OCB at Seattle AFCC Conference

Visit our table at AFCC National Conference in Seattle, WA, June 1 – 4 where members of the Overcoming Barriers Board and Advisory Council will contribute on various presentations. Our organization is honored to be a part of this conference and contribute with our wealth and breadth of knowledge developed working with families in crisis.

Presentations including the OCB Team include:

  • Hon. Marge Slabach (ret.) and Dr. Jack Moran presenting Before Too Much Damage is Done: Early Intervention with Parent-Child Contact Problems; 
  • Dr. Barbara Jo Fidler presenting The Voice of the Child in Parenting Coordination;
  • Dr. Robin Deutsch presents Stepping Up: Our Understanding of Parenting Plan Modifications;
  • Hon. Slabach joining with other Judicial Officers on a forum entitled The Coercive Powers of the Court.
  • Dr. Matt Sullivan, the AFCC Co-Conference Chair presents on Examining Attorney-Expert Relationships
  • Dr. Deutsch offers: Parenting Under Fire: Resilience in Children Growing Up in Military Families.  
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New Additions for 2016

Overcoming Barriers board members and staff met at the end of 2015 for the annual board retreat. The gathering, as always, was filled with animated discussions about how much families and the family courts need more Overcoming Barriers resources. The board reviewed and updated the strategic plan, taking into account some exciting new additions to the organization for 2016.

New ED - Don Fann

New ED – Don Fann

First, we are thrilled to welcome Don Fann, our new Executive Director! Don is a thirty-year veteran nonprofit executive with a background in health and human services. He has also served for more than a decade as a nonprofit management consultant specializing in organizational growth initiatives, reorganization, and executive transition. Don synthesized his early experience and training in psychology with his three decades of training in the martial art, Aikido, into his approach to organizational development and nonprofit executive work. Don lives in Napa, California with his wife, Kathy, and is a musician and private chef.

We are also grateful to have the significant experience and fresh perspectives of new board members Rebecca Lizarraga and Pam Pierson. Both Rebecca and Pam are highly respected family lawyers from the Los Angeles area and San Francisco Bay Area, respectively. Their insight into the legal side of divorce and tremendous compassion for families and children moving through this challenging transition will serve our organization for years to come. We appreciate their dedication and service.

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Vermont Family Camp 2016

July 11-15, 2016 – Applications are available now!

Overcoming Barriers and Common Ground Center have been to hosting the High-Conflict Family Camp since 2008. The supportive staff, beautiful nature and amazing facilities at Common Ground Center are the ideal environment for families to come together and do the hard work of repairing ruptured relationships and move forward.

Be sure to review the following pages before applying:

Application and Intake

To inquire or request an application please contact us at: overcomingbarriers@gmail.com.

Dinning Hall Common Ground Center

If you are interested in this program on behalf of your family please ask professionals working on your case to look into the program. Neutrality on the part of Overcoming Barriers is a key component of all our programming and the intake process needs to assure that neutrality. Most families require a court order to attend the camp.

*Admission to camp will require the agreement of both parents or a court order.

**Space is limited for this program!  Due to this limitation, we must give priority to families according to the order of their application to the program, including application fee. 

The intake process is described in detail on the Family Camp Intake page (click here).

We have the following documents available for download below so that the family and support network can petition the Court before or simultaneous to contacting Overcoming Barriers. We highly recommend you contact us before petitioning the court to verify spots are still available.

Fees for 2016 Family Camp

All fees are non-refundable. Camper fees do not cover our costs for running camp. OCB subsidizes the cost of Camp through fundraising and relies heavily on volunteer hours to keep costs as low as possible.

  • Non refundable application fee: $250 per family. To be sent in with the application and the application agreement.
  • Non refundable clinical intake fee: $750 per family. To be paid as allocated per the court.
  • Non refundable deposit: $5,000 due upon acceptance to Camp, allocated as the court has ordered.
  • Non refundable balance of tuition: $7,500 is due by June 27th.
  • Attendance at Camp: $12,500 per family for families of four or less. More than four family members, add $1,000 per extra family member. The total for a family of four will be $13,500 (application + clinical intake + camp fee)
  • OCB clinical follow-up with courts to be paid by hourly rate.
  • Family transportation to and from Vermont is not included.
Reduced tuition – Overcoming Barriers is committed to making programs available to all families who would benefit. In 2016, as in past years, OCB will make every effort to provide the program at an affordable cost to families.  Please advise us if you’d like to be considered for a reduced fee.  There are limited Reduced Fees available for families who make less that $150,000 verified combined parental income and are based on a sliding scale.

