Motivational Interview and Collaborative Divorce

Posted by Erin Birt | Jan 24, 2011 | 0 Comments

Motivational interviewing (“MI”) is an approach used in counseling.  It is a client centered method for enhancing intrinsic motivation to change by exploring and resolving ambivalence.  The relationship between counselor and patient is more like a partnership.  It is non confrontational; it is the client's role to identify and explore ambivalence not the counselor.  For more information about MI, visit Clinicians have determined that direct persuasion and confrontation are not effective means for resolving ambivalence.

As I learned more about MI, I began to wonder: Are direct persuasion and confrontation, commonly used by attorneys, a disservice to a client?

As a family law attorney, I have found my self in situations where I am concerned that the client is not focused on the importance of the divorce and/or the divorce proceedings. In addition, I have, at times, felt that not only was I battling with opposing counsel (in litigation) I also had a battle to fight behind the scenes with a client.  Why?  Because confronting clients with my view of reality (pending discovery! upcoming hearing!this needs to be a priority!) was not effective. The client was being told what to think and was not given the opportunity to develop their own thoughts.

I am proposing that family law attorneys borrow some tools from the counseling tool box.  Afterall, it is our ethical obligation to listen to our clients needs, concerns, and problems.  If we listen and omit the confrontation and direct persuasion that often is present in client conferences, we may find that our clients will participate in their case rather than withdraw.  Active and participating clients will assist you in negotiating and obtaining an appropriate settlement. Contact us today to have the benefit of Motivational Interview and Collaborative Divorce techniques to protect you and your family.

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About the Author

Erin Birt

Since 2003, Erin N. Birt, J.D., CADC has focused her practice on parenting time, divorce, mediation, and substance abuse issues. Ms. Birt's unique background in both family law and addictions counseling help her clients successfully navigate the complex issues of coparenting and divorce. Ms. Birt also devotes her time to presenting at continuing education seminars for attorneys, mediators, and counselors.


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