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Parent/Child Contact Problems Between Separated Parents

(My response to the Washington Post article, They were taken from their mom to rebond with their dad. It didn’t go well.)

Sometimes the issue is him. Sometimes the issue is her. Sometimes the issue is him AND her.

I do see people who are violent and I do see people who have remarkably distorted views and act inappropriately even though consistent with those distorted views. Sometimes such people do have children together. Sometimes the situation involves only one parent with a serious problem whose problem affects the other parent and children.

All I know, these are the most challenging of cases and the disputes are so significant that even those of us who seek to help can wind up tarnished in the aftermath.

I remember a psychiatrist colleague in the 1980’s at the children’s mental health center where I was employed saying our success rate with the seriously disturbed kids we were treating then was abysmally low. Thousands of dollars were spent on treatment with public money. No one called us gold-diggers though and no one said we were only seeking to help them to line our own pockets.

These days our treatment in support of helping separated parents where there is conflict over the relationship and access of the children between them remain unsuccessful too. However, we are asked to wade in. We are asked for the best our judgement and expertise may provide.

Because of the intensity of the opposing views, we are bound to frustrate to the point of anger those people where our views do not align with their own. Then we too are vilified.

I don’t for a minute think the term Parental Alienation is the issue as it is made out to be.

The issue remains that in the dispute over child/parent contact, we the professionals and courts may never know with full certainty that which transpires privately. Further, we may never satisfy with one decision people who present with such opposing views. Thus complaints will be made, rightly or wrongly.

Everyone involved is at risk of harm in these circumstances. The kids, the parents and those who had sought to be helpful.

My heart goes out to those who find themselves in these circumstances.

I no longer wade into these court battles. I will teach how to live more peacefully to those who are amenable. Sadly, no guarantees. Please don’t tell me I am in it for the money.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by Skype.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

 

facebook-logo   linked-in-logo   twitter-logo

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

Want Marital Success? Quit Tackling Each Other!

Sometimes I meet with couples where there is a real tit for tat. Each person does do things that upsets the other. Sometimes it is overt and other times it is more sneaky, although both know what’s happening.

In couple counseling, each likes to point the finger at the other.  It as if that justifies one’s own poor behavior. The circular arguments continue and it is as if they want the counselor to determine who is right and who is wrong, who really started it and so, who is to blame.

The counselor will never really know in this instances and just to be clear, ascribing blame in these circumstances rarely improves a relationship.

If you really want a better relationship then the challenge becomes resisting tit for tat behavior – not using the untoward behavior of the other as an excuse to condone your own retaliatory behavior.

I use a sports analogy, which is interesting because I am not really a sports person. However…

Consider football. The quarterback throws to the receiver who has to run the ball to the goal line. The other members of the team try to block and tackle the playing of the opposing team who are trying to steal the ball or thwart the play.

In the unworkable marriage, couples are playing a game where they are blocking and tackling each other – members on the same team. If you want the relationship to improve, quite doing that!

Instead of blocking and tackling each other, run interference to clear the path for your partner. Help your partner achieve their goal. At the very least, if you can’t run interference, then at least steer clear and don’t get in the way.

In real life terms this means;

  • Clean up after yourself;
  • If you get home first, consider preparing the meal;
  • Find a way to share in all the chores and household responsibilities or at least divvy them up reasonably;
  • Follow through on your responsibilities;
  • Do not defend the indefensible. Sure you may love your own parent, but if they are at risk of creating harm in your family, respect what may be a need for a reasonable boundary;
  • Do not scare or engage in behavior or activities known to create upset/tension/fear in the other;
  • Do not leave clutter in areas your partner needs to access – clear they way;
  • Provide each other positive feedback and demonstrate appreciation.
  • Change the toilet paper roll;
  • Check the kids’ homework and maintain appropriate expectations and monitoring;
  • Don’t talk badly of the other to family or friends;
  • Spend time together even in the midst of stress, kids and work;
  • Don’t keep score between each other;
  • Share affection;
  • Do kind and unexpected good deeds for each other.

