This article was written by Dr. Honey Sheff, a Dallas-based mental health professional and a board member of the Collaborative Law Institute of Texas.
I've recently returned from four days in Vancouver, Canada, where I attended the Annual Forum for IACP (the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals), and I've since have had time to process that experience, and the value that being part of the annual conference has added to my professional life. I am fortunate to have attended several IACP forums over the last 10 years, and I was once again struck anew by the creativity, energy and passion that result when more than 600 collaborative professionals from around the globe gather together.
For collaborative professionals, attending this forum can truly be a transformative experience. It has helped me increase my awareness of the commitment we're all making to helping families restructure their lives, in a manner more effective and beneficial than the court system offers them. Newly-minted collaborative professionals, as well as seasoned and wise veterans, cannot help but be invigorated and energized by the enthusiasm of other committed, collaborative professionals. This year’s forum certainly did not disappoint in that regard, and I was fortunate to not only be an attendee but also a presenter.
The other overwhelming impression that I took away from this year’s forum was how far we have come ... and perhaps, how far we still have to go. Looking over the program of offerings makes it quite evident, from the number of sessions on working with challenging cases, that "this ain’t your mother’s collaborative work any more."
As our skill sets have developed, we are broadening the spectrum of divorce cases that we are trying to do collaboratively, which, in turn, requires an ever-changing and ever-growing number of skills we need to acquire and master if we are going to be successful.
Examples of sessions from the conference include:
- “Collaborative Rescue Squad Training: Emergency Interventions”
- “A Practical Approach to Handling Coercive Control or Violence in Collaborative Practice”
- “Scaffolding Complex Collaborative Divorce Cases: Tools for Tackling Tough Issues”
- “One Size Doesn’t Fit All: Matching Needs to Effective Models”
This sampling reflects the general consensus that our collaborative cases are becoming more difficult, and we are continuing to look for ways to better serve the challenges. I found myself seeking out those workshops that would broaden my skill set and add tools to my toolbox. These higher-conflict cases, presenting with significant mental health issues, personality disorders, substance abuse and other addictions, or all of the above, require advanced understanding, additional and different skills, and a willingness to creatively adapt the process if we are going to be successful. And that is where the added value of an international forum is most strongly demonstrated. There's no better place to learn than from those in the trenches, who are committed to transforming the way that conflict is resolved.