President’s Message: Fertile Ground for Good: Vision and Manifestation

Randi Gottlieb
Randi Gottlieb
President, LA-CAMFT

Dear Friends and Colleagues,

Fertile Ground for Good: Vision and Manifestation

I left the Uncoupling Workshop held in Santa Monica on April 8th with the inspiration to find a way to explain how LA-CAMFT is fertile ground for manifesting “good” in our community. As you read my comments about the workshop, please hold the space in your mind for that larger message; i.e. how the workshop is an example of what can happen when someone has the vision and the will to create something wonderful and LA-CAMFT provides the means to make that wonderful something manifest. Further, I want to emphasize that while the workshop itself was a very “wonderful something,” it is but one part of a greater vision still in process of manifestation. Finally, as you read, I invite you to ask yourself what your vision is for bringing good to our therapist/client community. There is ample fertile ground yet for planting!

The Workshop. Uncoupling: From High-Conflict to Conscious was an all-day event put on by LA-CAMFT’s Constructive Uncoupling Special Interest Group. For an extremely reasonable registration fee, fifty-five therapists, mediators, and family law attorneys were treated to state-of-the-art presentations by two stellar, internationally renowned experts: Bill Eddy, LCSW, Esq., lawyer, therapist and mediator, and the President of the High Conflict Institute in San Diego, CA; and Katherine Woodward Thomas, LMFT, author of the New York Times Bestseller Conscious Uncoupling: 5 steps to Living Happily Even After. In addition to the presentations, the participants all received free e-book copies of Woodward Thomas’s Conscious Uncoupling, therapists received 5.5 CE units and Minimum Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) units are in the process of being approved for attorneys. This will be a first ever cross discipline continuing education opportunity for an LA-CAMFT event!

Vision and Manifestation
How did this extraordinary workshop come to be? Let me take you from initial “shout out” to formation of a new Special Interest Group (SIG), to two years of first-stage SIG activity focusing on multidisciplinary sharing among a small cadre of family therapists and family law professionals, to a desire to reach a wider psychotherapy/family law audience.

The shout out. Over three years ago at one of our Networking Events, noticing there were four mediators and a few family attorneys among the many therapists in the room, I spontaneously shouted out an invitation to the assembled to see if anyone would like to take the lead in putting together a Special Interest Group focusing on children and families going through separation and divorce. Victoria Goldfarb, JD, MS, LMFT, approached me after the event expressing her interest in learning more about that possibility. Not only is Victoria a family law attorney, mediator, and LMFT, but at the time, was serving as the co-chair of a similar special interest group with the Los Angeles County Psychological Association.

Initial Vision. Shortly thereafter, Victoria Goldfarb and Judith Weigle, paralegal and mediator, developed vision and mission statements and an organizational format for a new SIG titled Constructive Uncoupling: Therapy, Mediation, and the Law for Divorcing or Separating Couples (more commonly referred to simply as the Constructive Uncoupling SIG). After approval by the Board, Victoria and Judith kicked off the Special Interest Group by holding three planning meetings to get input from this unique cross section of professionals. Members of the SIG planning group developed a list of hot topic themes of interest to both therapists and family law professionals, selected which topic they would facilitate, and ironed out the logistics for the monthly 90-minute no-host dinner gatherings. Attendee participation over the years has ranged from 18 to 40. Though membership in LA-CAMFT was not a prerequisite for attending the SIG gatherings, since its inception, many mediators and family attorneys have become chapter members and the camaraderie among this cross disciplinary member group has grown strong resulting not only in increased cross pollination of knowledge, but significant networking for consultation and referrals.

Reaching out to a larger audience. In August, after a full first year of Constructive Uncoupling SIG dinner gatherings, co-chairs Victoria and Judith led the core SIG team in planning for Year 2. Part of that planning, included brainstorming ideas to engage a larger audience beyond the SIG participants of the dinner gatherings. While Judith agreed to continue managing the effort to coordinate the dinner conversations, Victoria assumed leadership of the effort to produce what was to become the all-day workshop, Uncoupling: From High Conflict to Conscious. Ultimately, the program planning included time and talent from a team of 13, including attorney/mediators: Dennis Cohen, Kelly Cohen-Leider, and Alik Segal; mediators: Marvin Whistler, Judith Weigle, and Barry Davis, LMFT /mediator; Steven Unruh; Lauren Hooten, intern; LMFTs: Billie Klayman, Daniel Factor, Lynne Azpeitia, and myself; and last but not least, Victoria, who claims all three credentials: attorney, mediator, and LMFT!

I think of Victoria as the workshop midwife – the one who saw to its birthing process from conception through 7 months of development and who masterfully, firmly but gently, guided it through the final stage of labor and delivery! Victoria was not daunted by the numerous complications of this workshop’s gestational period! There were some complications that presented as so serious, we thought we might have to terminate the project. But at each of these challenges, she reached out to me to problem solve how LA-CAMFT, as authorizing agency, could find a solution that would allow this baby to see the light of day! In the end, with Victoria’s unwavering vision and skillful midwifery, and LA-CAMFT’s organizational umbrella and constant support, we manifested a most successful event!

The workshop not an end
I described in detail above how the initial vision of the Constructive Uncoupling SIG; i.e. to come together in small casual settings for shared learning and networking, expanded its vision and created a workshop to reach out to the larger family therapy/family law community. The workshop was a manifestation of that larger vision. But as I stated in my introductory paragraph, the workshop was “but one part of a greater vision still in process of manifestation.” It is premature for me to say what the next part of that vision will be. What I can say is that a tremendous interest was generated among a number of attendees – psychotherapists, attorneys, and mediators, to explore the possibility of bringing Bill Eddy’s New Ways for Families program to Los Angeles. To quote from the New Ways for Families brochure, “New Ways for Families is a structured parenting skills method intended to reduce the impact of conflict on the children in potentially high-conflict divorce and separation cases .” The good that LA-CAMFT could bring to our community would be great. It would increase skills for therapists, mediators, and attorneys working with high conflict personalities, resulting in high conflict parents spending less time in court, doing less damage to kids, and decreasing incidents of domestic violence, abuse, and alienation. I believe that LA-CAMFT can provide the fertile ground to support this kind of big vision if members of our community have the will to continue championing the cause.