It is only when each prioritizes the other does a reasonable relationship follow. If it is lop-sided or each only acts in their own interest, the relationship is apt to fail.

So, instead of blocking and tackling each other, run block and tackle FOR each other. Clear the way to make life easier for each other. Set each other up for a touchdown.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by Skype.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

 

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

 

Results in: Presentation a Success!

I am pleased to share my workshop evaluation from the 2017 OCLF / OAFM Conference, helping people build their successful practice. Details as follows…

___________________________________________________________________________________

Collaborative Practice Niagara hosted the 10th Conference of the Ontario Collaborative Law Federation (OCLF) held in association with the Ontario Association for Family Mediation (OAFM) at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Niagara Falls, Ontario on September 14, 15 & 16, 2017. The conference theme was:

Collaborative Practice and Mediation: The Power of Interest Based Negotiation.

Workshop Presenter:

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

Workshop Title:

Build, Brand, Market, Close: Building Your Successful Peacemaking Practice

Workshop Description:

Putting up a website, the modern version of a shingle, does not a successful peacemaking practice make. This workshop is aimed at helping peacemaking practitioners grow a successful practice with attention to: innovative and flexible services; differentiating your service from others; conveying your services to others and; converting referrals into actual clients.  (90 minutes)

Number of Participants: 26

  • Lawyers: 9
  • Family Professionals: 1
  • Financial Professionals: 1
  • Mediators: 5
  • Educators: 1
  • Lawyer/Mediators: 4
  • Family Professional/Mediators: 5

Evaluation:

Absolutely Somewhat Uncertain Probably Not Absolutely Not
Was the course consistent with its objectives and title? 25 1
Was the course appropriately challenging? 19 5
Did the course expand your knowledge in this topic? 21 5
Was the material relevant to your professional activities? 24 1
Did the instructor know the subject matter? 23 3
Was the instructor well prepared? 26
Was the instructor attentive to questions? 26
Would you attend another course given by this instructor? 25 1
Excellent Very Good Good Fair Poor
How would you evaluate the overall value of this program? 18 7 1
Please rate the presenter’s knowledge, expertise and teaching ability. 22 4

Comments:

  1. Would make a great webinar or full-day workshop.
  2. Very enlightening perspective.
  3. Wish you had more time, especially re: use specific to lawyers.
  4. Great content.
  5. Had hoped there would be more “peacemaker” focus but understand time constraint and focus on marketing any practice. Excellent tips and materials.
  6. Practical and engaging.
  7. Gary is highly qualified for this topic and focuses (apparently) on our behaviors that make or break our effectiveness.
  8. I realized that I know you from Linked In. “God” did I search for “where do I know this guy from!” LOL! 🙂
  9. Needed more time to attend longer day training.
  10. Enjoyable and valuable and thought provoking. Got me writing lists of my own ideas while you were speaking.
  11. Gary Direnfeld was very easy to follow and interesting. I would love to learn more and wish the workshop was longer!
  12. Thank the presenter for interesting and important unique information.
  13. Needed a longer time slot.
  14. Great presentation. Very informative. Enjoyed it.
  15. This could have been a longer presentation. There was a lot there.

It was a pleasure to present on behalf of the OCLF and OAFM, helping people build successful practices!

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by Skype.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
www.yoursocialworker.com for counseling and support

www.garydirenfeld.com – to build your successful practice

 

facebook-logo   linked-in-logo   twitter-logo

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

Growing Your Collaborative Law Practice

Are you a Collaborative Lawyer looking for referrals? Have you joined a practice group believing that your membership will facilitate referrals? Have you been disappointed by a lack of referrals or action by your practice group in terms of generating referrals?

If you are described by the above, you are not alone. However, you are likely misguided.

Reliance on your practice group membership is among the least productive strategies for generating referrals. Your membership is hopefully to facilitate your training and support and hopefully some public education in general about the nature and practice of Collaborative Law.  Even a listing on your practice group’s website will draw little in terms of referral. While it may feel necessary, it is hardly sufficient.

