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).

Reviews:

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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San Francisco Judge’s Reception

This event was an opportunity for Bay Area judicial officers to learn about Overcoming Barriers’ slate of programs, serving families directly with family camps and written resources, while also evaluating programs and providing professional training and other resources to the family court community.

Delancey Street, overlooking the Embarcadero and Bay Bridge

Delancey Street, overlooking the Embarcadero and Bay Bridge

Thanks to our hosts, Honorable Nancy Davis, Honorable Donna Hitchens, and the Delancey Street Foundation which overlooks the Embarcadero and Bay Bridge in San Francisco.

Overcoming Barriers’ Impact

Dr. Matthew Sullivan, of the OCB Advisory Council, presented on the unique value of the Overcoming Barriers Approach for families struggling with divorce.

There exists a large gap within the existing range of interventions available to families with children struggling in divorce, between outpatient therapy and a complete reversal of custody in favor of a resisted parent. While high-conflict families often do not see parent-child relationships improve with isolated therapy sessions, it is extreme and rare for courts to order a complete reversal of custody. OCB programs bridge this gap by providing strategic intensive interventions for all members of the family, with the goals of developing and practicing co-parenting strategies, both empowering and holding all members of the family accountable.

 

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Arizona Family Camp 2015

Arizona Program was Completed in 2015
Program Dates: April 24-28, 2015
The Arizona Group is comprised of Jack Moran, PhD; Michael Liebman, LPC; and Judy Lewis-Thome, all of whom trained in the Overcoming Barriers Approach last summer in Vermont observing the benefits of working with the entire family in an intensive setting.
Please read about the program and the intake process and email us if you have interest:

Matt Sullivan, PhD, will be the onsite lending his experience with OCB Family Camp, and administrative supervision will be provided by OCB Camp Director, Carole Blane. We are also pleased to announce that camp will be staffed by Fran Mills-Yerger, PhD and her team from Workshops for Youth and Families.

Professionals and families seeking more information about the program should email overcomingbarriers@gmail.com.

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Overcoming Barriers at AFCC-AZ & CA

Overcoming Barriers was well represented at AFCC – California and Arizona.

At the Association of Family Court Professionals California conference in February OCB Board members, Drs. Robin Deutsch and John Moran, as well as Board President Hon. Marjorie Slabach (ret.), and Dr. Matthew Sullivan, member of the Overcoming Barriers Advisory Council, presented a symposium on Practical Applications of Intensive Interventions for Children Who Resist/Refuse Contact with a Parent for Family Court Professionals.

If you missed the presentation it is available as a CD or Mp3. Visit the AFCC-CA website for more information.

Dr. John “Jack” Moran then hopped on a plane to attend and present at the AzAFCC conference in Sedona. Dr. Moran, a new Board member, joined Overcoming Barriers after attending the Immersion Training in 2013 where he became interested in the components of the OCB Approach. He is the Clinical Director for the Arizona Family Camp scheduled in April.

Click here to see the book on Amazon

Click here to see the book on Amazon

The AFCC conferences also hosted the release of the new OCB publication for parents and professionals (for purchase on Amazon).  A big “thank you” to Unhooked Books and the AFCC Bookstore for selling out all 100 advanced copies.

See future updates for more information on Overcoming Barriers at AFCC National in New Orleans and OCB resources including our new publication and online trainings.

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Announcing Book from Oxford Detailing the OCB Approach

Family-Based Interventions For Children’s Resistance, Rejection and Alienation:

Overcoming Barriers and other Clinical Approaches

Edited by Drs. Abigail Judge & Robin Deutsch

This edited volume is intended for clinicians, legal professionals and other members of the family law community.

Chapters will first provide an overview of the current status of outpatient treatment for families in high conflict where children are at risk of losing a relationship with one parent. Then, the book will describe the OCB Approach as one example of a promising family-based intervention where dynamics of estrangement, rejection and alienation are present. Chapters on OCB include evaluation data, possible applications of the OCB approach beyond the camp setting and proposed directions for future research and practice.

Contributors to the book will include OCB Founders, Drs. Robin DeutschMatt Sullivan and Peggie Ward; respected author Dr. Barbara FidlerDr. Rebecca Bailey of Transitioning Families, Dr. Michael Saini of the University of Toronto; Dr. Abigail Judge of Harvard Medical School; and commentary by Professor Nicolas Bala, Dr. Janet Johnston, and Dr. Leslie Drozd.

The book is under contract with Oxford University Press and its anticipated publication date is early 2016.

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