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Monday, October 18, 2010
One program lawyers, custody evaluators, GAL's often recommend in the face of high conflict divorce is The Peace Program in Avon (or the equivalent). This program is not counseling and is not covered by insurance because it is not treatment. You have to pay for it in cash, around $200.00 a session, I believe, and who the heck can afford that. It is intended to alert you to addictive behavior patterns which keep you in conflict with your ex, and also to assist you on negotiating visitation issues in regard to your children. It represents a kind of mediation.
I would not recommend this program. And I have yet to meet anyone else who would recommend this program either.
The counselors in The Peace Program know absolutely nothing (are clueless) about domestic violence--verbal, physical, or economic--and they are unable to handle it. I have spoken to women whose ex husbands threatened them in the waiting room of The Peace Program in advance of a session and there was nothing they could do to stop it. Also, mediation is not recommended in situations of domestic violence because of the automatic power imbalance.
There are also problems with how The Peace Program works. What you do in The Peace Program is discuss an issue with the counselor. Then the counselor reports the results of the session to the GAL and also to the Parties' respective lawyers. You are not supposed to be in litigation when these sessions take place, but people often are. The result is that if anything happens during the session or if the counselor observes mental health issues regarding you that concern her, she could end up on the stand testifying against you, or her report could be used against you. Trust me, this is something you don't want.
Every time you see another therapist, that is another layer of often confusing documentation regarding who you are and what you have done, all of which has to be sorted out and interpreted at the expense of thousands of dollars, and you simply don't need it. All you need is your own therapist who will (I assume you will make sure of this) always speak well of you.
If, for some reason, you are not able to avoid The Peace Program, tape record or write detailed notes about every session. After you leave, write up a quick summary of your version of what went on in the session and send it to your lawyer for documentation purposes only, so your lawyer doesn't charge you for reading it. Then if the counselor shows up with an unacceptable version of what went on during the session, you have a tape recording to prove her wrong, or your detailed notes of the session.
I think the real problem with these people is that they are burned out and have had enough. After all, how much of this marital conflict can you stand! I totally get that, actually. Plus, the counselors simply have no skills or maturity.
On a positive note, the program has a book "The Co-Parenting Survival Guide" which I think they make available, or else you can order it through a bookstore or amazon.com. Ask them about it. It is a really good book--the contents are valuable and I'd definitely recommend reading it. Yes, you can become addicted to arguing and fighting with your ex the same way you get addicted to alcohol or drugs. So deal with it for the sake of the children.