The most productive strategies for marketing your practice and getting referrals are those initiated by yourself and exercised over the course of time. When it comes to marketing a practice in Collaborative Law, you must realize, you are the practice; you are the brand.

To establish you as your brand, you must figure out what differentiates you from your colleagues and you must be able to communicate that to the persons who need your service.

Your communication must be understandable to and delivered at a level of your client’s comprehension. In other words, you must learn to speak their language, not yours. This makes you seem real as well as accessible to them.

Next you have to determine the platforms you need to use in order to reach your potential clients. Notice my words, “need to use“. While a website is now seen as necessary, so too are blogs and social media. The issue isn’t if you use them, but now, how do you use them.

To be successful in your practice, you must appreciate your practice as a small business and treat it as such. So these three steps:

  1. Build: Figure out your service offerings;
  2. Brand: Determine how you want to differentiate yourself;
  3. Market: Deploy the power of the Internet and social media to convey a message in language accessible to your potential clients:
  4. Close: Learn the strategies for managing the referrals as they come in to turn referrals into clients.

Intrigued? Need additional support?

It would be my pleasure to provide direct consultation services to you and workshop services on behalf of your practice group.

I am Gary Direnfeld. As well as being a social worker I help people build their peacemaking or counseling practices. Want a successful practice? It would be my pleasure to be of service.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@garydirenfeld.com
http://www.garydirenfeld.com

facebook-logo   linked-in-logo   twitter-logo

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

Are You Walking on Eggshells?

Maybe it’s the alcohol or perhaps the temper. May it’s the sadness or even being late.

Things happen and people behave. However, in many such occasions, we pretend things are other than they are. We tiptoe, walk on eggshells, look the other way or assign strange or different meaning to what is. We pretend otherwise. Why?

Fear mostly. We worry about what would happen if the truth were known.

R.D. Lang was a Scottish psychiatrist, popular and controversial for his views on mental illness, causes and treatments. He wrote a number of books from the 1960’s to 1980’s which were as much philosophical as psychological or psychiatric.

Of the many things he wrote about, one concept that resonated with me was the one he called mystification of experience. It is from this mystification of experience that supposedly people could be driven to mental illness. This mystification of experience is all about pretending that things are other than they are to such an extent, that the mystified version is taken as reality. Therein the person must distort or contort themselves to function in a dysfunctional place or family. (Think of gaslighting.)

  • Dad isn’t an alcoholic, he just has trouble getting up in the morning;
  • Mom isn’t depressed, she’s just a little sad;
  • Uncle Joe doesn’t have a gambling problem, it’s just his way of having fun with friends;
  • Jake isn’t violent, he just wants you to know how strongly he feels about something;
  • Mom isn’t extreme in her feelings, she is just passionate.

The list can go on and on. There are so many dysfunctional behaviors that can be given a positive spin.

Some people within their family or relationship buy into the mystified version and some do not. Of those who don’t, they look like the one’s with a problem – calling the other person out or behaving badly themselves in response or perhaps drowning their bad feelings with drugs or alcohol as a means to cope. It can very well be the one who doesn’t buy into the shenanigans who appears the most affected, yet at the same time, may be the sanest.

Either way, if you grow up in a home where there was mystification of experience, you can become the person who doesn’t confront issues as they arise or the person who needs to take on every instance of doubt in someone else’s behavior. Either way, there is a set-up for your own problematic behavior.

  • If you walk on eggshells or tiptoe around issues, you may never see a resolution to your concerns. Real issues may fester and get worse.
  • If you confront every instance of doubt, you may actually be projecting your concerns onto another and reading things wrong. Then the other person feels blamed for things they didn’t do.

If you grew up in a home marked by mystification of experience and you haven’t realized or deal with it, it can have a big affect on your life now.

The antidote or cure or treatment, according to Lang, is to make what is hidden or mystified or secret, open. We make what was covert and make it overt. We call out what is going on and own what we see. We address it forthrightly and own what is happening. The challenge is to do so civilly, diplomatically, peacefully.

For that, counseling may be of assistance.

