounters where people can meet each other anew.
- Identify one way of using inquiry and collaborative editing to increase family members’ experience of their own capacity to listen to themselves and the “other” in ways that open space for different relational experiences—ones that circumvent assumptive expectations.
- Describe two dynamics and processes that contribute to maintaining a polarizing cycle of interaction.
- Define two ways to manage oneself as therapist, and to conduct, manage and facilitate a meeting with multiple family members when there is high interpersonal conflict.
- Describe three factors that contribute de-polarizing conflict and when possible, to reconciliation and repair.
Group Registration: $130 per person for groups of two or more, $125 per person early registration for groups of two or more, received by 03/01/20. Groups must register and pay together to receive the discount.
Members of NEAFAST, Black Therapists Rock, National Association of Black Counselors and all BIPOC clinicians may access a discounted rate of $120. Please contact us for discount codes. No application is required.