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Help For the Person Tied to a Narcissist

In my experience, most therapists see folks who come to them voluntarily for depression or anxiety. Underlying the distress is often unrecognized trauma, usually from childhood. As a result, they are seeing otherwise decent folks who appreciate help sorting out their difficulties. This so fits with most therapists’ training and disposition as therapists see themselves as helpers and see clients as otherwise nice people. Hence you get a paradigm of nice therapists helping nice people.

This is far removed from the client who comes to them whose distress is tied to living with a narcissist.

The therapist is now meeting with a desperate person who is currently shell-shocked and likely in the throes of PTSD. The therapist will hear stories of gas-lighting, manipulation, lies and deceit from a person who is also described as charming in the company of others. In this situation, the client is either seeking help to change their partner, escape their partner or survive as co-parents. This represents a shift for the therapist as the therapist must accept the description of the unseen partner in horrid terms.

The person described by the client is not often seen in therapy as those persons never have an issue with themselves. They are rarely in distress and if they are it is for feeling thwarted by someone with whom they lost power and control. While this will drive such a person into rage, because they do not see themselves as the problem, they see no need for therapy. Their need is to restore their control in the relationship or otherwise wreak havoc through vengeance which they see as reasonable. Many therapists have not dealt with narcissists directly and when they do, with limited experience and exposure, they come to be tied up in knots too.

It is a challenging paradigm shift for therapists to accept that their compassion and empathy will not facilitate insight and healing in many narcissists and that while one can appreciate the terrible formative experiences such a person may have endured, they remain a current threat and danger to their targets – those whom they believe should meet their needs. If, by the way, a narcissist is seen in therapy, it is likely to help them restore control over their partner and if the therapist is not helpful to that goal, then the therapist is seen as thwarting their needs and thus may be a target of vengeance too.

Hence, many therapists are ill-equipped to meet the needs of this therapy client. This leaves this therapy client feeling more scared and alone and often invalidated for their experience, which only adds to their crazy-making situation and distress.

The required paradigm, from my perspective in working with someone living with a person described as a narcissist is validation and support. The therapist within this paradigm must come to appreciate, there are some folks aptly described as evil. This is so different as well from working with persons whose abuse is physical as often, the narcissists’ tools are not physical, but emotional and psychological.

Help for the client managing life tied to a person described as a narcissist must go beyond support and validation though. It must include survival strategies. Those strategies may be to manage in the relationship, extricate the relationship or co-parent as separated parents – depending on the needs and desire of the client.

The therapist must help the client build boundaries and develop reference points to reality that are not structured or determined by the narcissist. The client must be helped to strategically use empathy and respect in dealing with the narcissist even though this is counter-intuitive. It must be understood that strategies of empathy and respect does not include acquiescing to inappropriate demands or expectations or agreeing with the views or opinions of the narcissist. It just means leaving the narcissist feeling heard as that is actually soothing to such a person and can limit escalation of narcissistic exploitation. Help is also required to set a reasonable appreciation for what may be expected from the narcissist and help should also include self-care strategies.

To the person seeking therapeutic support, do ask your intended therapist is they have any knowledge, training and experience in supporting people managing a narcissist in their life.

To the therapist either supporting a person in relationship with a narcissist or working directly with a narcissist, if your knowledge or training or experience is limited, either seek supervision or refer the person to someone with greater skill. The real challenge in these cases is the paradigm shift. These people can be truly evil and their charm and niceness veils danger. The therapist’s own niceness and can make them ripe for exploitation by the narcissist. So sure, be nice, but at least not naïve. Our help must be helpful and include skill development.

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
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.

4 Parenting Tips for This Millennium:

Parenting for this millennium:

  1. Time over stuff: As for our guilt, no longer can we assuage it by giving our children stuff. Giving stuff suggests to kids that stuff is more important than relationships and we the parent will only be valued for the stuff we provide. No stuff, no value. Of course kids who are constantly given stuff don’t otherwise listen to parents. Rather than stuff, give 10 minutes of special attention to engage in a quick activity or admire something of the child.
  2. Disconnect to reconnect: As much as parents all complain about their kid’s use of tablets, smart phones and social media, truth was, so too do parents preoccupy themselves with such things, even when purportedly talking or being with their kids. Turn the devices off – at least certain times of the day, such as at meals and at bedtime. Be truly present and undistracted when with your child. That you turn off your device (actually off, not on vibrate) is a huge signal to your child that they are of value to you over and above anything else. Then you are in a position to truly reconnect.
  3. Reconnect through normal activities: Have time together as a family, typically through shared mealtime. Shared mealtime can be breakfast, lunch or dinner. Statistically, the more shared mealtime together, the better children’s behavior and the more likely you can transfer your values and morals to your kids directly as opposed to their picking up whatever by surfing the Internet.
  4. Parent with intention: Lastly be in charge benevolently. Not all expectations are a discussion. Just like in school, when the teacher says, take out your books, this is a demand, not a question. So too parents need to act with reasonable authority and a tone of voice that demonstrates not anger, hostility or fear, but a clarity that what is being sought, is actually required.

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.

I Want to Survive

There are two things that make us uniquely human:

  1. The will to survive;
  2. Concern over limited resources to survive.

Given the will to survive we typically will fight to escape death, not only on our own behalf, but on behalf of at least our family, then our friends and then others. There is a pecking order to this survival.

Picture 14Given the world and us have limited resources, we then concern ourselves with amassing those resources to appease our need for survival. In amassing those resources we then consider amassing those resources in groups. The group may be the family, the community and/or the country.

An issue becomes in determining who is in our group. By what distinction do we differentiate our group from another and then fight for those resources on behalf of the group?

With that, family members fight over inheritances; communities fight over what may affect property values; and countries fight over such resources such as what creates purchasing power and access to other resources such as water or food or personal safety.

We pit groups against each other based on differences in the quest to amass our resources.

However, throughout all this, there are also those who recognize that in order to appease the need to survive, we must to at least to some degree, share our resources, lest those with less seek to take ours through violence which then undermines survival.

So we give to others. We give within our families, communities, countries and even internationally.

Those with limited vision or those whose access to resources are truly limited and only provided at or near existence levels argue against giving abroad not recognizing that giving abroad does also provide some modicum of safety from infiltration by others seeking our resources by violence.

And so the world is organized into groups, groups who have identifiable characteristics to make identity and affiliation easy for the amassing of resources for survival.

However, the population has swollen and resources are shrinking and we are poisoning our supplies. So, we fight more and with greater concern for survival and access to those precious resources.

In our fight, we raise the image our group to limit the infiltration of the other groups.

Our vision of humanity is limited. We do not see the folly of group against group and this limits cooperative behavior. Thus we become anti-immigration, anti-identifiable minority, anti…. We put babies in cages to limit families who flea oppression and lack of resources to limit their access to other resources that are held tightly by groups of more means. We use tactics of vilification, demonizing others to justify our hoarding of resources. We become a mean-spirited society all in the service of our holding on to resources.

This is a topsy -turvy world. The race to save oneself is at the peril of losing that which also makes us uniquely human, our humanity, our compassion.

What if we had a vision of a broader group for which we fought for survival? What if it included the whole of the world? What if we pulled together instead of apart? What if we collaborated towards this vision?

Would we then seek to have clean air for all? Would we seek to maintain an abundance of clean water for all? Would we seek security of the person for all?

We must choose. Fighting is always fraught with uncertainty. One never knows for sure who will succeed.

Collaborating though seeks to offer a win-win for all. It may not be as lavash as the spoils going to the winner but that is uncertain and at tremendous cost.

I would much rather do with less on behalf of a larger group and insure greater safety and security for all than take a more restrictive view where harm is imposed.

I not only want to preserve humanity, but my personal humanity.

Seek leaders who seek peace and prosperity on behalf of the world. Stand for humanity, worldly and personally. Seek and practice compassion. Share.

Let us all win. With that we survive and thrive.

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.

Managing Oneself to Manage One’s Relationship With the Ex

He called complaining about his ex, seeking to manage their situation better. I offered to meet with him in the role of Separation Coach.

It seems they had a fiery relationship that carried over into their separation and the care of their kids.

When asked about how he handled himself when upset by her, he acknowledged calling her the “c” word. I don’t know any more crude or inflammatory or abusive word a man can call a woman.