No longer pretend. Deal with life as it really is. Learn to discern fact from fiction.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by Skype.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

facebook-logo   linked-in-logo   twitter-logo

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

Parental Separation and Conflict: Resolving Disputes in 2017….

Wow, have things changed when it comes to helping separated parents sort out the care of their children between them…

It used to be that anyone working with separated parents had no formal training beyond their professional training. So in the 1990’s coming from working in children’s mental health to private practice, I was asked by family lawyers if I could provide custody and access assessments. Like everyone else who did so back then, I applied my professional training and experience in terms of providing children’s mental health assessments to the task of providing custody and access assessments. There was no formal training for this task. However, I was successful and well received.

At the same time, mediation was in its infancy. I would be asked if I could provide mediation to help people resolve their custody and access dispute. Back in the day, the lawyers sought for us to actually provide evaluative mediation, meaning we would still assess the situation, provide our input and help the parents resolve matters based on our professional views. This too was well received.

With time, we would then be asked to provide an evaluation, tell the parents of our views and apparently the parents were then in agreement to follow through with whatever was suggested. That was defacto arbitration.

Throughout the 1990’s even if a parent didn’t love the outcome of an assessment, mediation or defacto arbitration, they still thanked the service provider and carried on. That was the end of it. Even if the matter was decided at court, the likely outcome was a follow through by both parents.

Things changed in the new millennium. There was a rise in men’s rights activists and there was also a rise in terms of concern about violence against women. As such men were seeking greater equity in terms of custodial rights as well as residential time with their children. Women were seeking greater protection from violent men. If ever there was a gender war before in the child custody/access arena, these two movements added fuel to the fire which is not to say either was inappropriate.

Along the way, services such as assessments, mediation, arbitration and newly arrived parenting coordination were slowly becoming more formalized. Collaborative Law, a fledgling movement was only just beginning to gather a head of steam.

As the first decade of the new millennium unfolded, to be accredited as a mediator (although still unregulated) one must take a course in domestic violence and power imbalances so as to be aware or lower potential risk of harm or lop-sided agreements. To provide family arbitration, one must also not only have been trained in arbitration generally, but if a non-lawyer, attend a 30-hour training in family law as well as a 14-hour training in domestic violence and power imbalances. For family arbitrations to be recognized, the parties (parents) subject to the process must be screened for domestic violence and power imbalances, although there is no stipulation as to who provides that screening or what the training, if any, entails. As service providers, we were then subject to greater expectations and training, which was good for producing greater consistency with each approach and greater safety for those participating.

Also throughout the first decade of the new millennium men have seen an overall steady increase in the amount of residential time ordered by Canadian courts. This, to the chagrin of the mothers.

These outcomes have all contributed to a more complex family law system as well as the likelihood of more contested disputes. As those disputes have escalated, so too have the allegations of domestic violence and allegations of parental alienation.

By the second decade of the new millennium, when service providers used to be thanked for their work regardless of outcome, the service providers were increasingly becoming the new target of blame. It was learned that if one didn’t like an outcome and if the service provider was implicated as somehow deficient, it afforded a dissatisfied parent the opportunity of a “do over.”

With that, the past 10 years have seen a dramatic increase of complaints to service providers’ licensing bodies. Indeed, every one of my closest colleagues have had that experience – dissatisfied parents in the midst of custody/access battles complaining to their licensing body.

More and more seasoned professionals in private practice who were providing these necessary services are no longer doing so as a result. They recognize the personal risk involved to their professional reputation and practice as well as the futility of a process that now may just as much escalate conflict as resolve it.

Given the rise of complexity of the family law court system, many, if not most of the parents who turn to it for relief, neither find the relief they seek or can afford a lawyer to manage the process and system. As such, we have also seen a dramatic rise in self-represented litigants whose model of court is influenced by Judge Judy or Judge Roy Brown.

Many of the self-represented litigants enter the court as an arena prepared to do vicious battle. Trouble is, they forget that those with whom they do battle, they must carry on afterwards in a co-parenting relationship. Resentment remains, and retribution is the sought after relief to discharge the resentment. With that, the battle continues.

