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Twelve Best Practice Principles for Court Appointed Family Therapy

Family therapy is often the most effective means of understanding and treating and solving family problems in divorce and custody disputes, including resist/refusal, family violence and juvenile behavioral problems.

Family therapists:

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Ten Resources to Help Work with Divorce and Custody Disputes in Family Therapy

Ten Resources to Help Work with Divorce and Custody Disputes in Family Therapy

Divorce and custody disputes can be the most complex, conflict-filled cases that family therapists see. NEAFAST hosts a monthly peer support group that provides strategies for working with these challenging cases.

From developing parents plans to navigating parental alienation, these ten resources can help you provide therapy that supports children, builds effective parent-child relationships, and establishes healthy boundaries and expectations. Join us on the first Friday of the month from 12-1:30 to learn more.

  1. The Parental Alienation Syndrome by Linda Gottlieb
  2. Sex, Love, and Violence: Strategies for Transformation by Cloe Madanes 
  3. Don't Alienate the Kids!: Raising Resilient Children While Avoiding High Conflict Divorce (2nd ed.) by Bill Eddy 
  4. Working with Alienated Children and Families: A Clinical Guidebook by Amy Baker and Richard Sauber 
  5. Understanding and Managing Parental Alienation: A Guide to Assessment and Intervention by Janet Haines, et al 
  6. Parent-child Reunification: A Guide to Legal and Forensic Strategies by Stanley Clawar
  7. Parental Alienation: Science and Law by Demosthenes Lorandas and William Bernet's 
  8. AAMFT Best Practices for Working with Divorce and Custody
  9. AFCC Court Involved Therapist Guidelines 
  10. Ethical and Professional Considerations in Divorce and Child Custody Cases by Jeffrey Zimmerman, et al. (In Professional Psychology: Research and Practice, 2009, 40(6), 539-549
Sign up for the Divorce and Custody Support Group

Interview with Scott Cohen

Scott Cohen is a former President of the Massachusetts Association for Marriage & Family Therapy. Scott served for 15 years on the Allied Board of Mental Health as a representative for MFTs, and he’s currently the Treasurer of the Association for Marriage & Family Therapy Regulatory Board.

This is a transcription from the interview conducted by Jeremiah Gibson, Executive Director of the New England Association for Family & Systemic Therapy (NEAFAST), with Scott Cohen on July 27, 2020. Watch the full interview here.

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Interview with Corky Becker

Interview with Corky Becker, PhD, a Family Therapist and Clinical Psychologist who is overseeing the Monthly Master Series in Couple Therapy: Seven MORE Approaches to Interviewing at Therapy Training Boston starting November 6, 2019. These are the highlights from the interview. Watch the full interview here.

Jeremiah Gibson: Tell us a little bit more about the Monthly Master Series. What’s the format of it?

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Interview with Acey Mercer

Interview with Acey Mercer, LMSW, Practice Manager at Choices Counseling & Consulting in Albany, NY. Acey is one of the Keynote Speakers for the Couple & Family Institute of New England's (CFINE) symposium Sexual Identity, Gender Identity: Staying Current in a Rapidly Changing Landscape taking place Saturday, October 26, 2019 at the Smith College Conference Center in Northampton, MA. These are the highlights from the interview. Watch the full interview here.

Jeremiah Gibson: How did you become interested in becoming a therapist?

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Interview with Nancy Knudsen (Excerpts)

Nancy Knudsen, Co-Director & Co-Founder of the Couple & Family Institute of New England (CFINE) in Northampton, MA was interviewed by Jeremiah Gibson, NEAFAST President, about CFINE's upcoming symposium Sexual Identity, Gender Identity: Staying Current in a Rapidly Changing LandscapeThese are the highlights from the interview. Watch the full interview here.

Jeremiah Gibson: We’re excited to announce and promote a symposium that CFINE is hosting on Saturday, October 26th called "Sexual Identity, Gender Identity: Staying Current in a Rapidly Changing Landscape."

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Reflections on the Ambulatory Care 2

Last month, we wrote a blog post about the collaborative efforts of the Executive Office for Health and Human Services (EOHHS) as they help create processes that improve access to quality behavioral health care in our state. Quite a few NEAFAST members have attended these meetings and provided input, including Mary-Jean Beach, a licensed marriage and family therapist (LMFT) in Cape Cod, and NEAFAST Board Member. The following are her reflections from a listening session meeting in Cape Cod.

I went to the 2nd EOHHS listening session at Cape Cod Community College on June 18, 2019. It was very well attended by a representative sample of consumers, families, providers, schools, advocacy organizations, and constituents. Senator Julian Cyr (D Truro) came in and spoke about his interest and concerns. The meeting was informative, exciting, and affirming for me as a family therapist. In our community the important take-aways were: 1) family advocates and consumers pled for more family sensitive behavioral health care and support; 2) parents and young adults over 22 are left without help when they lose Special Education Services; 3) the future of ambulatory behavioral health care may be in schools and primary health care offices.