As much as there were some reasonable issues attributed to her, it was also clear how his behavior fueled any fire she may have begun. Because of this, ascribing blame was useless and not of value over describing how our own behavior can cause an escalation and even expectation of bad outcomes.

We met for less than three hours. During that meeting we discussed his temper and behavior. We also discussed how his child showed no joy in any of the extra-curricular activities attended. We also talked about the long game – a life-long relationship with his kids where his kids were great adults.

To that end I offered a number of strategies to enable his control of himself, particularly when triggered. Those strategies were tailor made and based on his life and interests.

We met again a month later, giving time for him to consider and practice the strategies.

The fellow was able to acknowledge the temper he had and how he used the strategies to manage himself.

He talked about the joy his child now seemed to have when partaking of the extra-curricular activities. He talked about not only controlling himself with his ex, but with his girlfriend too. He gave an example of leaving his cell-phone in a store only to remember leaving it there once back at the car. His girlfriend was apparently visibly concerned and immediately sought to south him. However, he advised he was fine; went back to the store; found his phone and returned to the car in good spirits.

Before this second meeting ended, we talked about the long game again – having a life-long relationship with his kids as great adults. We also talked about the impact of his behavioral change as a role model to his kids, particularly for their handling their big emotions. He advised of an incident of where his child threw an object against the wall more recently in anger. He further advised of how he maintained his calm to only discuss the incident reasonably with his child whereas in the past he might have shouted and admonished instead.

He was a changed man. He saw the changes in himself and the impact of those changes on his relationships. No more “c” word or any other foul language ever since.

Our first meeting was 2 ¾ hours. Our second meeting was 45 minutes.  I remain available should the need arise.

Similarly, I have worked with women to better understand their response to the behavior of others and thus manage themselves differently. Regardless of gender, as one changes, the situation may change.

Separation Coach

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 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.

My life is changing…..

After serving the Hamilton and area community for 29 years and the Georgina (1/2 hr north of Newmarket) community for 5 years, Arlene and I are moving permanently to Georgina this fall.

Arlene grew up in Hamilton and I grew up in Toronto. Upon our marriage, I moved to Hamilton (Dundas) and we have lived here ever since, 29 years.

Although I grew up in Toronto, my parents bought a cottage in Georgina the year I was born. I have spent summers there my entire life. Almost 6 years ago we sold the cottage and bought a home one street over. With that, I began developing my practice in Georgina so we could spend more time there.

Along the way, our son grew up, got married and now we are grandparents.

With the move to Georgina, we will be somewhat closer to our kids and grandson who turns 1 this week.

We will be sharing in taking care of him one day a week and I will continue my practice in Georgina.

For my Hamilton and vicinity clients, I can continue to see you electronically with video conferencing. It is easy and I have been doing that for years with other persons who see me from a distance. By the way, it is only a 1hr. and 40min. drive to my Georgina location and people have always been driving to see me at distances greater than that, so people are always welcome to still see me in person if they would like to drive.

I apologize for any inconvenience or concern this may cause about my availability, but as with us all, life does bring about change.

Please note, I am not retiring, just changing. I love what I do and I am grateful to be of service.

I trust this makes sense and that people will  understand.

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.

The Injustice of Justice in Family Law

Oh, what great naivety we have when it comes to justice.

There is a great belief among many that holding one’s truth and going before a judge that one’s truth will prevail, and justice will be done. Myth.

One’s truth does not translate to justice.

One’s truth, even supported by facts is still subject to interpretation. And of course, there is also the truth of the other. So, whose truth shall prevail in a conflict of truths?

And then there is the other issue of by what degree shall something be taken as true. There are two standards in court and which is applied depends on the particular court. There is the standard of “beyond a reasonable doubt” as is seen in criminal prosecution and there is, “on the balance of probabilities” which is seen in family law. Clearly the latter leaves much wiggle room: On the balance of probabilities.

It is no wonder that many persons are left at least disenchanted and some absolutely shattered, particularly in family law, when verdicts do not reflect their truth. Such though is the risk associated with the contest of truths in this arena. To add, the concern is not even with truth per se, but the concern or standard for decision making is “best interests of the child”. If the former “balance of probabilities” provided much wiggle room, you can imagine that the determination of “best interests of the child” may in fact create even greater space for interpretation and wiggle room.