Even the Judiciary and reasonable family law lawyers recognize the current folly of court. However, they are stuck in a system ever spiraling out of control, taking with it parents and children.

Having seen and lived the changes over time, I opted out.

I no longer involve myself in family court. I seek to provide peacemaking services such as mediation, Collaborative Law and support services to help those struggling through with difficult co-parents or through contested or other dispute resolution services. I help people take a broader look at their involvement in conflict, the mechanisms of conflict and offer strategies to better manage oneself in the circumstances so as to minimize risk of escalation and maximize opportunities towards more peaceful co-existence.

To those parents who are new to their separation/divorce, I provide this brief history to help you better understand the context in which your dispute is embedded. My goal in doing so is to help appreciate the social and legal changes of the past 10 to 20 years and how they will impact the resolution of your dispute. In other words, if you choose court or if you choose a hardball litigator to resolve your issues and if you prepare to do battle, then do expect an all out costly brawl.

If you are at all hoping to ever co-parent reasonably at some point in time, then be wary of hiring hardball litigators lest you be lost in the vortex of the family law system and never-ending motions and counter-motions. In lieu of a hardball litigator, seek those family lawyers who have invested in their own training for things like mediation and Collaborative Law.

Do also consider seeking support and where a third party may be necessary to help resolve matters, seek those whose disposition is towards that peaceful co-existence. Be mindful of the fact that the outcome of court imposed decisions now favors a more equalized (doesn’t mean actually equal) outcome for the sharing of children’s time between the parents. One doesn’t have to like or dislike these social changes, but to deny or resist them can bring greater battle to your dispute. Acquaint yourself with current realities.

I also caution parents to resist the battle cry, “I am acting in the best interests of the children” as that is likely a belief held by parents on both sides and that particular battle cry often only serves to intensify the battle. Instead, seek solutions while laying silent on any battle cry. Identify concerns and interests and work with those who may help develop a road-map to a better place.

Settle into the fact that things have gone awry and that there is often no simple one-size immediate solution, but rather a process over time that will need to unfold. In the toughest of situations, practice meditation to help resolve or manage the stress so as to enable patience.

If you need a mantra or thought or ideals to hold in meditation, consider the words of Max Erhmann with his writings, Desiderata:

Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be. And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

In order to strive to be happy and resolve conflict in 2017, seek peace and act peacefully.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by Skype.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

facebook-logo   linked-in-logo   twitter-logo

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

Are You Putting Up With a Difficult Person at Home or Work?

Did you know that your upbringing can affect what you put up with? True!

If you find yourself with children running roughshod over you or a partner whose inexcusable behavior continues or a workplace colleague who continues to be harassing, it just may be that you grew up in a family where there was yelling and screaming between your parents, belittling, hitting or pushing or a parent with a drug or alcohol problem.

Growing up in a home that was marked by excessive and/or abusive behaviors can create the conditions whereby you, the adult child of that family has learned to walk on eggshells or consider extreme behavior while not necessarily acceptable, normal or usual.

Childhood exposure to such behavior can create the condition whereby you wind up tolerating excessive behavior in adulthood because you have grown accustomed to it, even if you don’t really like it. As such, it may take a higher degree of distressing behavior before you may feel the right to address it. Even when you do address it, because you may be either passive in your approach, or alternately harsh, the message you seek to deliver isn’t received as you intended and thus the objectionable behavior continues.

Because you may not get fully activated until matters are extreme or because your feedback about such behavior isn’t received as intended, then inadvertently you may even be enabling such behavior, as odd as that may seem. This doesn’t mean that you are to blame or at fault for the poor or abusive behavior of the other, but that your growing up experiences may make it more difficult for you to address effectively.

In situations like this it is not uncommon to seek help for the other person whose behavior is excessive or out of control. However, regardless of the help that person receives, the behavior may yet continue until you learn how to set meaningful boundaries and expectations when the behaviors of concern occurs at a much lower level of intensity.

