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Working with High Conflict Clients in a Child Protection Context

November 27, 2015

Many workshops dealing with high conflict persons assume the professional is helping to sort things out between two persons, where the professional is a neutral third party helper. But what if the professional is a party to the dispute?

Today I provided a workshop for staff at a child protection agency. In this context, the professional staff is a party to the dispute representing the concerns for the child on behalf of the agency. In some instances, if the parents are separated and the child protection agency also has protection concerns, then the lines of conflict or concern are even more complex. These situations were also represented by some in attendance.

HCF-CAS-DIRENFELDTo be productive, the professional must manage one’s own counter-transference while seeking to still be empathetic and responsive to the issues raised by the parents.

Having a better understanding of the complexity of parent issues as well as specific strategies for communicating concerns and facilitating solutions can help the professional in these contexts.

Those strategies have to do with helping the parties still move forward with problem solving, which doesn’t actually have to include agreement on the matters of contention.

Even if problem solving proves unsuccessful and matters proceed to court, it should be understood that that too is at times part of the process in these matters and not a failing of the professional. From that perspective and in offering alternatives solutions and resolution processes, if a parent seeks to proceed to court, the professional should not see this as a failure on their part, but a choice on the part of the parent and still be facilitative. We can hold alternative points of view, yet still seek to be helpful. This can be quite a remarkable and new experience for some clients in this context.

It takes considerable skill on the part of the professional to work in these situations. Workshops and role playing provide the professional with knowledge, skill and practice to improve their capacity.

It was great to be of service.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker.

Gary Direnfeld, MSW, RSW

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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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