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Separated Parents? It takes a village to help you move on and those in the village need training.

November 6, 2016

Just like it takes a village to raise your kids, it can take a village of professionals to help you separate in a way best for your kids. However, most parents do not know about all the services available to help them through their separation.They don’t know about the village of professional helpers.

Like the separating parents, a good many professionals also have a limited understanding of how professionals of other disciplines can help. So while a professional may be good, even great at what they do, they may be limited at helping the separating parent understand their role as well as the role of others who may be helpful along the way.

In addition to my helping separating parents directly, I also help professionals of various disciplines build and market their practice while they learn about the role and function of other professionals. I care to see them successful in the interest of the people they serve by more creatively using their own expertise and knowing how/when to use the expertise of others.

As my professional colleagues build their practice and learn how/when to use the service of other professionals, they can provide better overall service. When these professionals refer and make use of other professionals, then more parents and children can go through the separation process to live better lives by making better use of the village of professional helpers.

One way I help colleagues build their practice is through a workshop that brings together professionals of different disciplines at the same time. That way they not only learn how to develop their own practice, but they also learn the value  of what their colleagues have to offer separating parents. We refer to this as an interdisciplinary training.

My recent interdisciplinary training had five people representing five disciplines: Child and Youth Counselor; Social Worker; Vocational Counselor; Divorce Financial Professional and Collaborative Family Lawyer. These people came from across southern Ontario (London to Peterborough). Here is a quick summary of the help they specifically can provide:

The Child and Youth Counselor offers guidance for behavior management as well as private supervised access services.

The Social Worker, who had an extensive background in child protection helps families co-involved with the family law system and child welfare system to resolve conflict and mitigate protection issues.

The Vocational Counselor helps people find suitable jobs and/or figures out what a suitable level of employment could be and enables work re-entry.  This to support attaining work or to impute income.

The Divorce Financial Professional helps people determine the viability of financial plans and come to financial decisions that are realistic and doable in everyone’s interest. In many cases this is with regard to determining an ability of one parent to retain the family home.

The Collaborative Family Lawyer helps people find ways of settling their disputes where both persons agree on the outcome so both may feel better able to move forward and where neither feels an ongoing animosity towards the other for that outcome. The Collaborative Family Lawyer stressed the importance of deep listening to really figure out what was of concern so those concerns could be truly addressed and not simply fought over.

As this workshop unfolded all persons learned how to better explain their services, develop a broader and more comprehensive list of services and how to use each others expertise to develop their practice and better serve separating parents. They also learned how to better get the word out about their availability – they learned how to better market their practice.

If you are going through a separation, consider how a village of helpers may be helpful.

Ask your current service provider if they are aware of how professionals of other disciplines may be helpful in your situation. Ask if they have attended any interdisciplinary training. This is becoming more commonplace. While using several helpers may sound expensive, nothing is more expensive than the person who thinks they can do everything or the professional who doesn’t know how to get along with or use the expertise of others.  The right professional at the right time may be just the most cost effective strategy to resolving the particular issue at hand. Just like it takes multiple trades to build a house, it can take multiple professionals to help in your separation. Hopefully your helper has had interdisciplinary training.

The goal is to settle your separation in a way that leaves people able to get on with their lives, recognizing that while you may separate as intimate partners, as parents you will need to manage together as best as possible.  Professionals also must know how to get along with other professionals and how to use each others expertise. Professionals must appreciate the many ways they can be helpful to you and find the right words to express that so you can make use of their service.

If you are interested, here are the workshop evaluations from this recent workshop. These professionals were amazing caring people.

It really does take a village to separate.

I am Gary Direnfeld and I am a social worker. Check out my services and then call me if you need help with a child behavior or relationship issue or matters concerning divorce or separation. I am also available for consultation to other professionals and for workshops and Keynote presentations. I am available in person and by Skype.

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 and Georgina 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

  1. I would like more information

  2. Basically, How to be a single parent? I feel I’m hanging on by a thin rope and its breaking…..

  3. Aimilia Markouizou Gkika permalink

    I find your interdisciplinary approach fascinating.In reality this is my mode of working in the field of early intervention of drug abuse with youngsters and their families/environment.Since more and more cases call for a “village”of professionals to have some substantial impact to the betterment of their lives, I would find our exchange of information/practices quite valuable.I would also appreciate references/links relevant to this approach.
    I am a psychologist/family therapist working in an organization which combats addictions,named KETHEA(Center for the Treatment of Addicted Individuals)in the area of prevention,early intervention,adolescent and family Counseling,working closely with probation officers.

    • Hi Aimilia.

      This village approach to helping people in distress is not really knew, save for how I frame it in this blog. More technically, it is referred to as an interdisciplinary approach.

      This approach has long been used in mental health and even medical settings. If you google “interdisciplinary treatment” you will find many good references.

      In short, this refers to using a team of professionals to, in a coordinated way, address the presenting issue.

      As you acquaint yourself with interdisciplinary treatment, you will also find there are several models with regard to how this approach is organized.

      in the field of separation and divorce the interdisciplinary approach is in its infancy. Some professionals who practice Collaborative Family Law have been acquainting themselves with this approach for the past several years. It is a very potent way of organizing help and delivering services that can help people through very trying times. As my blog post suggests, this helpful go-forward approach is superior to family court which tends to focus on the past and on the negative, resulting in an escalation and perpetuation of conflict.

      Here is a link to an article I wrote discussing a number of team models as it applies to resolving separation/divorce issues. You may find it of interest:

      To be most helpful in view of these issues, I do advocate the use of a village.



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