If you were raised in a home marked by yelling, screaming, belittling, pushing, shoving, problematic alcohol or drug use and you are having issues with a child or partner or work mate, then you just may want to examine how you are managing yourself in the situation.

Learning to address matters forthrightly and communicate firmly and effectively may help resolve the issues you are having with the other.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by Skype.

Gary-Feb-12

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

 

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

Are You Sure You Want to Dance with that Narcissist at Court?

Sorting out the care of children between even reasonable separated parents can be challenging enough. However, when one has a personality disorder, particularly of a narcissistic type, coming to agreeable terms may seem impossible.

The narcissist sees him or herself as particularly hard done by. They interpret literally every action of their former partner as aggression towards themselves. For instance: Arrive 5 minutes early to pick up the child and they complain you are undermining their time with the child; Arrive on time and they complain you are rigid; Arrive 5 minutes late are you are blamed as neglectful.

There is no winning for losing with the narcissist. They take their own feelings as facts and can distort facts to fit their reality. They believe totally in their point of view with every fiber of their being. Thus while others will say they are lying, this only makes them angrier because of absolute belief in their own point of view. This actually makes them better at presenting their distorted and even reconstructed points of view than others are at telling the truth because the narcissist will defend themselves to the end. They can actually cause others to question their own judgment, whereas they will be unwavering. This can be remarkably crazy-making if you are on the receiving end of their behavior.

When the narcissist feels thwarted by the actions of the other, they not only feel hard done by, they are furious. In their rage, they seek such total retribution that annihilation seems to be their end game. It is not enough to win, you must be destroyed in the process of their winning.

Some narcissists are highly intelligent and while you may think their intelligence may make them more open to self-reflection and discussion, it does not. Their intelligence only makes them more insidiously dangerous. Their intelligence allows them to plot more meticulously to present their distorted reality in such a way as to cause others to believe their point of view.

Sound out of whack? Disproportionate? You would be right and yet that is the thinking and behavior of the narcissist.

This is so distant from most people’s imagination.

Talk of these situations and the common thinking is that these people should just grow up or alternately, you should find a way to reason with them.

If you haven’t met or lived with such a person it is difficult to appreciate that just won’t happen. The narcissist has a strong yet distorted worldview that is unchanging. Because they can only see the problem as originating with the other person, the narcissist has no motivation to change. Unless the narcissist has a bone to pick with you, you may not even realize they are a narcissist, indeed they may present as charming.

If you are going to court to resolve a parenting plan with such a person, prepare for a long, exhausting and expensive battle. Also be prepared to lose.

From the courts perspective, without hard tangible evidence that the barrage of the narcissist is contrived and not reflective of your situation, it is difficult to mount a good case. Indeed, the narcissist will throw so much manufactured information at the judge and yourself, that even if everything doesn’t stick, some inevitably will. As the saying goes, when you get into the trough with the pigs, we can’t tell the pigs apart.

Just going to court then, everyone will have mud on themselves and that is just the starting point. As the case unfolds, there is likely to be so many loops and turns that the court process may become tangled and take years to resolve, yet resolve in ways unimaginable and at tremendous financial, social, emotional and even psychiatric costs.

Sadly, court may not resolve things with this kind of narcissist. Court often runs the risk of escalating and perpetuating the conflict and fallout. And let’s say that after years of court, you have your day and you win, then ask yourself, “What is the likelihood of the narcissist actually following through meaningfully with a Court Order?” The narcissist will still feel hard done by and that the Court got it wrong. That outcome may predictably lead to yet new rounds of court. It doesn’t necessarily end with one judge’s pronouncement. An unsatisfied narcissist is a restless narcissist.

Bearing in mind there will be much at stake with court and the process will be long, costly and emotionally burdensome for everyone (including the children who live the fallout of all this tension and as pawns in the dispute) a negotiated settlement can offer a quicker resolution, thus deflecting from the escalating fight. In negotiating your agreement you expedite the outcome. Because even the narcissist has signed on, while they will still find fault in every thing you do, they are still more likely to follow the agreement because they feel they had input and control in developing it.