More Information

OCB will send program updates to to people who have joined our email update list (bottom of right sidebar) or otherwise given us their contact information.

Direct questions to overcomingbarriers@gmail.com*

*Please, in your initial inquiry, do not convey to us any information which you may regard as confidential.  Any information which you may convey to Overcoming Barriers by the internet or by e-mail may not be secure.

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Support OCB in 2015

Clay pieces drying

Camper Artwork

Your support in 2015 will significantly increase our impact in 2016 and beyond.  Please consider making a donation to Overcoming Barriers, a 501c3 non-profit!

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Building Family Resilience From The Ground Up

As Overcoming Barriers (OCB) has grown from an original program prototype to a national organization working to expand and deliver programs throughout the US and Canada, we have recognized the critical importance of training to the success of OCB’s mission. While expanding the scope of programming is ultimate goal, maintaining the quality and integrity of the program delivery is essential to positive outcomes for families and long-term success.

OCB provides programs for for post-divorce/separation families caught in intractable parental conflict, bringing the entire family together in a positive, fun, clinically supported, natural environment, to practice skills as a reorganized family. The OCB Approach is unlike the prevailing adversarial court paradigm that engenders distrust and conflict engagement, while consuming public resources with little resolution of parental conflict. OCB has developed and refined a “whole family” intervention, a creative alternative to the ineffective adversarial court process or conventional therapeutic interventions. OCB has run High-Conflict Family Camps annually since 2008, working with the most entrenched families in the country, largely court-ordered to attend.

Sharon Ryan Montgomery, Psy.D., and Marcy Pasternak, Ph.D., had both been doing family forensic work in New Jersey in private practice for many years, including child custody & parenting time evaluations, therapy for individuals and families, mediation, and parenting coordination. They were both finding cases involving child alienation to be the most tragic as well as difficult to treat, and that the common treatment of weekly family/reunification therapy was generally inadequate to shift the family dynamics in a meaningful way.

They began to hear about intensive family treatments, including residential family programs such as the OCB camp conducted by leading experts in the field. Resultantly, Sharon had referred some entrenched families to the camp, and Marcy served as an after-care therapist for one OCB family. Encouraged by their experience with OCB, they reached out to see if they could visit the camp and observe the treatment model for themselves.

Sharon and Marcy attended an OCB outreach event in NYC in the fall of 2012. Robin Deutsch, Ph.D., was present and they discussed their desire to observe camp. Shortly thereafter, OCB announced that there would be opportunity for clinical trainees to attend and observe the Family Camp in summer 2013. They both applied and were accepted.

In the summer 2013, Sharon and Marcy participated in OCB’s first clinical training at camp, learning the model, observing the families and interventions remotely, and participating in the team discussions and the camp milieu. “We found it to be a powerful and amazing experience.” *

As a continuation of the OCB training model, Sharon and Marcy were invited to attend camp the following summer as clinical fellows, to co-lead one of the parent groups and assist clinical staff in family interventions.

“Working at the camp was an intense, exhausting, and rewarding experience. Working with the entire team (both clinical and milieu staff) in the camp milieu setting was powerful. The mode of working that we experienced is unique. The approach to treating the families is somewhat like a “boot camp” in that the entire time at camp is geared toward one goal, and is approached from many angles. Learning to go with the flow and think on your feet for twelve plus hours a day, how to work with a group in a milieu setting, while also individualizing treatment for each family, were skills that were developed. It was a training experience like no other, and what I feel is essential to experience in being able to run an weekend intensive for one family at a time.”

Encouraged by the OCB clinical team, and supported by OCB staff, Sharon and Marcy began working to bring an intensive program to their local jurisdiction in New Jersey. Because of the many challenges to implementing a safe and effective intensive program, and Sharon and Marcy’s desire to provide the best possible program they could, OCB “incubated” the intensive program in New Jersey.

Sharon, Marcy and OCB led the first intensive weekend program in New Jersey in September 2015. Sharon, Marcy and Robin Deutsch filled the clinical roles, and OCB provided support and supervision for all the aspects of the endeavor, including logistics of location, staff, paperwork, and clinical support from Dr. Deutsch.

