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Mental Health Outreach Task Force – Goal to Increase the Number of Collaborative Divorce Cases

December 21, 2011

image graur codrin/

by David Kuroda, LCSW and Debbie Bellings-Kee, JD, MFT

Despite the best efforts of the clients and the therapist, the wife decided the divorce needed to happen. The counseling didn’t change her husband. Halfway through the session the therapist asked, “What kind of divorce do you want?” As the therapist explained the different process options for divorce, the couple chose Collaborative divorce. It became the very first Collaborative case for the practice group. The therapist recommended the attorneys, who in turn recommended that the couple retain a therapist for their child specialist. Therapists in our communities can do much to further the development of Collaborative Practice!

Over the years, attorneys have been bringing mental health professionals into their cases in many capacities where they see and experience the benefit. In a Collaborative Practice integrated model, attorneys and therapists work more closely than ever before. As parents learn how to move productively through separation and divorce, attorneys experience clients who are less stressed and angry. Many families and attorneys have come to appreciate the value of hiring coaches and child specialists early on in their divorces. These therapists enjoy working with attorneys. Collaborative Practice groups provide places for therapists to “break bread” and discuss cases with attorneys. In short, Collaborative Practice has enabled many therapists to experience the satisfaction of helping children and families while expanding their practice and raising their fees. At the same time, as therapists learn about the Collaborative process option, they refer the work to the Collaborative attorneys.

Therapists may hold the key to directing more divorcing couples away from the courts and the litigators. “Do you know a good divorce lawyer?” is the question many ask their therapist when beginning their divorces. Therapists want to be helpful to their clients; however, therapists rely on the same list they have had for years. We have no “Yelp” or “Angie’s List” to find the best Collaborative attorneys or mediators. If therapists don’t know about the Collaborative process, how can they refer clients to Collaborative attorneys? In Southern California, A Better Divorce and the State Bar, along with LACFLA and the LAC Bar, put on a program for mental health professionals earlier this year. More than 115 people attended, including the supervising judge of the LA Superior Court family law departments. An educational program such as this helps therapists learn about the benefits of the team and the Collaborative process.

In summary, CP Cal’s Mental Health Outreach Task Force is committed to helping increase the number of Collaborative cases in each of these ways:

  1. By educating mental health professionals about opportunities in Collaborative Practice, including having an exhibitor presence at professional conferences such as AFCC, CalCPA, CAMFT, and NASWCA;
  2. By providing therapists an opportunity to increase their involvement in the Collaborative movement in the state;
  3. By encouraging greater involvement in professional organizations; and
  4. By increasing everyone’s satisfaction and income from this work.

The Task Force “meets” in phone calls every other month (odd numbered months) on the second Monday at 10:00 a.m. The call-in number is 1-213-342-3050, access code 811555#. We also have in-person lunch meetings twice a year, one in Northern California and one in Southern California.

We invite any California Collaborative professionals to join us, either as an ongoing committee member, or as a volunteer for one of the professional conferences or another particular task. All professional disciplines are welcome. Please contact one of the co-chairs of this Task Force, David Kuroda or Debbie Bellings-Kee at

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