As distasteful and even as scary as it may seem, lawyer assisted negotiation, mediation or Collaborative Law may offer somewhat of a solution. Bear in mind, none of these strategies has anything to do with winning. They only have to do with finding a solution you can nearly or even barely live with. As harsh or counter-intuitive or distasteful as that sounds you at least have some semblance of control in terms of the outcome:

  1. Lawyer-assisted negotiations means your lawyers negotiate between themselves on your behalf, often through written communications. Ask your lawyer to share each and every communication before sending so you can appreciate and input into the negotiation. Very often narcissists find the most aggressive and unreasonable lawyers imaginable. If that is the case then lawyer-assisted negotiation may prove fruitless in the end. However, if the lawyer on the other side has any shred of reasonableness, there just may be an opportunity to resolve things.
  2. Collaborative Law is a process that occurs outside the threat of court. You get together in 4-way meetings – both lawyers and both parents in the same room. Altogether you seek to find a resolution to your issues. Where necessary, other professionals can be brought in to help consult and facilitate problem solving.
  3. Mediation requires both persons to meet with a single and neutral facilitator to aid in the discussions and help find joint points of interest around which to facilitate an agreement. Depending on the disposition of the mediation, lawyers may be asked to attend. Thus there is also lawyer-assisted mediation and the role of the lawyer in this approach is not to negotiate on your behalf, but to be witness to and help hold their respective client to the process. With lawyer-assisted negotiation, it makes it difficult for either party to provide a false impression of what transpired when their lawyer was there to see it first hand.

To repeat, none of those approaches has anything to do with winning. They are all about recognizing you will have a dissatisfying outcome no matter what, yet seeking to have the least dissatisfying outcome. These are tough situations to swallow.

When stuck between a rock and a hard place, choose neither, find a way to extricate yourself as unscathed as possible knowing perfectly well this has nothing to do with justice, fairness or what is ultimately right. As troubling as this may be, particularly with your kids in mind, it still may be the better decision in the long run, knowing there isn’t that one decision that will totally fix everything.

Given how disastrous these situations can be, you may also want to consider either supportive counseling or a separation coach for support along the way. While support doesn’t necessarily change your situation, it offers help to cope. It can also offer strategies to better manage the narcissist so as to mitigate some of the fallout. It’s about surviving or getting through and not necessarily about getting over.

Are you Sure You Want to Dance with that Narcissist at Court? At least think twice.

As for those who don’t get your situation, let them read this blog. (Download here.)

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by Skype.

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Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

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Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

Is the MSW the New MBA?

Looking at the needs of business these days, so little has to do with numbers anymore. More has to do with how we get along with others, how we connect, how we develop meaningful relationships.

Since when is that the job description of the MBA (Master of Business Administration)?

When the MBA stumbles upon those issues, they refer to them as the “soft skills”. The MBA recognizes there is something to getting along with others, but it is the MSW (Master of Social work) who really works in that space.

The area of practice for the MSW is the space between people. The MSW is always looking at the connection between us.

Think about it. If you are in a service industry, truth is, there are likely dozens to thousands of similar service providers providing the same or similar service. Many service providers look for unique ways to brand their service. Big mistake.

Truth is, in service industries, it is the service provider who is the brand.

The challenge for developing your business is recognizing that fact and seeking ways to better connect YOU with your client or customer.  You need to address the space between you.

I have long since recognized that I am my brand. People seek my service because of me. I have my own unique attributes or identifiers that will appeal at least to some segment of persons seeking my service. Those attributes include training, experience and approach to working with people. I also demonstrate my values of transparency and frankness in service delivery. I talk about my challenges and I talk about my values. People come to know me before ever coming to see me.

How about you? How about your brand? How about your service? What do people know about you, your business, the people you serve and how you come across?

If you are looking to drive up your business, maybe the time has come to think MSW.

We look at the connection between people.

In any service business, connection is key.

If you are a family law lawyer, mediator, divorce financial professional, mental health professional, counselor/therapist or other service oriented professionals and you want to build your practice, call me.

