High Conflict Co-Parent Counseling
Dana is a member of The Co-Parent Project. The following is a
detailed description of this
project along with a list of the participating practitioners.
The Co-Parent Project
A group of experienced co-parent counselors have implemented a new approach to working with
high conflict families. They are working in pairs, as co-counselors. One of the counselors is
assigned to work more closely with one of the parents, conducting an individual intake session
with that parent as well as individual debriefing sessions following the four way sessions. The
other counselor works in the same fashion with the other parent. The heart of the co-parenting
work, however, involves both parents and both counselors in the room together (conjoint sessions)
to work toward reducing the conflict in the family, improving the communication, and improving
their parenting. A primary purpose of these counseling sessions is to provide a forum where the
parents can work to establish a cooperative parenting plan. We believe it is essential to the
success of this process that it not be a part of an adversarial court process.
Click here for
a list of the professionals involved in the cooperative co-parenting project.
New clients are referred into this program by attorneys, the Court, Mediation or by
self-referral. The process is initiated by a telephone call to one of the program's seven
- The first counselor contacted will then take the lead in determining the co-parent counselor
team. Requests for specific counselors are honored whenever possible.
- This first contacted counselor will have the other counselor to be involved make contact
with the parent with whom he/she will be working.
- Individual intake appointments are then scheduled. These intake sessions are necessary and
essential to the success of the succeeding conjoint sessions and are structured to gather specific
information for use by the counselors in the conjoint sessions.
- Following the intake sessions, the two counselors meet to discuss the information gained and
develop their approach for the co-parenting, four-way sessions.
- The next step in the process is the four-way meeting. Typically, these are one and a half
hour sessions held every two weeks (or more frequently if necessary) with both parents and both
counselors present. It is in these meetings that the co-parenting counseling work takes place.
The counselors have the option to tailor the length and frequency of sessions to the needs of the
- An opportunity for debriefing is made available for each parent following these four-way
meetings. In the debriefings, the parent meets alone with the counselor assigned to him/her.
- Following the debriefings, the counselors meet to discuss the process, their respective
parent's reactions to it, and to plan for the next four-way meeting.
Use of a Child Consultant
When there is a question regarding the needs of the children that cannot be resolved between
the parents in the four-way meetings, it is sometimes necessary to engage a "child specialist," or
consultant. This is a professional who has expertise working with children in the middle of a
highly contentious divorce. This counselor meets with the child(ren) separately and makes an
assessment of what is in the child(ren)'s best interest regarding the issues at hand. The
consultant then presents the findings in one of the four-way meetings after which the counselors
help the parents to understand, come to agreement, and implement the recommendations. Each parent
pays half of the child consultant's fee at the time of service.
Communication of Therapists with the Attorneys for the Parties
Once the process has begun, any discussion of the work being done may only take place with
written consent of both parents. All communication with the attorneys must include both attorneys
and both therapists.
This approach typically requires a two hour time commitment every two weeks although
to the length and frequency of sessions can and do occur. Each parent is responsible for one half
of the cost of these meetings. Additional individual sessions between a parent and his/her
counselor may be scheduled by mutual agreement of all parties. Cost of these individual sessions
is the responsibility of the parent involved in the session. The cost of conference calls,
generation of reports, and other contacts or work outside of the scheduled co-parenting format
will be billed separately.
We anticipate that the average number of conjoint co-parenting sessions to be six to ten sessions.
This will likely be a variable number, however, depending upon the amount of work that needs to
be done, the level of functioning of the parents, the level of the conflict, the types of issues
being addressed and so forth.
Potential Advantages of the Co-Parent Project
We believe that this approach to working with high conflict parents holds promise in the
- It provides an "ally" within the sessions to help each parent stay focused, on track, and
moving toward his or her stated goals.
- Reduces the likelihood of feeling alone or ganged up on in the session, since each parent has
his/her counselor to help represent his or her side.
- Permits interventions in-vivo that is difficult for a facilitator working alone with high
- Encourages feedback after each session from the parents to the facilitators thus enabling the
facilitators to refocus the sessions as needed.
- It is expected that it will be much more efficient at reaching the goals of co-parent
counseling, thus saving money for the couple and time for the Courts.
Click here for
a list of the professionals
involved in the cooperative co-parenting project.