Our clinical supervisor Diane Whitmore is adding another string to her bow – this time training to take on the role of ‘family consultant’ to a local ‘pod’ of collaborative lawyers – so-called because they get clients to collaborate over settling issues such as divorce rather than going to court.
Using all the skills of a counsellor and more, Diane will be offering the lawyers’ clients guidance and support through the difficult family transitions brought about by divorce.
Family consultants work with clients in the ‘grey area’ – between the need to acknowledge the personal importance of the many painful memories operating in the background, whilst also working hard to help clients not get drawn too much into emotional responses so that resolution between parties can be found as painlessly as possible.
As collaborative lawyers recognise, ignoring strong client feelings does not make them go away, yet overly focusing on them can stall the legal process in its tracks – and result in expensive and painful legal proceedings in court.
“The family consultant strives to get this balance right and prepare clients for the legal process in which they are engaged,” says Diane. “Because of this, clients find they are better able to be objective about the content of meetings and to make decisions based on what is best for them and the children going forward, rather than being driven by hurt and anger from the past.
“This is not to diminish the value of counselling, or the desire and need many clients will have to work through past hurts with which they are struggling. Here at Relate we offer people the time and space to heal and sometimes reconcile. The middle of a legal process, however, isn’t the best time for healing – as family consultants working alongside lawyers we try hard to get the balance right.”