Let’s connect. Let’s address the space between you and your client/customer.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by Skype.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

facebook-logo   linked-in-logo   twitter-logo

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.

Three Key Considerations for a Successful Peacemaking Practice

Yesterday I met with a small group of people helping them build a successful peacemaking practice in the context of separation/divorce.  Interestingly though, one participant represented industry as a negotiator/adjudicator of typically workplace labor-management disputes.

Of the information provided and emphasized, I think the three most important points for building a successful practice in peacemaking was:

  1. Build your practice on the value of abundance and not scarcity. 

With scarcity, people are afraid to share and help out other colleagues. They hoard clients and rarely refer to other professionals who may actually be more appropriate to the task. These practitioners worry about where their next referral will come from. As a result, they don’t build relationships and referral networks.

Those who practice from a place of abundance, share and seek to see others do well. They make referrals and concern themselves that their clients get the best service possible. As a result of their sharing, those who practice from a place of abundance build close, strong relationships that wind up being reciprocal. As such, they tend to have bigger, better referral networks and are more highly spoken of by their clients and colleagues.

  1. Be very mindful of the disposition of the people calling you for service.  

If someone is calling a family lawyer, mediator, divorce financial professional, a counselor, that person is likely feeling either anger or fear. They may be mad at someone for the demise of the relationship, impact on self, family and kids as well as for the inevitable change that will occur and even perhaps for the way matters have come about.

Alternately, the person may be afraid. They may be petrified for the implication of things to come. They may have been threatened with harm; financially, socially, physically or materially. They likely don’t know their rights or how to protect themselves. In the initial stages of a separation, there can be much to be afraid of.

People are also likely upset about having to pay any of these professionals for their service even if in need of service. Our services are a grudge spend, meaning people begrudge having to spend their hard earned money on something that isn’t a mortgage, a car payment, food, clothing, etc.

Given anger and fear and our service as a grudge spend, we must support, set reasonable boundaries, advise accordingly, sooth, empathize and be seen as frugal with regard to the spending of their money. This is how we connect with people at intake and help them to feel safe using our service.

  1. If you don’t use social media, you don’t exist these days. If you do use social media, remember the “social” in social media. 

Many practitioners take a standoffish approach to their use of social media. It is as if their social media is a brochure where they simply hang information. Their use of social media doesn’t connect them to the folks they seek to reach.

For social media to be effective, you must connect with people. You must post regularly and you must engage in the comments and conversation. Through social media people learn about you and how you come across. People like to know or have a sense of their service provider in advance of meeting. It is comforting.

It is not that one provides direct advice or guidance, but we can speak to general issues and we can point people to other services and resources that may be of benefit and we can provide information as to concepts that are generally helpful.

Those who practice from a place of scarcity complain they are giving information away for free and that as a result, they may not be needed.

Those who practice from a place of abundance realize that in being generous and supporting and understanding, people appreciate those values and may be more inclined to use or recommend your service to others.

Of course we also talked about much more in the workshop, including; how to develop a suite of services; how to present services on a website with accessible language; and how to present one’s own values and approach to service.

Everyone left with a to do list they can start first thing Monday morning to take their practice to the next level.

It was a very full day with lovely and engaged participants.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out all my services and then call me if you need help with a personal issue, mental health concern, child behavior or relationship, divorce or separation issue or even help growing your practice. I am available in person and by Skype.

https://garydirenfeld.files.wordpress.com/2013/07/gary-feb-12.jpg?w=200&h=301

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

gary@yoursocialworker.com
http://www.yoursocialworker.com

facebook-logo   linked-in-logo   twitter-logo

Gary Direnfeld is a social worker. Courts in Ontario, Canada, consider him an expert in social work, marital and family therapy, child development, parent-child relations and custody and access matters. Gary is the host of the TV reality show, Newlywed, Nearly Dead, parenting columnist for the Hamilton Spectator and author of Marriage Rescue: Overcoming the ten deadly sins in failing relationships. Gary maintains a private practice in Dundas and Georgina Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America. He consults to mental health professionals as well as to mediators and collaborative law professionals about good practice as well as building their practice.