“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.”
In 2008 Overcoming Barriers was founded to provide a formal “home” for the wonderful Family Camp created by our founders Robin Deutsch, Ph.D., Matthew Sullivan, Ph.D., and Peggie Ward, Ph.D. The camp has been run numerous summers since then and has served many families. Over the years we have expanded both the mission and the vision of the work we do in our effort to help families experiencing the resist/refuse dynamic. As we learned more about the nature of the problem and the issues involved in addressing it, we determined that it was important to try to reach out directly to the professionals who help the families.
CAMP NO MORE….
To that end the gradual changes in OCB’s focus from a direct service to a training organization have led us to the conclusion that Family Camp is no longer a service that meets our mission and vision. As a primarily volunteer organization OCB needs to carefully allocate our human and financial resources. Family Camp places a strain on our finances and requires an enormous time commitment from many people but only serves a very limited number of families. The ongoing pandemic that forced curtailment of congregate activities has reinforced the fact that Family Camp – cancelled in 2020 – can no longer be a part of the range of services OCB provides.
In 2013 we created an immersion training program at Camp for mental health professionals. In 2015 we followed up with a live immersion training about intensive interventions. Our most successful training to date, High Conflict Coparenting: Interventions for Children’s Alignment and Resistance was developed and is presented in collaboration with William James College, a college of Professional Psychology. Initially presented in 2017, this 28-hour online course has currently served 300+ professionals working in the field of resist/refuse problems. A second advanced online course for mental health professionals as well as an online training for judges and attorneys are in development and both will be launched in 2021.
In 2014 we also began to focus on creating resources for coparents and the professionals who serve them. Initially we published Overcoming the Co-Parent Trap: Essential Parenting Skills When a Child Resists a Parent to provide guidance for parents. Most recently we published a companion book to Overcoming the Co-Parent Trap, entitled Overcoming the Alienation Crisis: 33 Coparenting Solutions. We are at work on producing a Spanish language version of Overcoming the Co-Parent Trap and expect it to be released by early 2021. These publications are useful tools for coparents are also excellent resources for professionals to use to educate their clients. The High Conflict Coparenting course uses our second publication Overcoming Parent-Child Contact Problems: Family-based Interventions for Resistance, Rejection and Alienation (2017) as it’s textbook. It is considered the essential academic text about working with these families.
Overcoming Barriers has taken the coronavirus pandemic as a time to reflect on our past accomplishments and successes and to look to the future of the family law community and what is needed to help families where a child resists or rejects contact with a parent. We are in the process of developing a program that combines all that we’ve learned about the best practices in the field. We bring a unique perspective to the field because we are a multi-disciplinary organization that combines the knowledge of mental health professionals with that of attorneys, and judges.
Although the exact nature and scope of the new program, tentatively called Overcoming Barriers Approach On The Go: Enhancing Local Legal, Judicial and Mental Health, is not fixed, the goal is to provide a direct service to local jurisdictions tailored to their identified needs by providing consultation on court practices and procedures as well as education and training on best practices for lawyers and mental health professionals. OCB teams composed of a mental health professional and a lawyer or judge will work with each interested jurisdiction to help create structures and pathways and to provide any needed education for all professionals who work with families who are dealing with the resist/refuse dynamic. An added benefit of this project is it models team work among the professionals which is essential to help these splintered and high conflict clients.
As a part of developing this new program we are looking for local jurisdictions to work with as pilot programs. These pioneers will receive a valuable service in that they will benefit from the wide range of professional skills and knowledge available through OCB in the development of a system for helping families experiencing resist-refuse dynamics. We are in the process of developing a manual that will become part of the best practices resources. The manual will be comprised of tools that would include, for example, what we’ve learned about the most effective judicial/court orders, screening tools for assessing families’ needs and a curriculum for educating and training mental health, legal and judicial professionals.
The decision not to run camp has not been an easy one as we have learned a lot from the families we’ve served and believe they made progress while at camp. Camp has also enabled us to train dozens of professionals from around the country and to work with the judges and attorneys who’ve sent families to camp. Although Family Camp served a need for over a decade, OCB wants to be able to reach a greater number of families. While the program filled a need in the field we realized the impact on the Family Law community at large and families we serve was just not great enough. Thus, we have determined that in addition to our existing and expanding educational programs and publications, we can have a greater impact through this new and evolving program, Overcoming Barriers Approach On The Go: Enhancing Local Legal, Judicial and Mental Health Resources.