It's Contagious.....Collaboration!

I have learned when multiple folks tell me the same thing, there is probably some truth to the statements. Over the past year, I have often been told I need to “stay in my lane.” As a seasoned (aka old) professional, it was initially shocking to be confronted for over-stepping my roles in various cases then I realized……this is a symptom of being a Collaborative professional!

Evolving as a Collaborative facilitator has been a process. Traditionally, mental health practitioners could “neither confirm nor deny” knowing a person. As therapists, we have been bound by confidentiality guidelines to shelter in our office, maintaining distance and privacy.
It is the opposite in the Collaborative process – there is transparency; everything is shared with a team!

It takes a while to make the transition but, now that I have, it is a whole new world. A world that is larger and offers alternative viewpoints and support from other professionals. Instead of mumbling under my breath complaints about attorneys managing my clients' divorce proceedings, I chat with them. Even outside of Collaborative cases, I now call attorneys (after getting a release signed of course) and consult so I understand their strategy and they can better appreciate how their work is impacting our shared client.

I have learned, however, to preface my request for consultation, to explain I have been trained in, and prefer, a Collaborative approach to my work so I am calling for assistance not to challenge. As you may be anticipating, each one of those calls includes an attempt to enlighten and offer options to minimize the conflict. I haven’t kept records, but I bet over 80 percent listen and respond positively, sometimes with gratitude that a therapist is available to help.

Learning something new requires assimilation or accommodation. When we assimilate information, it fits into our established templates – we have the experience that melds with the new information. To learn new information that is drastically different from what we have always thought (e.g. Divorce involves fighting.), we have to make room for and accommodate our existing templates to include peacekeeping as one of the divorce professional’s goals.

Mental health professionals need to accommodate to sharing information. Attorneys need to accommodate to divorce as a client-driven process. Financial neutrals need to provide an array of plans which represent options for both parties. The Collaborative infection rate has been slow in some areas but many of us are now symptomatic – we like to talk to colleagues in other professions. We don’t suit up for battle or bemoan our powerlessness; we talk to one another and look for options.

A Participation Agreement sets the stage so everyone knows we can confer and share information. Without that agreement, each of us must take responsibility to get permission from our clients, and acceptance from our professional partners, before collaborating – it’s worth the effort!

Even during times when people around the world are sheltering in their own places, we can reach out, cross the aisle, and work collaboratively to solve problems. No one lives in isolation, even during pandemics; we all live in social groups of various types and sizes. I encourage all of my IACP community members to spread the concepts of collaboration inside, and outside, formal Collaborative agreements.