The Impact of Overcoming Barriers

“Overcoming Barriers is a can-do organization that is always nimbly evolving
based on our collective understanding of what is
needed by families in crisis.”
History: 
Since 2008 Overcoming Barriers has worked to develop and implement a family systems approach for helping families in which a child or children were resisting or refusing contact with a parent. Originally this was done at a family camp that provided a positive, nurturing setting for these High Conflict families. What we learned in the decade of running family camps is the need for early identification of this issue by the courts and legal professionals who encounter them so that families can be helped before the resistance or rejection becomes too entrenched. Thus, over the years OCB has grown to become an educational organization and think tank, pushing the field forward and empowering professionals across the country to help these families in dire need of support.

The Challenge:

  • During a divorce, familial stress can combine with a variety of pre-existing or developing factors to cause children to reject or resist contact with a parent. This is generally known as the Resist-Refuse Dynamic.
  • The Resist-Refuse Dynamic is complex and multifaceted and traps children squarely in the middle of their parents’ conflict. It is a risk factor to children’s emotional health – both short and long term – including lower self-esteem, anxiety, depression, and negative effects on their relationships with their own children and partners later in life.
  • Attorneys, judges, and mental health professionals are first responders to this issue and need tools to identify Resist-Refuse cases before dynamics become irreparably entrenched. Often, however, legal and mental health professionals are not equipped with the specific knowledge and context to navigate the distinct challenges these families can present and, utilizing standard litigation techniques, can further polarize the family. That is where Overcoming Barriers comes in.

What We Do:

  • Through the combined years of experience of our board and other professionals associated with OCB, OCB has determined that educating the first responders about our innovative approach is the most impactful work we can do.
  • To that end, we work to develop and disseminate best practices and resources for clinicians, lawyers, and judges to implement in their work. These families require professionals who know how to identify and quickly act to mitigate the Resist-Refuse Dynamic from day one.

To address this need, Overcoming Barriers’ multidisciplinary team of experts respond through:

  • Publications: OCB publications have become essential reading for clinical and legal professionals in the family law community. Our publications to date include:
    • Overcoming Parent-Child Contact Problems: Family-Based Interventions for Children’s Resistance, Rejection and Alienation (2017) Oxford University Press.
    • Overcoming the Co-Parenting Trap: Essential Parenting Skills When a Child Resists a Parent (2015). Now available in Spanish (and coming soon in Italian.)
    • Overcoming the Alienation Crisis: 33 Coparenting Solutions (2020)
    • (In development) A publication directed toward the children experiencing this issue.
  • Presentations and Educational Programs: OCB’s Board Members and Advisory Council present all over the United States on the unique challenges faced by legal professionals navigating RRD cases. In addition, OCB has developed online educational programs for mental health and legal professionals in conjunction with William James College, a professional school of psychology in Massachusetts. To date, OCB has completed or is developing 3 multi-hour online trainings:
    • High Conflict Coparenting: Interventions for Children’s Alignment and Resistance – a 28 hour multi-module course for mental health professionals
    • Overcoming Parent Child Contact Problems: Family Interventions
    • Effective Legal Responses for When a Child Resists Contact with a Parent
  • Custom Built Trainings for Local Communities: OCB is developing a consulting program to work with local jurisdictions to assist them in educating and training the professionals working with these families and in creating a legal framework of best practices to provide a consistent, supportive response to the families’ needs.