Lori Gephart, president of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals, discusses how Collaborative Practice reduces conflict & minimizes the impact of divorce on individuals & families.
My name’s Diana Shepherd and I’m the Editorial Director of Family Lawyer Magazine. Today, my guest is collaborative divorce coach, licensed psychologist, and mediator Lori Gephart, and we’ll be discussing the past, present, and future of Collaborative Practice. Lori is president of the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals (IACP), and she also provides introductory and advanced training in the collaborative process. Welcome, Lori – thanks for joining us today!
Lori Gephart: Thank you so much, Diana. I’m so happy to be here to talk with you today.
Let’s dive in. What are the biggest changes or advancements that you’ve seen in collaborative practice over the last 10 years?
Over the past few years, we’ve been seeing people coming into the office requesting collaborative divorce more and more frequently. This tells us that the collaborative process is becoming more recognized and that the out-of-court interest-based process is resonating with people who are considering divorce. In the past, people had really never heard of it and only found out when they came in for a consult. We’re pleased that people are learning that they have an option to avoid court and let them have more control over the pace and the outcome of the process. With the wide use of Zoom for collaborative divorce meetings, we’re seeing more cases of domestic violence being able to be handled in the collaborative process.
A strong professional team has the capacity to address these cases in a thoughtful way, and meeting from separate locations via Zoom helps to minimize conflict and therefore reduce the risk. IACP (the International Academy of Collaborative Professionals) is the largest and steadily growing community of consensual family dispute resolution practitioners. We now have members in over 26 countries, which is just amazing. We’re expanding our training to support collaborative professionals, and spreading the word about collaborative divorce so we can provide options to families for a divorce process that offers a safe and dignified environment to reduce conflict and minimize its impact on individuals, children, families, and lives.
Lori, what are the current hot button collaborative issues in 2022?
I’m very excited to report that at IACP we have a new Executive Director, Michael Russell, who is bringing wonderful energy, enthusiasm, and new technology to support the organization. We have a focus on equity, diversity, and inequality with the work that we do, which is all filtered through the lens of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee. We’re working to increase ethnic diversity in our collaborative communities and our professional organizations in terms of practice groups and professionals who are available to do this work. We’re focusing on addressing racism and white privilege and we’ve seen that many LGBTQ people are avoiding court to prefer the support of a collaborative practice team. We’re excited that IACP has upcoming events, including the United-Nations-recognized World Creativity & Innovation Week, which is featuring collaborative practice, on April 15th to 21st. We have the 2022 IACP Forum in Orlando, October 27th to 30th where we’ll be sharing the collaborative magic. we’re very excited about these opportunities.
If you could look into a figurative crystal ball, where do you see collaborative practice going over the next 10 years?
I see collaborative practice becoming the go-to method for divorce and litigation really becoming more of the rare alternative. The creative aspect of collaborative practice in my vision of the future will be recognized by families who own their own businesses so that we can offer them various and new ways to deal with that. Families will appreciate the privacy of collaborative divorce, knowing that they have more control over their information. The benefit of minimizing conflict will be recognized for families with children since high conflict between parents is one of the strongest predictors of children who will struggle with their parents’ divorce.
Divorce professionals who work in the collaborative process will have more job satisfaction as they will enjoy the opportunity to have more control over their schedules without having to go to court. They’ll feel supported by being members of collaborative teams, where we really learn from each other and grow together, and they’ll be able to expand their practices by using Zoom to reduce travel time and expenses. I see IACP growing with more attorneys, financial professionals, and mental health professionals becoming collaboratively trained, joining IACP and local practice groups, and really benefiting from the opportunity to work in interdisciplinary teams. I picture families growing stronger after collaborative divorce, where they’ve learned the value of working through challenges, more peacefully co-parenting together, and where children of divorce feel more secure and supported with fewer negative consequences from divorce.
If you had the power to change anything about the divorce process, what would it be?
I would want people to understand that divorce is more than just legal and financial. It’s also about emotions. It’s about communication and it’s about parenting. I hope it becomes more widely understood that the collaborative divorce process is a healthy option for families going through divorce as it provides a team of professionals trained in each of the areas of divorce, attorneys, financial neutrals, and the neutral mental health practitioner as coach. I would want couples considering divorce to recognize that the power of sitting together with the support of a professional team allows them to focus on moving to the next chapters of their lives in a more thoughtful way. I would want more divorce professionals to become trained and experience the powerful and rewarding process of collaborative divorce.
Since we have a captive audience of family lawyers here, if you could give one piece of advice to family lawyers that would help them to help mental health professionals do a better job for their clients, what would that be?
I would encourage family lawyers to invite mental health professionals to get trained in the collaborative process so that they can be part of the lawyers’ teams and help facilitate difficult conversations, manage client emotions, balance power, and help deal with co-parenting issues. As part of the professional team, the coach helps the attorneys and financial professionals to understand how best to support the clients. Having a coach as a part of the team is vital to managing all of the parts of the divorce.
Thank you so much, Lori – this has been extremely helpful. My guest today has been Lori Gephart, who is a leader in the International Collaborative Law community and a collaborative practitioner at North Hill Psychological Associates in Pennsylvania. She’s a past president of the Collaborative Law Association of Southwestern Pennsylvania, and she regularly speaks at professional, civic, and religious organizations regarding the collaborative family law process. To learn more about collaborative practice, please go to www.collaborativepractice.com. If you want to learn more about Lori’s work, her website is www.nhpa.com. Once again, Lori, thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to talk to us today.
Thank you so much.