“The weekend intensive went extremely well, and we really were able to solidify the skills that we learned by participating at camp. It was important to have this support, as while many of the skills and techniques are the same as what is done at camp, there are also differences and a greater intensity of therapeutic involvement. The family Intensive is a new concept to many attorneys, judges, and mental health practitioners, and it is important to demonstrate how helpful the program can be to families. To that end, intensives must be of high quality and run by professionals who understand the dynamics in these families and have the skills and experience to treat them. It is essential to have both a clinical and forensic background, as these are some of the most difficult families to treat. Conducting successful programs will result in Courts being interested in referring families in the early stages of alienation before it becomes too entrenched.”

Marcy and Sharon have been marketing the intensives through speaking engagements, the creation of a web presence, and brochures they have sent out to New Jersey family lawyers, judges, and other forensic mental health clinicians. Their new program is called “Building Family Resilience” and they have their first independent family intensive program scheduled for December.

“Experiencing both camp and an intensive is necessary in order to know how to approach intensive work and how to think on your feet and be creative for a multi-day treatment program. Observing and reading about this treatment is not the same as actually doing it.”

“This is not an area that a therapist should be entering without having had an extensive background in forensic family work. It is important to be well-seasoned in working with families in which a child refuses contact and to also be able to recognize when there is a situation of alienation versus realistic estrangement. Familiarity with research, experience working with the legal system (courts and attorneys) and devising parenting plans is essential. Experience in working with this high conflict and very litigious population is also very important.”

OCB is proud to have Sharon and Marcy among its first “graduates,” having completed the series of trainings from soup to nuts, now offering their own intensive programs and coming to camp once again in 2016, but this time as lead clinical faculty. They are a shining example of the successful completion of the OCB training model, in fact, they have been instrumental in the development of the training model, and OCB looks forward to continuing to partner with them in the future.

*All quotes were contributed by Sharon Ryan Montgomery, Psy.D., and Marcy Pasternak, Ph.D.

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Intensive Immersion Training 2015

Deadline for registration extended to November 24th, 2015.

This specialized program is for clinicians working with post-separation problems where children resist contact with a parent.  Trainees will have the unique opportunity to be immersed in an Overcoming Barriers Family Intensive Program guided by Drs. Robin Deutsch, Barbara Fidler and Peggie Ward.

December 3 & 4, 2015, at the Dex Media Hotel and Conference Center, conveniently located on the grounds of the Dallas airport.

For details including pricing and registration click here.

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Webcast-Live 3 hour San Francisco Seminar

Attorney’s BriefCase® Beyond the Basics™ PresentsABC Logo_med-sm

A Conversation with Overcoming Barriers

Legal Issues and Family Interventions When Children Resist Contact with a Parent

An intensive 3-hour exploration of the complex and increasingly common dynamic of child resistance.

Live presentation (San Francisco) and Live Webcast

November 3, 2015, 6:00PM-9:20PM Pacific, 9:00PM-12:20 Eastern

Presenters (see bio’s here on our board page):

  • Michèle M. Bissada, JD
  • Sherrol L. Cassedy, JD, MA
  • Hon. Marjorie A. Slabach (Ret.)
  • Matthew J. Sullivan, Ph.D.


Also available on DVD/CD

*Judges attendance (live or via webinar) is complimentary/Court personnel attend for half price

More information here at the Training Seminar Page.

Program approved by CA State Bar for 3.0 hours of Psychological Counseling Legal Specialization credit and MCLE credit by the California Board of Legal Specialization. Attorney’s Briefcase, Inc. certifies that this activity conforms to the standards for approved education activities prescribed by the rules and regulations of the State Bar of California governing minimum continuing legal education.

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Press Release: Detroit Child Custody Action – Detention for Kids?

OCB Clinicians’ Response

Judge Gorcyca, the Detroit Judge who ordered three minor children into juvenile detention for refusal to have lunch with their Dad, has set off a firestorm in the media and brought the issue of child alienation to national headlines. With the divorce rate holding steady at 50% and 10 to 15% of separating or divorcing couples being high conflict, the dynamic of children resisting or refusing contact with their mother or father is increasingly coming to the attention of the court. “Children’s rejection of a parent is a complex issue and there are numerous reasons and contributing factors to explain the nature and severity of the dynamic. The solutions must be just as varied, multi-faceted and customized to the needs of the specific family. There is no one size fits all remedy.” Dr. Barbara Jo Fidler, OCB Board Member. While this Judge’s order may seem draconian, the family’s conflicts have been dramatic and complex, as is often the case in the increasingly prevalent problem of children’s rejection of a parent.

