“CHILDREN IN THE MIDDLE: EVALUATION OF A DIVORCE EDUCATION PROGRAM” (2014). Abstract: Children In the Middle (CIM) is a brief skill-focused divorce education program, also called “divorce ed,” designed to focus on the needs of children in divorce and to help parents to meet these needs. This program is widely used by many court systems in the United States and accepted by many states as a court-mandated divorce education program. The efficacy of this program has not been evaluated for the past decade. This paper presents an evaluation of the CIM program, using a pretest posttest quasi-experimental design. The instrument used in this study is an established battery, the AAPI-2, assessing parenting and child rearing attitudes, as well as maladaptive parenting behaviors. Test results indicated that the CIM group did not obtain better scores on the post-class test than the control group, with a significance level of .05, which suggested little effectiveness and usefulness of the CIM class, in the four of the five parenting domains measured by the AAPI-2. Limitations of these results are discussed. Recommendations and implications for future studies in the area of brief divorce education programs were discussed.
Process of Defining My Integrative Approach
The way I define my integrative approach starts with my philosophy of life. I believe in the genuineness, truthfulness, and kindness in humankind. The “big issues”, such as death, freedom, and meaning of life, are the final goals each person pursues for life. This puts me towards the existentialism. I also believe in diathesis theory, which stipulates that both nature (biology, genetics, personality, brain chemicals, etc.) and nurture (experiences, learning, etc.) have influence on a person, which means that by altering the nature and/or nurture, people can change. Pathology is created in the hands of both nature and nurture. For example, depression develops due to nature, such as dysfunction in neurotransmission, and nurture, such as adverse situations. By taking on this perspective, I agree on treatment with medications. I believe people’s thoughts can greatly influence behavior— when people think positively, they behave positively, e.g., feeling happier. This puts me towards a cognitive direction.
Existentialism, the “Big Issues”
Compared to those big issues, such as death, responsibilities, freedom, isolation, etc., the dilemma caused by day-by-day living seems insignificant, although the client in confusion might be believing that she was in an unconquerable situation. By helping client find the true meaning of life and promoting awareness in client, the therapist brought client up to a higher level of “living”, and gave hope for an optimal solution. Therefore, I believe that discussing the “big issues” in therapy is practical, promotes awareness, and facilitates internal growth in clients.
Emphasis on the “Big Issues”
The emphasis on the “big issues”, on the surface, seems to take away the focus of therapy. However, it is very effective in engaging clients in critical thinking and examining self. Existential therapy is more of a philosophical system than a solution-focused approach, and existentialism is a branch of philosophical thought that began in Europe (Corey, 2004). By emphasizing on the meanings of life, freedom, responsibility, isolation, these big issues, existential therapy promotes self-growth in individuals on another level. It believes that before individuals can find their own strength within themselves, they cannot have meaningful and healthy relationships with others. Therefore, the “big issues” seem to help individuals grow selves first, and with the strength they have they can resolve dilemmas in an optimal way.
Roles of Therapist and Client & Comparison
Corsini and Wedding (2008) stated that the existentialists functioned “as guide, accompanist, and symbol” (p. 312). It means that they guide clients on the path of searching meanings, accompany them through pains and dilemmas, and present themselves as a therapeutic tool for clients’ growth. Clients in existential therapy are like students and children who need guidance and help. They brainstorm with the therapist. The power of therapist and client in this approach appears unequal. The therapist seems to have more power; the client has less. This pattern is similar to cognitive approaches, such as Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT), and behavioral therapy, where therapist leads and client follows. The unbalanced power is one of the limitations of approaches like these. Comparatively, humanistic approaches, such as person-centered therapy, have a better position in this aspect.
Outcomes and Goals
The goals of existential therapy can be set as to engage clients in self-exploration, which include being truthful with selves, widening perspectives on selves and the world around them, and clarifying what gives meaning to present and future life (Corey, 2004), to increase of responsibility and self-determination, and to challenge clients to discover alternatives and widen choices. The outcomes are expected to be that clients take control of their lives, grow with awareness of self and surroundings, are able to make free choices wisely, take responsibility for the consequences of actions, and are no more the victims of circumstances,
Corey, G. (2004). Theory and practice of group counseling (6th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thompson Learning. ISBN: 0534596975.
Corsini, R. J., & Wedding, D. (2008). Current psychotherapies (8th ed.). Belmont, CA: Thompson Learning. ISBN: 9780495097143.
I was born and raised in Dalian, a harbor city of a 6-million population in Northern China. I spent most of my childhood with my grandparents, who taught me Chinese traditional virtues and responsibilities. My family was never rich. They taught me to be proud of what we can “achieve” and not what we can “afford” in life. I obtained a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature at Northeastern University in China. I came to America at age 23 and obtained a Master’s Degree in Human Services, majoring in Child and Family Studies, in 2006. In 2014, I obtained a Doctorate in Clinical Psychology. During the years, I have worked at various mental health places, such as community mental health centers, correctional facilities, Illinois state government, and private practice. I believe in diathesis theory—both “nature”, such as biology, genetics, personality, and brain chemicals, and “nurture”,
such as life experiences and learning style, have influences on a person. By altering one or both, people can change. I adopt an integrative approach in treatment. How I approach a client in therapy is according to the client's needs and the effectiveness of a certain treatment for a mental disorder. Because I do see clients varying from age 3 to age 80, I equipped myself with various modalities, theories, and approaches in therapy. If I work with young children, I get down on the floor, play with them. We giggle and laugh during therapeutic play. I do not find talk therapy very effective for children younger than 8. With older clients, I more often use Rogerian unconditional positive regard and an existential approach. This reminds me of a phrase in the Movie, "Broken Trail": " We are all travelers in this world.....birth till death.....we travel between the eternities...."
I believe people change through positive therapeutic relationships with their therapists. I would like to help people achieve their goals in life and find meanings. I am willing to listen, to understand, to explore, and to travel through a life journey together with my clients. As Dr. Irvin Yalom put it: "This encounter, the very heart of psychotherapy, is a caring, deeply human meeting between two people, one (generally, but not always, the patient) more troubled than the other." (--Irvin Yalom, “Love's Executioner", 1990)