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Forensic Parent Counseling Workshop for Professionals

The P.E.A.C.E. Program: Building Collaborative Co-Parenting During and After Divorce

An Intensive Workshop for Professionals

Elizabeth S. Thayer, Ph.D. and Wendy Habelow, Ph.D.


Forensic Parent Counseling is an intensive professional training workshop designed to teach mental health and divorce professionals how to help highly conflictual parents build collaborative co-parenting skills during and after separation and divorce.  It is modeled after the PEACE program and is also appropriate for those professionals who help parents who were never married but are still seeking to co-parent their child(ren) in different homes.  It teaches clinicians how to develop and implement the program.  We also focus on helping participants effectively interact with the legal system and the rest of the social system that is impacting the parents and the family as a unit.  Professionals in Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania in private and in not-for-profit agencies have been trained in these practice techniques by Drs. Thayer and Habelow.

The Need for Forensic Parent Counseling 

The rate of divorce in the United States is often cited at approximately 50%.  Divorce is by its very nature an extremely emotional and often adversarial process.  As the marital relationship deteriorates, effective communication becomes infrequent, anger and resentment increases, and conflict between spouses often escalates to hurtful and at times dangerous levels.

When children are present they are often the innocent by-standers and victims of such conflict.  They are used as pawns between parents.  They are alienated from one or both parents.  They are couriers of information and hostility.  Conflict between the parents repeatedly has been shown to be a major risk factor for children's maladjustment in later years.

The legal system has only been able to go so far in helping parents decrease conflict and build healthy environments for children.  Litigation, mediation, visitation and custody agreements, and parenting classes establish a general structure for parents.  However, they do not help parents routinely sustain collaborative interactions for the benefit of their children.  They do not teach parents, in an individualized manner, how to make decisions in their children’s best interests without revisiting old marital issues.

After the divorce (or custody/visitation arrangement for non-married parents) is finalized, many parents continue to harbor resentment.  Their conflict continues.  When parents believe there is a change needed by the other, they are often left with the option of engaging in more conflict by pursuing adversarial litigation.  Children then continue to be victimized by the conflict.

When children are significantly impacted by divorce they often become symptomatic and are referred for evaluation and treatment.  The child may be stigmatized by a diagnosis due to situational factors.  The mental health system generally provides individual treatment for the child or attempts (often in vain) to get the parents to collaborate in family therapy.  In fact, it is often difficult to even get both parents to come to the office.  Getting divorced parents to actively collaborate, in the best interests of their children, is generally a rare occurrence in many psychotherapy practices and counseling agencies.

Forensic Parent Counseling protects the interests of the children by teaching parents to engage in collaborative co-parenting, in spite of their distrust, hurt and anger.  Referrals are often supported by attorneys and actually ordered by the court.  The parent counselor serves in the role of an expert (not a witness) helping the parents build and sustain a working relationship.  The specific needs of their children (not children in general) are addressed in a practical focused manner.  Parents are actively taught to co-parent their children and reduce conflict.

Training Program Goals

 Participants will learn how to:

Utilize their psychotherapy training and experience to help divorced parents interact cooperatively in the best interests of their children

Training Program Features

This program is co-facilitated by psychologists who personally developed this approach and lecture nationally

Training Program Outline

Day #1
Day #2
Day #3
The Effects of Conflict and Conflict Addiction Special Factors and Their Impact Communicating with Parents and Attorneys
The "System" and its Impact on Children and Families Relocation Ethical and Confidentiality Considerations
Fundamentals of Forensic Parent Counseling and Co-Parenting Parent Alienation: The Problem and its Subtleties Writing Parenting Plan Schedules
The Initial Consultation: An In-Depth Analysis Management of Domestic Violence Dealing with the Impact of this Work on the Parent Counselor
Building a Parent-to-Parent Communication Infrastructure Dealing with the Impaired or Disabled Parent Training Scenarios
Procedures for Healthier Transitioning of the Children from one Parent to the Other Significant Others and Stepparents General Marketing Strategies
Training Scenarios Training Scenarios Developing a Marketing Plan for Your Organization

Information About the Presenters

The Forensic Parent Counseling training program was designed and is conducted by Elizabeth Thayer, Ph.D. and Wendy Habelow, Ph.D.  They are both clinical psychologists with over forty years of combined experience working with children, families and couples and issues of divorce.  They have built, refined and implemented this program in their clinical practice (it is called the PEACE Program).  The PEACE Program has worked with over 700 families since 1998.  Drs. Thayer and Habelow also have extensive experience in multi-site practice management, conducting training seminars and facilitating professional development.  Dr. Thayer is co-author of The Co-Parenting Survival Guide: Letting Go of Conflict after a Difficult Divorce and Adult Children of Divorce: How to Overcome the Legacy of Your Parents’ Breakup and Enjoy Love, Trust, and Intimacy.

Dr. Thayer is Partner and Clinical Director of Beacon Behavioral Services, LLC.  She specializes in working with parents during divorce or separation.  She works closely with attorneys and the courts.  She has extensive experience working with children, adolescents, and families.  Dr. Thayer received her Ed.M. from Harvard University in 1974 and her Ph.D. in 1978 from the University of Rhode Island.  She is a member of the Connecticut Board of Examiners in Psychology and was previously Chairperson of the Certificate of Professional Qualifications Appeals Committee of the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.  Dr. Thayer is listed in the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology.  She is also on the board of the Connecticut Council for Divorce Mediation and serves as a Special Master for the regional family trial docket in Connecticut. In November, 2004 Dr. Thayer received the Distinguished Contribution to the Practice of Psychology Award from the Connecticut Psychological Association for her work with families of divorce. Dr. Thayer has been featured on the Today Show.

Dr. Habelow received her Ph.D. in 1991 from Michigan State University and completed her clinical internship at Yale University. Her areas of expertise include the treatment of depression and anxiety, parenting and family issues, and marital treatment. She conducts individual psychotherapy with children, adolescents, and adults; couples therapy; family therapy; group therapy; and psychological assessment. Dr. Habelow's particular areas of interest include women's issues, eating disorders, divorce issues, organizational consulting, and conducting support groups. Dr. Habelow is a member of the Connecticut Psychological Association, the American Psychological Association and is listed in the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology. She is also trained as a Collaborative Divorce mental health professional.

Professional Training Price Structure

Training in Forensic Parent Counseling is a three day training seminar (approximately 25 hours) provided to small groups of professionals to allow for the customization of the training to a particular practice, agency or community.  The training also includes two hours of post-training telephone consultation for follow-up to help further apply the skills learned to actual cases.  Training is usually done on-site to minimize the cost of the participants being out of the office. However, training sessions can also be scheduled in our offices if so desired.

As practicing clinicians, we are quite sensitive to the issue of training costs.  We have structured our fees to be as competitive as possible, allowing us to provide both high-quality training and value for dollars spent.  Drs. Thayer and Habelow team-teach the training seminars.  Their combined fee is $9,000 for the training plus expenses.  This fee covers a maximum of 20 enrollees and all materials including copies of The Co-Parenting Survival Guide for all attendees.  Drs. Thayer and Habelow are also available to discuss additional marketing strategies or to meet with community stakeholders on the evening of the first or second training day (at no additional charge).  There is no charge for travel time.

For More Information or to Schedule Forensic Parent Counseling Training

For more information, or to schedule a training workshop, please call Drs. Elizabeth Thayer or Wendy Habelow at (860) 676-9350 or send an email to