The politics of child alienation, often referred to as parental alienation, are divisive and contentious. OCB is concerned that the current popular media coverage will oversimplify the complexity and challenges of addressing children’s welfare in these situations, as polarized debate tends to do. The issue becomes polarized when the focus is limited, as is often the case in the legal-adversarial context, to the behavior of only the favored parent as sabotaging and brain washing, or only the rejected parent as abusive and justifying the child’s rejection. Rather, we hope this tragic case can be an opportunity to advocate for real solutions for these families and children and to discuss more comprehensive, research-based approaches to the problem.

“While each family member plays some part in the overall dynamic, the child is never to blame and should never be the subject of punitive action by the court system under the guise of protecting or promoting the child’s welfare. To do so is to blame the victim, just as when individuals are victimized by domestic or sexual violence.” Dr. Matt Sullivan, Co-Founder of OCB. “The child’s behavior is symptomatic of the system’s failure.”

Family courts have been struggling with these dynamics for decades, and the remedies available to the court have been limited and generally ineffective. The adversarial court process can escalate the conflict and blame rather than support healthy coparenting, which benefits children. But according to Dr. John A. Moran, OCB Board Member,

“Without court intervention, the family remains stuck in co-parenting conflict resulting in the children’s loss of relationship with a parent and their extended family.” Innovators in the field, OCB included, are working to develop models and interventions to move families out of entrenched conflict, and require the court’s support and authority to redirect parents to these resources.

“Effective solutions will require a systemic approach to a systemic problem, meaning the participation of all family members, coordination with legal professionals and the court, and support from mental health professionals who have specialized training.” Dr. Robin Deutsch, Co-Founder of OCB.

“Without intervention involving the entire family, rigidly held beliefs, justified or unjustified, about the reasons behind the resistance or refusal are maintained, to the detriment of the children caught between loyalty to one parent at the expense of the other.” Dr. Peggie Ward, Co-Founder of OCB.

Speaking out in response to the uproar generated by her recent decision, Judge Gorcyca stated, “While this court’s remedy in this particular situation may seem drastic and offensive, so too, is the notion … that the only way to maintain a stable and loving connection with the mother is to vilify and reject the father.” OCB is dedicated to developing constructive alternatives for families and the courts that support healthy coparenting for the benefit of children.

Article from the American Bar Association

Article from Detroitnews.com 

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Program Evaluation 2015

Dr. Michael Saini, Associate Professor of the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work at the University of Toronto (visit website) began collaborating with OCB in 2013 to develop, implement and analyze the evaluation of Overcoming Barriers’ programs.

At the 2015 AFCC National Conference in New Orleans, Dr. Saini, Sevil Deljavan, Ph.D. (student), and Dr. Deutsch (OCB Founder), presented “An Exploration of Children’s Experiences in the Overcoming Barriers Family Camp.”   

View or download a PDF of the 2015 OBFC Poster here.

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Parenting Guide

Click here to see the book on Amazon

Click here to see the book on Amazon

Check out our recently published guide for Parents and Professionals: Overcoming the Co-Parenting Trap: Essential Parenting Skills When a Child Resists a Parent – Available on Amazon Books (click here for our page on Amazon).


Joan B. Kelly, Ph.D. – Northern California Mediation Center, author of Surviving the Breakup: How Children and Parents Cope with Divorce says:

Overcoming the Co-Parenting Trap is an important, excellent, and easy to use resource for parents (and professionals) when a child resists contact with mom or dad. Within a family systems framework, “Overcoming…” focuses on developing more effective strategies, skills, and goals for both preferred and resisted parents. Particularly helpful are concrete examples of problematic communications and behaviors followed by alternative suggestions likely to create a more positive effect in improving co-parenting and parent-child relationships disrupted by separation or divorce.

Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq. – High Conflict Institute, author of Don’t Alienate the Kids: Raising Resilient Children While Avoiding High-Conflict Divorce says:

This is an informative and compassionate booklet, packed with useful skills for both the resisted parent and the favored parent. What I particularly love about it are all the sample statements that the authors provide for parents to make to each other and the child – especially during challenging moments. A very handy resource for parents experiencing the stress of a resistant child.

For more information click here.

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