Given the subjectivity involved, particularly in family court, even with reliance on as much corroborated evidence as possible and even in view of social science research, it is no wonder that many verdicts are met with disdain by at least one of the parties. And, when each continues to still hold true to their respective version of truth, is it any wonder that such an aggreged parent would seek to overturn such a verdict, appeal, resist, foot-drag and otherwise seek to undermine the outcome?

Court as a strategy of mitigating conflict becomes a folie à deux – a shared delusion that each shall win the day over the other; that justice will prevail, and the world will fall into order. That delusion is fueled by the other actors on the stage.

The lawyers hold to their winning strategies and the judges hold themselves as above bias, that their spill of the morning coffee will not influence their own patience or the previous evening dust-up with their spouse won’t influence their decision making, or that their own family history is separate from their thinking on the bench.

The influence of unconscious bias is ill-examined. Yet people entrust their lives and the decisions affecting their lives to others in this arena. People voluntarily subordinate their own power and control in negotiations to the will of this court.

Before drinking that cool-aid, consider the rabbit-hole to be entered and ask yourself, is there a better way? How might I maintain some semblance of control of the outcome, although perhaps not ideal, still livable?

Consider mediation. Consider having input into the decisions that shape your life and that of your child. Consider having an outcome that while not loved by either, is yet manageable by both.

Oh yes. You will have to forgo your version of truth for truth is not the matter. A livable outcome is.

Seek not justice in family court, but a way through life you can manage.

The challenges faced in entering mediation, a moment in time relative to your life must be weighed against an unsatisfactory court outcome that becomes your life.

Choose wisely lest you risk the injustice of justice.

My bias is clear.

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.

Therapists Be Informed: Counseling Children of Separated Parents is a Specialty Area of Practice

It’s not uncommon for therapists working with children between separated parents to get caught up in the conflict between those parents. Just as children can be triangulated between their parents, so too can therapists.

This occurs when one parent seeks to limit access to information by the other parent; or when one parent seeks the therapist to write a report for court purposes; or simply by accepting the referral to work with the child on the basis of one parent’s request to do so in the absence of he other parent’s input or knowledge.

When children are referred for counseling, it is always advisable for the therapist to ask about parentage; if both parents are in agreement to therapy; and to advise on policies regarding confidentiality, reports and court involvement.

It is also important for therapists to know that in the Province of Ontario, regardless of who has decision making authority (custody) or who the child resides with mostly, both parents still have the right to unrestricted access to information regarding their children unless expressly specified otherwise in a legal agreement or court order.

Given the above, therapists are advised to:

  1. Acquaint themselves with Family Law in their province or state;
  2. Have policies in place for working with children of separated parents
  3. Be clear as to your role and that as therapist, it does not include advocacy or working on behalf of one parent’s legal interests;
  4. Include both parents as best as possible in the referral and treatment process and consider obtaining the consent of both parents before proceeding.

Failure to be knowledgeable or have processes in place for providing service in these circumstances can increase conflict between the parents to which the child is exposed and inadvertently increase risk of harm. These circumstances also place the therapist at an elevated risk of complaints often in the nature of dual roles if/when the therapist moves from their therapeutic role to that of custody/access assessor or parent advocate.

If you are a therapist and are unsure about a situation regarding rights and responsibilities in the provision of therapy to children of separated parents, do seek consultation.

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.

Before Your Child Sees the Therapist….

I receive calls very regularly from parents seeking me to meet with their kids. I can’t stress enough that before taking a child to therapy, the parents should meet with the therapist first.

All too often there are issues going on at home that create distress for the child which in turn manifests in behavior. Even with something truly akin to the child, biological in nature, no child can convey their own developmental history.

To add, every therapist, social worker, psychologist is different. I tell parents they should meet with the intended service provider before their kids to make certain they, the parents, feel good about the service provider and that they feel reasonably assured the service provider has the necessary skills, experience and approach to address their concerns.

Worried about your child? Think they could benefit from counseling?

Parents first.

BTW – If the parents are separated, all the more reason to meet with parent’s first. If the parents are in conflict it is very likely that it is the conflict affecting the child. No amount of meeting with the child can fix what goes on between the parents. To meet with the child alone gives the child the impression that they are the problem.

