History and Past Programs

Breaking Barriers, Overcoming Barriers and Family Camp


Dr. Peggie Ward, a Massachusetts based clinical psychologist and leading specialist in the field of parenting coordination, began developing the camp concept when she attempted to reunify a father with his son at Common Ground Center in Vermont. After careful screening for issues of abuse and safety and initial work with the entire family, the father–son intervention was to be the culmination of the family work. This intervention was unsuccessful as the aligned parent did not follow court orders, went to the camp with the children, and the children would not leave the car. Following this initial attempt to use an intensive camp model, a group of forensic psychologists, court personnel, a judge and attorneys met over several months and developed the model for Overcoming Barriers Family Camp (OBFC). This intervention model included all members of the restructured family system (parents, spouses, and stepsiblings).

Overcoming Barriers was founded in 2008 as a non-profit in Massachusetts by Sheara Friend, Robin Deutsch, Peggie Ward and Matthew Sullivan.

Pilot Program

Overcoming Barriers partnered with Common Ground Center to run programs in Vermont beginning in 2008. The program was piloted in 2008 with five families for three days. Inclusion of all family members added to the challenge, but proved crucial to the camp’s success. Surprisingly, all parents in exit interviews requested a longer camp, more co-parent interventions, and more parent–child interventions. The 2009 OBFC was five days and built on the experience of the pilot program, adding daily co-parent meetings, parent–child or family meetings as often as possible, and psychologist interventions with all camp participants throughout the camp experience.


Courtesy of Common Ground Center

2010 Family Camp at Common Ground Center in Vermont included six families from around the United States and Canada. The hard work of putting together the camp for these families in conflict was made worthwhile by the feedback we received from campers during camp and after they left. The clinical team and founders Doctors Peggie Ward, Robin Deutsch and Matt Sullivan had refined the details of the model to their satisfaction. Finding the financial resources to continue hosting families and running these intensive programs would be the next challenge.

Recent Developments

Common Ground Center was an outstanding partner and host for the first three years of OBFC. After three years of family camp, Overcoming Barriers decided to develop the fundraising and administrative base for the organization. 2011 was dedicated to prioritizing goals, pursuing expansion and building a solid foundation on which to develop and continue providing child-centered interventions for families in high-conflict. Our hope is that more family camp programs will become available to meet these needs.

In 2012 Overcoming Barriers received federal 501(c)3 status. The organization’s founders recruited an experienced and hard working board of directors to begin the work of expanding programs and maximizing the impact of the organization. Operations expanded to California with the opening of an office in the San Francisco Bay Area and Family Camp being held in Sonoma, CA in 2012 with the support of Common Ground Center’s wealth of knowledge about family programs and key staff participation.  The Family Intensive Program was developed to compliment to the Family Camp Program and increase opportunities for families to access Overcoming Barriers’ services.

The Professional Training Program was developed and launched in 2013. Trainees from across North America are given an in depth look at the Overcoming Barriers approach. Upon completion of the training, participants are equipped to host programs of their own based on the Overcoming Barriers approach, brining these unique interventions to families in their local geographical regions.

Overcoming Barriers depends on volunteer hours to do this important and innovative work with families in high-conflict. As the organization grows we continue to develop and expand our fundraising activities to with the goal of making programs accessible to more families and professionals across the United Sates and Canada. Providing scholarships has been a priority for us and in 2013 we were pleased to offer our first sliding scale for Family Camp. Please consider making a tax deductible donation to support Overcoming Barriers’ and ensure these programs continue to thrive.