By Anne Shale   |   April 12th, 2014

High Conflict Divorce Tied With High Conflict Personalities According To Therapists

divorceOn March 24th, 2014, I traveled from Dayton, Ohio to Mason, Ohio to interview Brenda Patton, Therapist, Parenting Coordinator, and Mediator for The Counseling and Cooperative Parenting Center of Ohio, LLC, also known as “CCPC – Ohio”.  Initially, I was interested in interviewing a spokesperson of this Parenting Center as they were a “private” entity providing supervised visitation or supervised parenting time for families in Montgomery, Warren, and Hamilton Counties. When I learned that the service of supervised visitation had been discontinued in July 2013, I explored other topics of interest. When Ms. Patton advised me that the Center was interested in working with “high conflict” divorce matters, my interest was piqued.

What is a “high conflict” divorce matter?  Ms. Patton defined it as being cases that have a “revolving door” relationship with the Domestic Relations Courts. They are the cases that are never resolved or settled.  Months and/or years after divorce has been finalized, the parties are still returning to Court to resolve unsettled issues relating to support, visitation, selection of schools, selection of treating physicians, payment of medical expenses, payment of extracurricular expenses, etc. These cases often involve multiple motions to find one party to be in contempt of court for failure to abide by the terms of the original Decree or subsequent Court Entry and Order. They are the cases that Courts dread as they never seem to reach “completion” or “closure”. These cases are also difficult for attorneys as they are characterized by increased angst and emotion on the part of the parties. And, they can be extremely disconcerting when the “financially advantaged” spouse is seeking revenge or “pay-back” against the “financially disadvantaged” spouse. This basically means that the spouse who has money at his or her disposal has free rein to return to Court while his or her disadvantaged spouse may not have the monies available to him or her to retain counsel to defend the action taken against him or her.

Brenda Patton advised me that she and the other therapists of her Counseling Center embrace the work of Bill Eddy, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Attorney who is the owner of the High Conflict Institute located in California and the author of many books and articles about high conflict divorces. Click here to read more about him. He describes persons who exhibit “high conflict” personalities as having a pattern of conduct to include the following:

  • All or nothing thinking: They believe there is only one solution to a problem and the solution is “their” hand-picked solution. They are not open or receptive to other points of view.
  • Unmanaged emotions: Their emotions are often very extreme and very often way out of proportion to the issue being discussed.
  • Extreme behaviors: The behaviors may be in writing and/or in person. The behaviors may include hitting or shoving, shouting out angry words, and spreading rumors and outright lies about the other party.
  • Blaming others: He or she places blame upon the other party in the divorce, but are simply unwilling or unable to accept any responsibility for the break-down of the marriage.

Ms. Patton stressed that the therapists of her agency aim and strive to improve the communication between the parties to overcome and address the difficulties of the parties in a high conflict divorce proceeding. She also advised me that her Counseling Center uses the BIFF Communication Theory advocated by Bill Eddy. BIFF stands for:

  • B: Brief.
  • I: Information.
  • F: Friendly.
  • F: Firm.

The therapists have the parties bring to the counseling sessions emails or text messages that have been exchanged by the parties since the last counseling session. Then, they examine how to improve the email or texting communication with the BIFF methodology. The goal is to keep name-calling and degradation of the other party and extreme criticism out of the emails or texts to the other party.

Divorce And Counseling Help At CCPC – OHIO

I was very pleased to meet with Ms. Patton and to learn about her counseling centers. To read more about CCPC – Ohio and their divorce and counseling services, click here.

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Anne ShaleAbout The Author: Anne Shale
Anne Shale is of counsel to Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues. She is a former registered nurse and concentrates her practice in Family Law and Divorce cases.

Divorce: Addressing High Conflict Cases – Tips and Strategies
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