Meeting and working with separated parents about child related matters is a specialty unto itself. Always make certain that whoever you choose to address your concerns has the necessary knowledge, training and experience. Those of us who work with separated parents recognize we will hear remarkably different versions of events from some separated parents. We will accept there may at times be such differences and still work to provide a common approach to facilitating the wellbeing of the kids.

If we can’t work with both parents, as crazy as this may seem, it may be better for the kids to NOT see someone for in seeing someone, it inadvertently escalates the parental conflict to which the kids are exposed, making their life worse. In these situations, it may be better to work with only one parent in the role of separation coach.

We want to make things better as much as possible!

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.

Separated Parents and the “Status Quo”

One of the concepts used in family law by courts to determine the parenting plan is called the “status quo”. This basically says that whatever has been happening, shall continue to happen as long as what is happening doesn’t seem harmful. In other words, courts are shy about making changes that may produce unforeseen consequences.

This inherently disadvantages the child’s relationship with the dad as mom’s are still predominantly the primary caregiver prior to separation. This does produce a negative unintended consequence by limiting the child’s relationship with their dad or in the case of same sex parents, the less predominant caregiver.

The problem is though, that post separation, both parents are independently responsible for maintaining a relationship with the child and doing so requires time. This by necessity requires an alteration to the status quo to accommodate the child’s need to form or have a meaningful relationship with both parents.

With due concern about the “status quo”, unfortunately the fight is on to make a final parenting plan that may preclude good transitioning. The fear for the dad is that after implementing one step in a developmental plan, the mom will bring a halt to the process on the basis of maintaining the status quo.

Courts must come to the realization that children face change all the time. They go to daycare, are cared for by grandparents, have various teachers and coaches, attend summer camps and no one ever sees those changes and transitions as harmful. Only in the context of children seeing their dad post separation does this seem to become a major problem.

We all want our kids to be resilient, to have the capacity to overcome adversity or change. Only with exposure to and support of change can children develop that capacity.

If you have concerns such as skill or temperament, then address those in the transition plan. Skills can be taught and acquired. This may require openness and flexibility on the part of both parents to accept, however if one is not afraid that the need for skill development won’t be used as an outright restriction, then people are more inclined to agree to and follow a plan.

The reason I love mediation, collaborative law and counseling is because in those processes the parents don’t have to get locked into the arbitrary and historic ways of doing things as done in today’s family court system. Working cooperatively people can truly advance the needs of their kids to have a full range of meaningful relationships.

None of this requires a cookie cutter, even-Steven, 50/50 outcome. This is about a flexible approach that appreciates that children are better served with a meaningful relationship with both parents in a plan that is doable and respects the availability of both parents.

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.

Mediation with Separated Parents in High Conflict

In advanced driver training there is a simple yet effective strategy to manage your car to avoid a crash when in a skid.

Most drivers, when their car is in a skid, look where the car is going. If your car is headed to a tree, the driver’s eyes are looking towards the tree. The problem with that is that where-ever you look is where you tend to steer. So, by looking at the tree, you continue to steer into it. You inadvertently enable the crash that began with the skid.

Advanced driver training teaches to not look where the car is skidding, but to look where you want the car to go.

So, using the tree example, rather than looking towards the tree, the advanced driver is trained to look down the road. Amazingly, the hands follow and steer the car out of the skid and down the road. It can be quite a challenge to turn your eyes to where you want the car to go. This takes practice.

This lesson holds for getting out of conflict.

When in conflict, most people steer towards it. They argue and fight about who did what to whom. They seek to assign blame. Truth is, no one ever wants to feel blamed. So, as we steer into blame, conflict escalates – we enable the crash.

Rather than steer into the crash, advanced conflict resolution skills teaches mediators to steer towards the resolution. Don’t get caught up in assigning blame but instead help participants move towards offering solutions.

Those mediations that prove unsuccessful, crash because people or the mediator get caught up in the conflict. Those mediators who have advanced training learn to steer the participants towards the solutions and increase the likelihood of success.

The challenge for the mediator is to learn how to redirect the participants respectfully in a better direction and to limit behavior that steers towards the crash. This is what we mean when we say that the mediator directs the process while the participants are responsible for developing the agreement.

Look back down the road. Focus on the agreement. Manage your triggers to stay on track.

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
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.