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Screening for Domestic Violence and Power Imbalances in Collaborative Law, Mediation and Couple Counseling

May 20, 2015

The issue of screening for domestic violence and power imbalances has come up from several directions for me this week.

In all cases, the question was about finding a screening tool, a questionnaire that would give insight into these issues for separating couples entering either collaborative law process or mediation process. I would like to add that from my perspective, this issue is also relevant to couples entering into couple counseling.

I advised that we screen to determine risk of harm to the couple in partaking in the respective processes. We want them to arrive safely, leave safely and be safe in between our meetings. We want them to be able to negotiate freely and without seeking to sell the farm to buy peace where that provides a lop-sided agreement undermining one’s future.

Sorting out separation/divorce issues and addressing couple issues in therapy are two of the greatest risk moments for persons whose relationships include violence. The risks include homicide and suicide. Just attending a meeting together escalates those risks and places people at harm as they walk through our doors. While homicide and suicide are the greatest risks, the harm imposed by violence of any kind or degree can be devastating and life altering.

While personal safety and the ability to discuss matters freely are ultimately the responsibility of the persons seeking service, clearly we the professionals do want to be at least minimally trained to understand and detect those risks to mitigate harm as best as possible.

No single or even battery of questionnaires will ever suffice to do the job and anyone who relies just upon a questionnaire to ascertain the degree to which these issues may be at play may misread or totally not see avoidable risk. Instead of or in addition to questionnaires, the person conducting the screening must understand the issue and when issues surface, how to provide support and guidance to mitigate risk of harm.

If you work with separating couples or couples in therapy, I certainly urge you to be trained in screening for domestic violence and power imbalances.

If you are a persons seeking these services and are in a relationship marked by any degree of violence, abuse or power imbalance, please advise your service provider and ascertain if they have any knowledge or experience with those issues. If not, then consider an alternate service provider.

At the end of the day, your safety must come first.

Here is my statement on domestic violence and power imbalances.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

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

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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 Ontario, providing a range of services for people in distress. He speaks at conferences and workshops throughout North America.

If your relationship is faltering, then set it as your priority.

Read: Marriage Rescue: Overcoming ten deadly sins in failing relationships.

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