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Interview with Steve Gaddis (Excerpts)

An Interview between Steve Gaddis, Director of the Narrative Therapy Initiative, and Jeremiah Gibson, NEAFAST President

Watch Here

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Interview with Rosa Khorshidi (Excerpts)

NEAFAST is eager to highlight the work of its members, and are honored to introduce Rosa Khorsidi..

Rosa has worked with individuals, couples, and families since 1991 in Iran and America. Relationships, especially couples therapy, is her focus. She is the world's first Iranian/Muslim Certified EFT Therapist. She is also the only Muslim LMFT of MA and the only Iranian LMFT of New England.

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Interview with Steve Gaddis - Excerpts about NTI's 2019-2020 Programming

These excerpts from an Interview between Steve Gaddis, Director of the Narrative Therapy Initiative (NTI), and Jeremiah Gibson, NEAFAST President, focus on NTI's 2019-2020 programming, specifically the Apprenticeship Program and the Certificate Program.

Jeremiah Gibson: I wonder if I can ask a couple questions about the programming for 2019-2020. You’ve alluded to the Narrative Certificate Program. And then there’s another program that you guys are offering too that’s called the Apprenticeship Program. I’m wondering if you could take a few minutes to describe those.

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Nice But Not Necessary—And Other Clinical Supervision Myths Part One

Although regular clinical supervision is a pre-licensure requirement, once licensed, a therapist in Massachusetts can practice without regular clinical supervision. As a PhD student steeped in learning about, from, and through receiving and providing clinical supervision, I find the idea of not receiving supervision, especially related to self-of-the-therapist issues, concerning and rather sad. Do we ever stop growing, changing, and learning? Is there some after-licensure miracle that makes us impervious to our own demons, flaws, biases, and blind spots? Can we give an infinite amount of support to others without replenishing our own tanks? Nope. My husband, an LMHC who works in a community health center, practices without regular clinical supervision, as it is not required and hence not prioritized in a medical setting. Even as an experienced individual therapist, I watch him struggle under the weight of carrying his clients’ pain, with remaining empathetic and creative without burning out, and facing his own struggles without projecting them onto his clients. It doesn’t seem fair or right that he, and other therapists -- regardless of their time served -- are doing this critical work on their own, without structured support.

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Nice But Not Necessary—And Other Clinical Supervision Myths Part Two

One thing I love about my MFT PhD program at Antioch New England is the opportunity to provide clinical supervision to masters students as they embark on their journey towards becoming therapists. As a student of experiential and Emotionally Focused Therapy, I feel strongly that effective supervision starts with developing a secure bond with each supervisee and, when you’re lucky enough to have a group of supervisees, building security and cohesiveness within the group as well.  In our Masters program students start with live supervision, and then ultimately graduate to self-report and video review and eventually more distance supervision as they undertake their internships. Working with student therapists, over our year together my key focus was on helping build confidence, growing within a theory that personally resonates, and exploring the multitude of person-of-the-therapist issues that arise starting with seeing first clients.

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We Do: A Book Review (part 3)

This is the third of a four part series of Stan Tatkin's new book, We Do: Saying Yes to a Relationship of Depth, True Connection, and Enduring Love. This portion involves how Tatkin addresses sexuality, substance use, and infidelity. A special thanks goes to Peter Jones, EdD for writing this series.

In We Do, sex, with its intensity of contact and proximity, is presented as a potential psychobiological minefield, fueling the troublesome triad of communication, perception and memory. Because “in the psychobiological world partners repeat the same mistakes everywhere, regardless of the situation,” what goes wrong in sex is predictable from trouble in other areas.  

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We Do: A Book Review (part 4)

This is the fourth of a four part series of Stan Tatkin's new book, We Do: Saying Yes to a Relationship of Depth, True Connection, and Enduring Love. A special thanks goes to Peter Jones, EdD for writing this series.

Some users may object that Tatkin’s vision calls for relationship relentlessly up close. They may prefer a vision of relationship with more distance and independence.

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We Do: A Book Review (part 1)

This is the first of a four part series of Stan Tatkin's new book, We Do: Saying Yes to a Relationship of Depth, True Connection, and Enduring Love. A special thanks goes to Peter Jones, EdD for writing this series.

In We Do, Stan Tatkin sets out a conception of successful relationships, what gets in the way, and what couples need to know to prevent and repair trouble.

With no lack of books on the market seeking to help couples, We Do is a significant contribution for its solid grounding in current neuroscience and attachment research, and Tatkin’s flair for making that research accessible in fresh language while articulating a rich model of successful relationship.

Tatkin offers readers a binocular perspective on relationships: one lens focusing on agreements, principles and social justice; the other lens focusing on automatic psychobiological (body/brain) wiring that can undermine couples’ best intentions. The binocular depth that results sheds new light on key areas of couples’ difficulties such as sex, fighting, and betrayal, while generating new strategies solutions and tweaks to handle them.

Tatkin argues that couples’ best chance at enhancing their survival in a dangerous world, and from there to thrive, is to adopt a model of relationship as “secure functioning”. We Do is a thorough exploration of secure functioning, what it looks like across lifecycle phases in a couple relationship, and how it can be unintentionally undermined.

