I have been helping families who are going through difficulties for as long as I have been practicing. However, my first exposure to truly distressed families was in my role as a psychologist contracted by the Division of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP formerly DYFS) to provide evaluations and therapy. Although it was often difficult to work with families in dire circumstances, the hardest work for me was with those families who were using the system to get even with one another after a relationship between the parents had failed. These parents were so consumed by their hatred for each other that, not only did they forgot to look out for the best interest of their children, but they frequently placed the children in the middle of the conflict. I knew that there had to be a better way for parents to dissolve their union in a way that was not so damaging.
I believe it is critical that the psychologist involved with a family who are going through a divorce help parents separate peacefully while maintain at least some respect for each other. Just how essential this is was demonstrated clearly when I began to treat families in Reunification Therapy. In this treatment, the estranged parent was living their worst fear – that of losing their child to the divorce. It became evident that the root of the problem was often the fact that, as the battles in the courts continued, the parents were so busy fighting each other that they could no longer focus on how they can best care for their children. Thus, when I learned of the Collaborative Divorce Process, I realized that it was precisely the framework that was needed to help parents successfully navigate this difficult time. I now look forward to helping spouses learn to let go of the marriage while holding on to what is most precious to them – the relationship with, and the respect of, their children. Since in the collaborative process the focus is on figuring out what is the best that can be done for each party, the parents are constantly reminded of their joint goal of their children’s best interest. I am proud to be a part of this process and offer parents a way through this incredibly difficult ordeal.