Simply put, secure functioning couples learn who they are, including how they are shaped by their earliest experiences, know what they are doing together, what they agree to, how to collaborate on making changes, and how to minister to each other when in distress.

To do this well Tatkin helps couples collaboratively create explicit, shared “principles of governance” based in values such as fairness, justice, sensitivity and reciprocity. A variety of clarification exercises support users in exploring what the explicit underpinnings of their relationship are and agreeing to what they should be.

Success in secure functioning may be based in agreements but requires a sharp eye on how implicit human psychobiological wiring, especially the nervous system, either supports or undermines their collaboration.

Tatkin’s skill as an educator and writer shines in his ability to set out the complexity of this neuroscience and attachment challenge in fresh language. He grounds his exploration in the importance of grasping the “troublesome triad” of memory, communication and perception.

Memory stemming from our prior relationships, beginning in childhood, is our main resource for managing the present, and without awareness and skill, history will repeat itself.

Communication is necessarily partial and easily misleading, leading to compounding errors in perception if uncorrected.

Compounded errors in perception lead to compromised affect and arousal states, with partners increasingly seeming threatening to each other without intending it. In conditions of even low-level threat, collaboration and alignment with agreements and shared visions is compromised.

Thus, the job for couples is two-fold, with a need to explore and develop explicitly their shared vision on one hand, and on the other to watch for how their minds, bodies, and brains can play tricks on them.

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We Do: A Book Review (part 2)

This is the second of a four part series of Stan Tatkin's new book, We Do: Saying Yes to a Relationship of Depth, True Connection, and Enduring Love. A special thanks goes to Peter Jones, EdD for writing this series.

Drilling down to reveal how the troublesome triad of memory, communication, and perception plays tricks on us, Stan Tatkin devotes several chapters of We Do to our mostly implicit, mostly automatic psychobiological systems, which are by default expert at detecting threat and waging war.

Tatkin lays out the architecture of systems with a variety of simplifications, many familiar by now to therapists but less so to other users. Crucial to managing the war are emotional and arousal (energy) regulation, a spectrum of attachment styles, the nervous system’s fight, fight, freeze and collapse responses, the window of tolerance, and not least, the negativity bias, an overarching tendency for the brain to lean negative and store negative memories, weighting psychobiological systems towards ever finer perceptions of threat.

Tatkin shows how reliance on automatic functioning, on board since early childhood, can lead to partners attributing intentions to each other that are the residue of unreflected, memory-based functioning in real time.

Real time is too fast, Tatkin says, limiting error-correction of inaccurate perceptions by the higher cortical areas of the brain. Vignettes illustrate the functioning of these system in interactions couples are all too likely to recognize. Corrective vignettes show how couples might handle those situations in light of each other’s implicit wiring.

Crucial to error correction is coregulation, the capacity of partners to both take their partners’s nervous systems into account and make adjustments. Fast remediation of old responses, potentially rewiring for secure functioning, is possible with a renewed, better informed effort to coregulate. Failing to respond appropriately to the other’s state through coregulation, partners can easily spin out and begin to seem threatening and predatory to each other.

Tatkin offers secure functioning as the couple’s necessary antidote to the inevitable specter of threat, which all relationships must learn to manage. A relationship is secure functioning when couples can keep threat limited enough to support cooperation and collaboration on realizing their shared vision of relationship.    

The practical value of the binocular approach pays off in extended treatment of areas of perennial difficulty for couples such as sex, fighting, and betrayal.

For fighting, Tatkin leads with the secure-functioning directive that partners must learn to “take care of their partner and themselves at the same time.” This simplification is countered by the psychobiological limitations that come into play in a close relationship: the negativity bias coupled with attachment insecurities, each leading to coregulation difficulties.

The physiology of vision complicates matters and is crucial to understand; the depth of Tatkin’s approach is perhaps best exemplified in his treatment of the importance of visual coregulation during fighting.

We only see clearly out of the center of the eye, the fovea, which is the size of a pinprick; we are effectively legally blind to the side. Since we don’t have a clear visual stream coming from the side, if our partner is to the side  the amygdala will fire more often, prepping for threat. The brain, angling towards negativity and in the absence of eye-to-eye visual coregulation, will fill in the blanks of the visual stream based on memory.

If partners get into a difficult topic and don’t have a rich enough visual stream, while driving, for instance, they are more likely to misinterpret partner’s responses, introducing errors. Without crosschecking what they are hearing with clear and steady visual cues, which would allow them to respond to partner distress fast enough, couples may find these errors compounding, leading them to square off, undermining collaboration.

Difficult topics must therefore be worked through face to face and eye to eye, not pointed toward the TV, the wall, the road, or even the therapist. While face-to-face, couples are urged to focus on one difficult topic at a time, and to not hold the floor too long; with rising stress, the nervous system is undersupplying oxygen and glucose to the higher cortical areas of the brain, making it hard to stay in the listening position long. None of this allows couples to correct errors in perception quickly enough.

Couples may thus find that the knowledge of psychobiology supports their capacity to structure and manage better difficult discussions to fuel their partnership.

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